Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Why are we doing this?

...the same two reasons people always give for leaving London - in the hope of having more money and a better life. 

Something I've repeated even more often than the bit about not getting VFM out of LDN is "I don't have a problem with working hard, and I don't have a problem with being skint. But I've been doing both for twenty-odd years now and I'm bloody bored of it." We were massively lucky to get our house when we did - we literally could not have afforded fifty quid more. But, although the mortgage we got wouldn't buy a two bed flat round here now, it's been pretty much beyond my means since day one. I haven't had a proper pay rise in ten years and had got into the kind of debt that (although it's a fraction of that with which the average graduate starts out in working life nowadays) spirals out of control. I simply couldn't make the repayments as well as keep up with the mortgage and cover all the rest of the bills. The numbers just weren't adding up, which, in tandem with how tough I was finding the job (more of which another time), meant things were going to have to change. 

Would I stay here if (pathetically hypothetically) I could find a new, better-paid job? No. I need a change of lifestyle too. If I admitted I was a borderline alcoholic, M would snort and say that there is nothing borderline about it. To an even greater degree than the average middle class man with a beard (I have had one for 16 years, by the way - I pretty much invented not shaving) I've been a very enthusiastic participant in the craft beer palaver, the success of which seems to be down to the lifestyle phenomenon of turning what's essentially a Very Bad Habit into an "avid interest". 

Apart from drinking beer, my other hobby has always been buying and playing records. I've (actively) played them in pubs and clubs around London and beyond for 23 years. Once I tried to give up teaching to concentrate on working as a dj but it soon became apparent I might drink and debt myself to death. Sitting at home listening to records (passively) is nice, but didn't happen often enough when I was working as a teacher. I want to live the music experience and share it with people, along with my enthusiasm for beer, without drinking it all. And I need to get more exercise.

I'm at least a couple of stone overweight. I don't hate myself for it, as, since all I ever do in my free time is eat and drink, I might expect it to be worse. I really enjoy being active and love all sorts of sports (despite not being very good at any of them) but have virtually never found the time to participate over the last eleven years - the time that I have had children. Shouldn't I be doing sports with my children? Of course, but they come home from school tired, just wanting to relax. At the weekends (the only time computer games are allowed), they feel, if asked to do anything else, they're being denied a favourite thing, to which they are entitled. They do work really hard at school and their behaviour is excellent.  

Are they being overworked at school? Possibly, but they're not being nagged to death with an education like the kids with whom I worked until recently. Are we going round in circles here? Yes. So it's time to break from the predictable arc and head off at a tangent, wherever that may lead us.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

So where are we now?

Erm, still in Peckham. I haven't spent three months sitting on my arse, though, honest. We knew it would take some time to get the house ready to sell, and amusingly we had to give it an extra month for the convenience of our lodger.

He has, to his credit, done a great job on the downstairs front windows, the front door and the shower room. Basically the things that people are going to look at closely, that have to be worked on with a certain amount of skill and technique. Meanwhile I've been slopping my new favourite paint - Sandtex Trade High Cover Smooth, people - over anything that stands still for long enough. Oh, and removing literally dozens of boxes and bags of miscellaneous items (the reasons for keeping which, I cannot possibly fathom) from the loft.

We have also been selling a lot of our possessions, as we would obviously like to be putting as little as possible into storage for the many months to come. eBay has been as fickle a friend as ever, sometimes delivering lovely people (who are prepared to pay substantial amounts of money) to our door to collect broken things they will enjoy tinkering with, and at other times sending us cheeky young scrotes who've got a bargain but still want to push it and moan about some detail, or don't even bother to turn up.

And I've been enjoying living here, as if for the first time. It's true that there are loads of great things to do for free in London, especially if the weather is good and you can set your own agenda - the kids are still going to school, of course. For years I've whinged about how "I don't get value for money living in London. I just go to work, eat, sleep and occasionally get pissed. I could do that cheaper anywhere." I'm now suffering the irony overload of really loving the place while working to get away.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Right, here goes...

I packed in my job as a primary school teacher at Christmas. It was too hard and it made me pretty miserable. You have probably heard that kind of stuff from teachers before. I stuck it out for seventeen years, so I must've been okay at it, and it made some other important things possible, but it was always going to come to an end before I turned fifty. I'm forty-four, so I'm doing something ahead of schedule for the first time ever.

This may or may not be my own selfish endeavour, but I think I have the rest of the family on side. We are going to sell our house in Peckham, South London, and find somewhere else to live, preferably a town or city that needs a second hand record shop. I'm going to stock the place with my own collection at first, which will save my kids having to flog it on eBay when I'm dead.

We have no idea whatsoever where this Somewhere Else is going to be. London is so ingrained in our hair and skin and souls that we have never been anywhere else (we rarely had the time or money anyway) and been able to say, "Yes. We could live here." So M (my partner, mother of E and H, our ten- and eight-year-old sons) had the idea of Going On Tour. When the house is sold, we are going to take the kids out of school and travel around the British Isles in a camper van. We are going to go to places we've always wanted to visit, and places we have never heard of, and we are going to explore and adventure for as long as we damn well feel like it.

And at some point, I expect, we are going to find a town and think, "Yes. We could live here."

I'm planning to record what happens in this blog. I hope people will want to read it, of course, so I shall try to make it useful and informative. I will try not to bang on about boring things, but I think some stuff about what my old job was like, what my children are learning while missing school, maybe even the good old house prices conversation might have to come into it once in a while. But mostly I will want to talk about the places in the UK and Ireland that we visit and what they are like. I can't wait to get started. It would be great if you came along for the ride.