In an attempt to look busy in a less casually-dressed way, I have taken on a small interior design project. I’m reinventing my husband’s boardroom so it stops looking like a boardroom, working with little more than a lot more design acumen than I actually have.
So it’s a jolly around Alfie’s Antiques market searching for that elusive bargain Chesterfield. Meanwhile, another wave of acquaintances are packing-up their 3-seaters and relocating from the bright lights of Zone 2 to the leafy beyonds, and beyond that even. More bedrooms, bigger gardens and a mortgage equivalent to a Hampstead parking permit are the main reasons. A strangely displaced feeling and a sense of foreboding seem to be the main outcomes so far.
But it’s those of us left behind who feel most uneasy about these migrations, as we’re forced to justify the conditions and expense we continue to choose over all the attractions of Not-London. It’s quite tricky to articulate why the smell of Holloway Road is more invigorating than a freshly cut meadow.
I do often feel a sense of un-attachment to my surroundings – by which I think I mean daily reality. It’s like the strange sensation of hearing three small people breaking into my bedroom at 6.45am, whispering about whether I’m awake. The reality of their existence comes as a new shock each morning. The fact that I live in a city still catches me sometimes like an aerial reveal of Central Park in the opening credits of yet another film. It’s just cool, and it just makes you smile.
Part of the reason I love living in London is that I have to work less hard at being considered interesting. You just sort of assimilate your surroundings: the closer you live to famous shops, national galleries and BBC outside broadcasts, the more culturally aware, politically opinionated and generally on-trend you must be.
And it’s also an accepted assumption that city life is hard work, which makes me a bit tough as well as a bit cool. Since researching soft furnishings for the boardroom, I’ve found that if a sofa is angular, to huge to fit through a front door and so firm it’s actually painful to sit on, it will be called Capital, or Modular, or Awkward. If, however, it’s so soft and floral that it threatens to eat you alive with incestuous gossip and church fundraisers, it’s definitely designed for anyone living outside a pizza delivery zone.
Everyone I know is striving for the life less ordinary, and rightly so. And you can’t buy that with a postcode. Even the less ordinary quickly becomes average when there are hundreds of other people doing the same less ordinary stuff in the same less ordinary neighbourhood. But when your general outlook is as absurdly Polly Anna as mine, and your need for clear signposting towards the road less travelled as great, a north London doorstep is the start of the yellow brick road.