A couple of weeks now since we returned from our trip to Brighton and I’ve spent a lot of time pondering whether we made the correct choice moving from Brighton back up to my home town of Leeds.
There’s plenty to love about Brighton. The sea for a start. There is something special about living by the sea. The air is different, the light is different, and there’s something elemental about listening to the waves crash in and out (a deserted beach is probably my favourite place to be, although the chances of Brighton beach ever being deserted are decidedly slim). When our daughter is a little older I suspect she will think we’re insane for not choosing to live by the seaside. Leeds, whilst many miles from a coast, is full of parks and surrounded by beautiful countryside. So we do have plenty of outdoor options, but it’s not quite the same.
The food and drink we miss too, you can go into pretty much any café or pub in Brighton and expect to find decent food and ales, which is not always the case in Leeds. Although we are catching up, and our local area of Chapel Allerton is pretty much the best place in Leeds to be food wise. The weather is something people expected us to miss, but I can’t say it’s bothered me that much, It may be a couple of degrees colder in Leeds than in Brighton, but the number of wet, windswept days where you can’t go outside is pretty similar. I strongly suspect some people we know in Brighton picture Leeds as being like the lands North of the wall in Game of Thrones, weather-wise, but it’s not so bad as all that.
We miss the alternative, lefty/liberal, hippyish nature of Brighton at times, but it could also be oppressive and sanctimonious at times. And you are still surrounded by the rest of the South East which is almost entirely conservative. Though it is perhaps slightly stupid that I have now decided to stop eating meat (3 months so far), when Brighton caters for vegetarians probably better than any other city in the UK.
What we’ll miss most about Brighton though is the people. We stayed with two of our closest friends and their family when we visited, and it saddens me that we see so little of them now, and that our children will not grow up together (their youngest daughter is one month older than ours). The same is true of our other friends, both with children and without. It’s been especially hard for my wife, who spent over a decade in Brighton (compared to my four years) and hardly knows anyone in Leeds. New friendships take time to find and build and it can be lonely for her (and me) at times. Our close friends though are spread all over the country and overseas, so wherever we go there will be people to miss, and no guarantees that those friends nearby will stay in the same place (although more are starting to settle).
It is seductive to imagine life in Brighton would be like a holiday and to romanticise our time there. Sitting out on The Level enjoying a coffee and cake in the sunshine on the last morning of our trip it was easy to picture the good things about life in Brighton and ignore the bad. But the reality would probably have been us buying or renting in an outlying area, far from many of our friends, because that would have been all we could afford. We would be struggling financially with higher rents, no childcare or other support from our families.
Ultimately our reasons for moving to Leeds were mainly practical, often financial ones, being able to afford to buy a house one day, having support for family for childcare, and advancing our careers (I would be very unlikely to be promoted as far as I have if we remained in Brighton). They may be boring reasons, but they remain as valid now as they were when we moved. Life in Leeds is good, in the main, and will get better as we put down roots, meet new people, establish our new lives. It doesn’t stop us from missing Brighton though, and there is always the suspicion that, if money were no object, we might have stayed put. My brain is fairly sure we made the right choice, my heart may always have a few doubts.