London’s postcodes. Three-to-six characters that say so much. If you’re lucky, have called London home for many years, perhaps you’ve found your perfect postcode. The right combination of letters and numbers that makes you feel at home, among your tribe, surrounded by landmarks, cafes and restaurants as if designed especially for you. If you’re like the rest of us, though, you’ve probably settled in your third-best postcode choice and, while you’re happy enough, every so often you’ll accidentally visit your first choice and remember why it was top of the pile. It’s always best not to drag out these visits lest you get all mopey over what could have been.
N16, Stokey to some, Stoke Newington to others, has been a good home to me. I like to think of it as the Carlton North of London and because of this, it was instantly familiar. It’s (mostly) filled with my tribe, there are enough ‘hot-spot’ restaurants and cafes to keep me sated for five years at least (especially considering how hard it is to actually get into these places. The lines at the weekends are intense - never seen so many hipsters in one spot in.my.life…save for every day in Melbourne’s inner north) and has made be appreciate the beauty that is London’s double-decker bus, for which I’m a better person. N16 is also home to my friends and enough colour to keep my brain bursting with ideas for my writing. I love Stoke Newington. It’s home, and I’m grateful for that.
Then I moved to Chelsea.
For various reasons, I’m taking a sabbatical from the north and have relocated south west - temporarily. (For those just catching up, N16 means North 16, and SW3 means South West 3. Facts!) I checked into my self-catering apartment on a Monday at lunchtime and, in need of food, I immediately dumped my bags and scrambled back out into the sunshine. The difference between my new and old postcodes was immediate and vast. The people that traverse the streets, during the day, during the week, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are very different to those in the London Borough of Hackney. This, of course, wasn’t a surprise to me. Hadn’t I chosen my new location because it was the antithesis of what I’ve known for the last nine months? Hadn’t I hoped that living in the south west, even for a tiny while, would make a more permanent move there more possible? Or, had I hoped I’d become so disillusioned with the richness (and whiteness) of the area that I’d gratefully put it to the bottom of my postcode wish list? These questions were too probing to be answered on an empty stomach so I pushed them aside and ducked into the Paul bakery on the King’s Road for a baguette. I was becoming south-west-ified already.
That night, as I lay in bed watching ‘Made in Chelsea’ while I was IN Chelsea, I did some mental maths, gave up, and reached for my phone and its calculator. To be able to afford SWLYFE on a more permanent basis, my sums showed that I would need to get a job that would pay me more than I was making in Melbourne. That would mean getting a serious, full-time permanent job and I returning to a writing schedule that only included weekends and the odd hour or two during the week, if I wasn’t exhausted and drained from whatever office job I had committed myself to. And even then, the flats I could afford would still involve having to share with someone, which would put me in a worse position than I had back home in 3054.
I put my phone away. It wouldn’t, couldn’t, be worth it. Too many sacrifices. Too many changes to the goals I wanted to achieve during this new life I’m building for myself so far from my family.
But for a moment there, I was at the cross roads and was very seriously contemplating the wrong path. And, if I’m honest, I don’t think I’m quite out of the woods yet. I still have a bit of time here in Chelsea and, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually drink enough of the Kool-Aid to think that giving up all my dreams would be worth a moment in the glamorous south-west sun.
Or, maybe, I’ll come to my senses. I’ll realise that as lovely as Chelsea is, maybe the SW postcode is more suited for when you need a little reprieve of your normal life. You know, nice for a holiday, but I wouldn’t want to live there…