Where's the good life?

1,500 people a week flee cities for the country, and the Government is worried by the exodus. But as `Independent' writers explain, home is a state of mind - not just a place The city: `It wasn't love at first sight,

NO ONE pointed out the bus stop when I rented my flat. I first noticed it as I emerged naked from the bathroom and spotted passengers on the top deck peering in. A shock for all concerned, but I soon felt more sorry for weary commuters, passing me as I enjoyed my first drink of the evening. I was more worried about the consequences of living next door to an Indian restaurant. I couldn't have predicted that the most soothing and soporific sound last thing at night is of other people washing up dishes.

It took me a while to appreciate living in the heart of London. It was hardly love at first sight. At first, I ached to see greenery breaking through the overwhelming greyness. After a childhood filled with summers beside the sea, I almost didn't dare imagine going months without seeing the shoreline - when I first arrived aged 22, I actually walked to The Strand, one of London's busiest streets, in the hope of finding some vestige of ocean. I was demoralised to spot not even a seagull.

London seemed a vast, alienating place in which I had lost my bearings. A place of work, not of leisure or pleasure.

Yet, today, I love it. I'm at home and wonder how I could ever leave. What changed about London for me was the discovery that I really live in a village. Except my village isn't struggling to keep its post office, having long ago lost its butcher and baker. I need walk no more than 10 minutes from my front door in Stoke Newington to find almost everything necessary for life. You can fall out of bed and into any number of cafes for breakfasts that go on all day. There's a deli for lunch, more than a dozen restaurants in one street for dinner.

Those with time on their hands can find endless second-hand book shops for browsing, a jazz club for carousing, a flamenco club for dancing. There are shops that will fix your television, cut your hair, mend your clothes, repair your washing machine, massage your body. There is a video store for the mainstream, another for the esoteric. A boutique for thin sophisticates, a singing pub for boozers, smooth bars for trendies.

There is the best of community - you never walk down Stoke Newington Church Street without bumping into friends. But windows don't squint at every coming and going like they do in the country. You can wallow in the anonymity and liberalism of the city. Lesbians raise their children here, living out the legacy of great non-conformists, such as Daniel Defoe, who lived here and are buried in the huge, spooky graveyard full of mausoleums and gay men picking each other up.

There is a sense of history about city life, its ancient buildings and roads, without the preciousness of thatched Tudor cottages. Daniel Defoe's only memorial is the slightly dilapidated Defoe Cabs, whose Ethiopian drivers probably miss the significance of the name. The constant influx of such newcomers provides a diversity and vibrancy which makes the all- white villages of Britain dreary in their monotony, almost scary in their uniformity.

You probably think it's a terrible place to raise children - imagine the drug problems, the discarded syringes. Well, yes, they do find a few in the playground in the mornings. And, yes, you do have to avoid dog dirt on the pavement. But this place is overrun with young children, so we have a wonderful state-of-the-art playground, with lots of swings, roundabouts and climbing frames, built over an all-weather, safe surface. Ask children whether they would prefer to play in a muddy field: you will find a city lover.

Of course, I still miss the sea. There's not much I can do about that. We've covered the garden with pebbles. But there are still no seagulls.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

    Early Years Educator

    £68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

    Nursery Nurse

    £69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

    Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam