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Town vs clown

Claudia Savage-Gore baulks at the idea of decamping to the shires

Hot House

This article is taken from the October issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering three issue for just £5.

I knew this would happen. Our bloody next-door neighbours are selling up and moving to Hove, inspired by how easy WFH has turned out to be. So of course Will is campaigning for us to sell and move to the shires, too. Ignoring the fact that said neighbours are a pair of ridiculously hench gay Californians who need to commune with the sea daily, not a family of five with lifelong ties to St John’s Wood.

But then I remember what living in the provinces would actually mean. Gilets. Wet dogs. No pavement. Milky coffee. Brexit chat

Actually this has been on the cards for years. Will grew up near Swindon (insert nauseous emoji) and has been quietly wanging on about the kids needing “more green space” for years. I thought once we had all three safely locked into London preps he’d give up.

But no. Clearly this yearning for the great outdoors never went away. What’s wrong with Regent’s Park Tennis School? And now here we are, with my husband sending me passive aggressive Rightmove links captioned: “We could afford a pool in Shropshire!” Unfortunately I’m massively on the back foot for two reasons:

A) Having never lived in the country, apparently I don’t understand the “privilege” of a rural childhood.

Obviously I feel exactly the same. As in, Will fails to understand the privilege of growing up in north London — like I did, and our kids are. We’re literally giving them the gift of zero FOMO. They get to bypass all that “dreaming of the big city” shit. They’re going to end up back here soon enough, interning for free. And we’ll be paying their rent from Shropshire. So it makes no financial sense to leave now.

B) Will does make a legitimate point that we could afford a small castle in the country for what we get in NW8. And obviously a large part of me is tempted by the opportunity to live semi-separate lives. We could even banish the kids and some staff to their own quarters. But then I remember what living in the provinces would actually mean. Gilets. Wet dogs. No pavement. Milky coffee. Brexit chat.

Obviously, as in any marital dispute, we’re both using the kids as leverage. Since Minnie chose to board in Surrey, Will keeps referencing her love of nature and claiming she’d be happier in the country full-time. Complete myth by the way: she wanted to meet boys, not rabbits.

My counter argument is that Lyra, our Alpha middle child, is headed for my alma mater St Paul’s — something Will knows I feel VERY strongly about — and that since 11-plus applications are due any minute we can’t possibly uproot her now. So far Lyra’s toeing the line, and helpfully talking about how she just feels like a Paulina (I paid her to say so, proving the point).

Which leaves Hector, our youngest. Hecky shows minimal academic promise but is chunky enough to do well in rugby (according to Will, the source of said snail metabolism). In other words Hector’s heading for Haileybury in a handcart.

Every London school he applied for at seven-plus rejected him, which Will took absurdly personally. He’s now blaming London’s “pressure-cooker elitism” for failing to see Hector’s gifts, and is convinced our son would be better off in a “village school”. Whatever that even means.

My response, that it was vital the kids grew up in a “diverse environment”, didn’t wash. Even Will gets that Maida Vale is hardly a cultural melting-pot. But hey. It’s the bigger picture, right? I will win this. I won’t let sodding Covid exile me from NW8. I’m staying home, and saving lives.

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