My Own Guest Post

In 2017, I was asked to write a guest post on another blog, Esme Salon.

This was the post I submitted five years ago. Some of you may have seen it on her blog.

I lived in London for sixty years. Born and raised in the dockside area just south of Tower Bridge, it was all I knew. I grew up there, went to school there, and got married there. Like most people, I moved around. It’s a big city, lots to see, and all the districts are different. I lived in middle-class areas, upper-class areas, and cramped rented flats too. After two divorces, and a geographic circuit of the Capital, I spent the last twelve years in the trendy confines of Camden Town, a stone’s throw from the centre.

I worked there too. One third of my life as an EMT, dealing with the demands of a population of over seven million, plus the tourists and commuters. The next fifth of my life spent working for the police, a total of thirty-four years in the emergency services, dealing with every bad thing that one of the biggest cities in the world can throw at you. By the age of fifty-nine, I was worn out. London is not really a place that you live in. It is something you endure, somewhere you survive. You learn to live by its rules. Don’t use a car unless you really have to. Don’t flaunt anything, and walk straight, catch nobody’s eye. Never back down. Only fools speak to strangers, and only tourists or children sit on the top deck of the bus.

Oh, it has its perks. Restaurants, cinemas, bars, theatres. Lots of them, everywhere. Shops, shops, and more shops. You can buy anything you want, but not always what you need. You are a small fish in an enormous shoal, so unlucky if a predator spots you. Stick with the crowd, and you will get by, unnoticed. But forget trying to sleep. Sirens, helicopters, 24-hour life and transport, with ambient light so bright it feels like the sun never sets. Always tired, struggling through one day to the next, in the relentless pace demanded by city life.

Retirement loomed as I approached sixty. Time for a change. London is no place to be old.

So, we bought a house in Norfolk. Only 120 miles north-east, but it might as well be in another country, and at another time. A drive of just over three hours by car takes you back over fifty years in the process. We settled in a place where people still say “Hello” as they walk past. Where a parcel left outside your door is still there, a week later. You don’t have to lock your car, and you could probably leave your doors unlocked too. Children don’t follow old people to mock them, but to help them. Your neighbours help out, and are happy to ask for a favour in return. Traffic jams are but a memory, and within twenty minutes drive, we can be standing on a deserted beach.

And the house cost less than the price of a lock-up garage, in the street we happily left behind.

It’s not all perfect, nothing is. Public transport is almost non-existent, and I have to travel twenty miles to buy a decent shirt, or to find a good street market. There is one cinema, and the choice of places to eat is limited by the modest expectations of local people. No local shop, and no real village centre, so it is not easy to meet new people. But it is dark at night, and I can see the stars, for the first time other than when on holiday. I can walk my dog past wild deer, and watch fish jumping in the river. I feel like I live in an England that I only ever read about in history books.

And I know which place I prefer.

35 thoughts on “My Own Guest Post

  1. The other night Larry and I were talking with my daughter Julie and her husband Nic and we were discussing where we all might want to travel together. Nic said his favorite city of all time was London. I’ve only stopped over at the airport, Larry too, so the four of us decided we would put London on our travel list for the near future. I think there’s a chance my other children might join us! If so, I’ll cashing in on your offer Pete to be our tour guide to the untouristy places! I’ll let you know when it becomes a reality, most likely next year! Great post, love the overview, xxoo, C

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. Give me lots of notice, as I have to make sure Ollie is looked after.
      I can only manage 4 passengers in my car, so if there are a lot of you, we would have to use public transport.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. City life is for the young and vibrant. While I was born in London, I was never really a “city” dweller and suburbia is a whole other thing. I shall always remember the London I knew but that’s really all it is, a memory. Like you, I had to escape and being in the country, surrounded by Nature has given joy to this aging “ex pat”.( At heart I have always been British.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have only been ever ‘English’, I never felt British. (I still put ‘English’ on all official forms) I loved London, and every year I spent there until I was old. I was very much a ‘city boy’ in every respect. Until I knew I had seen enough of that unforgiving metropolis. But I am still a Londoner, and will die a Londoner. I cannot imagine living in America, not for one second.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robbie. I wrote it as a guest post aimed at people who had never read my blog, so it was a sort-of ‘overview’ of how I came to end up in Beetley.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. I never wanted to leave until I became too old to enjoy living there, Carol. The noisy neighbours were driving me crazy, and I never seemed to have had one decent night’s sleep.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “I feel like I live in an England that I only ever read about in history books”.
    Pete, In 1980 I found out I could get a British passport as my dad was born in Yorkshire. I was a full time ambulanceman in NZ and at that time it was run by volunteers and politely, not the best – so off I fly to the adventure of a lifetime. I fell in love with the metropolis. London is a collection of villages and I had the privilege of living in the best = Barnes SW13. I soon got on the village promotions committee and loved playing cricket. After 5 years i found my dad was dying, so came back. A mistake. The ambulance service here was still somewhat backward and I soon got bored.
    I loved so many things about London – the scenery, history, culture, pageantry, the cabs, the people. I made lifelong friends of whom we have exchanged visits. My favourite memory (apart from taking my ambulance to Princess Di’s Kindergarten then doing standby at her wedding and then for William’s birth) is taking an elderly person to hospital and the neighbour leaving a fiver with you so they could get home – after coming over to make a cuppa and persuade the old dear she needed to go to hospital. Never forgotten..

    Liked by 3 people

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