The Move to Southsea

Earlier this year, my partner and I embraced our inner middle-aged selves and made the fairly fundamental life decision to move away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. We traded in our inner city jobs and our 1 bed flat in East London for higher paying jobs and a cheaper 2 bed house in the sea and sun of the South Coast. Put that way it sounds like a no-brainer, but as is the case with most big decisions in life, we had no idea at the time that things would work out for the better.

Despite the uncertainty of it, our choice to move out of London had been a long time coming. We lived in a fairly nice part of Leyton, in a nice flat that we’d transformed into a cosy home together; but the city’s charms had worn away for us, buried beneath the millions of trodden in fag ends and chewing gum in the pavements, obscured by the not-so-distant smog over the city that we could see every morning as we walked to the tube station, overwhelmed by the ever-present smell of half eaten take-away fried chicken that had been tossed aside in the early hours of the morning, and drowned out by the sound of passers-by snorting up phlegm and spitting it into the road.

Even with those fairly powerful (and rather pungent!) daily motivators, it was still a decision that took a fairly long time for us to be certain about; London had been our home, both individually and together, for quite some time after all. I can’t recall when we first suggested moving to Southsea specifically, but as we were travelling to Portsmouth more and more regularly to see Amy’s family (and pets), it was obvious that it was a logical place to move to so that she could be closer to more of her direct family, as well as it being a cheaper and outright nicer place to live than London. We were extremely conscious however of the reduction of job opportunities that there would be for us if we moved to the South Coast. That being said, there were certainly a couple of additional key motivators that prompted us to move out of London to build a more comfortable life for ourselves (as well as the appeal of living by the sea of course…).

We Got Engaged!

As far as key motivators go, getting engaged is a big one!

To celebrate my birthday last year, and our first year together, Amy and I booked several days away in Bath (the city that is - we didn’t just spend several days lazing about in a bath non-stop). We stayed in the beautiful Hill House Bed and Breakfast, owned by the most welcoming and warm couple, Harry and Douglas (and their dog Jasper). We visited all of the typical (but nonetheless stunning) spots: the Royal Crescent, the Roman Baths, the Bath Abbey – we even visited the Herschel Museum of Astronomy to satisfy the nerdier parts of our brains.

After a lovely vegan dinner at the Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, we returned to the B&B and Amy took me completely by surprise by giving me a ring for my birthday, and asking me to marry her! Once I got past the initial sheer surprise, I of course said yes.

Deciding On A Destination

Southsea caught our eye for many reasons; although it was our first choice of where to move to, it took a while for it to rise to a status in our mind that that was significant enough for us to start making fundamental changes in our lives to prepare for it.

We had considered other places as well of course: Bath, Bristol, and Brighton being the main contenders (the fact that our rejected choices all begin with the letter ‘b’ is purely coincidental), but Southsea was top of the list partly due to having some absolutely beautiful areas, but largely because Amy quite missed having most of her direct family in easy reach.

Amy’s mother had moved to Southsea in early 2014, and her sister joined her towards the end of the year as well, along with their childhood pets: an insane but lovely Jack Russel, and a rather aloof, but occasionally very soppy, ginger tomcat. This meant that Amy and I donated a rather lofty amount of time and money to South West Trains throughout 2015 in return for many heavily delayed journeys to visit them. Our regular visits meant that we weren’t in denial about Portsmouth as a whole: it’s a very dense city; a miniature concrete jungle filled with row after row of terraced 2-bed houses, with the greenery and sea-cabbage covered beaches of Southsea and Eastney standing in defiance of the concrete jungle just north of them.

The view out to sea and over to the Isle of Wight can be pretty amazing as well:

Switching Jobs

Having made the decision to move to Southsea, we had to prepare for it. I had a fair amount of savings – enough to keep us going for a good few months – but we both ideally wanted our move to be as secure as possible, so we started searching for new jobs.

Shortly before Christmas 2015, I was lucky enough to be offered a remote working position for Advorto – a London based company that develops web-based recruitment software – which provided a stable financial base for us to move on, along with the added benefit of having no travel costs (or travel time) associated with my income (I do have to travel into London every now and again for company meetings, but the employees that work remotely are permitted to expense the travel cost).

Switching jobs wasn’t easy for us though. People switch jobs all the time for all sorts of reasons, but we’d both been in our jobs for a fair amount of time, working with people that we really liked and had become friends with. I’ve always maintained the idea that “it’s the people that make the place”, and I was very conscious that I was leaving a job that was both challenging and fun, that had taught me a lot, and was full of people that I enjoyed working and socialising with. I was confident that I would enjoy my new job as well – and I was right to be sure that I would – but it was nonetheless difficult to leave my current position.

Despite the difficulties of switching jobs, our motivations to move away from the stresses of the Capital were unchanged, so we continued to press on with our preparations. Our desire to move away from London was also magnified that Christmas.

The Drunken Russian Christmas Eve Break In

We had planned to spend Christmas in Southsea with Amy’s mum and sister, and intended to catch a train down there on Christmas Eve. In the early hours of that morning, at roughly 2am, we were awoken after an hour-or-so’s sleep by the noise of two drunk homeless men shouting at each other outside in Russian, and the repeated bangs of them hitting and kicking the front door to the house. We rang the local police and requested that a car be sent round, only to receive the asinine suggestion that we open the door and try to speak to them to see what they wanted… After repeatedly reminding the operator that we had no intention of opening the door to people much larger than us who were clearly attempting to break in, they begrudgingly agreed to send a police car… which of course arrived about 10 minutes after they’d managed to kick the door down.

Past the front door to the house where we lived at the time, there are then two other doors: one on the left that led to our ground floor flat, and one directly ahead that led to the first floor flat. They chose the door straight ahead, and broke into the flat above us, where a lovely Eastern European woman lived with her son. Only one of the Russian men actually entered their flat (we assume that when they were shouting at each other outside, they were arguing about whether or not to try and break into the house), and he was quickly greeted by the woman’s partner who happened to be a very nice, but very stocky, biker. I of course emerged from our flat at this point to make our presence known as well. There was no physical altercation of any kind however; the Russian man left immediately once he was aware that there were people inside who’d present any kind of resistance.

These homeless men were people that we often saw on our walk home from the tube station. It was Christmas Eve, and they were drunk, cold, and desperate. We explained as much to the police once they eventually arrived, before they circled the area a few times looking for them. We then made sure that we could secure the main door in some way, at least from the inside, and rang our Estate Agent’s out-of-hours number to inform them of what had happened, and they arranged for a contractor to come out first thing in the morning.

We didn’t go back to sleep.

The remainder of our Christmas Eve involved getting the door reinforced, getting some new keys cut, several hours on trains, and then collapsing at Amy’s mum’s house to finally get some sleep.

2015 was a rough year all in all. Among the funerals, my dad getting run over, many hospital trips, leaving my job, the onset of my anxiety (more about that in a future post), drunk Russian homeless men, and an asinine police operator, I was glad to see the end of it.

A Happier Year

2016 has shaped up to be a largely happier year; it’s had its ups and downs of course, but there have definitely been more ups than downs.

The beginning of the year saw us spending more time visiting Southsea. We’d arranged to view lots of houses quite early on, still a couple of months before our contract at our current flat was due to end, and we found the house we’re now renting on the first day of viewings. The landlord of our flat was also kind enough to allow our tenancy to end a month early. So, in February, we moved home.

Moving home is never easy going, but after days of packing and cleaning, hours of travelling, and losing part of our flat deposit to get the garden and oven professionally cleaned (because we just hadn’t had the time to do them ourselves), we finally moved into our new house in Southsea… that hadn’t had any of the additional work done to it that the landlord had promised…

So then, after months of nagging, getting the exposed light switches sorted in the living room, getting the walls properly repainted (because the white gloss patch painting that had been done on top of the matte coat was driving my OCD tendencies a little mad), having new windows fitted in the main bedroom, and having the front door replaced… twice (because the first attempt took several weeks to get to an unfinished state, compared to the second attempt which was completed in 1 day), among the unpacking, buying and constructing new furniture, and getting my home office sorted, we were finally fully moved into our new house in Southsea!

It was all worth it. The 2-bed house we’re now renting has more than double the space of the 1-bed flat we were in in Leyton, and it costs less… Southsea really is a beautiful place as well. We live very close by to the greenery of the Canoe Lake and Southsea Rose Garden, and it helps that our house is literally just round the corner from the beach. No one ever quite seems to believe us when we tell them that. But when people come to visit, they always end up saying: “wow, you really do live just round the corner from the beach”. Here’s a quick photo collage of some of the pictures I’ve taken on my phone around where we live (there are plenty of others on my photography page as well):

After a summer of dog walks with Amy’s family, visits from friends, lazing on the beach, and turning into a puddle of sweat in the sun quite a few times, I can safely say we enjoy living here far more than living in East London. There are a lot of people we miss, but our lives are also a lot less stressful. Amy’s brother has recently moved down as well, and we’ve now got an adorable (and extremely vocal!) little cat called Mia:

Our first winter and Christmas living in Southsea is fast approaching now as well, but based on the events last Christmas, the chilling sea breeze should be easily bearable!

Posted: October 29th, 2016
Categories: life