New-build developments, Tesco and B&Q hypermarkets, SUVs and Land Rovers, flat grey tarmac, Sky satellite boxes, manicured lawns, DIY, Pizza Hut, Wetherspoon pubs, golf courses, isolation, dislocation, boredom and obesity. These are what I think of when I think of the suburbs.
I rarely enjoy leaving London unless it's to go abroad. The refrain of friends and colleagues who say they want to move to the provinces to "get away" has never passed my lips. I grew up in the Kentish countryside and started truanting to London in my teens. I only applied to London universities for my first degree. Fully settled here now, there is too much still to enjoy in this glorious capital city for me to contemplate leaving, unless it is to move to a comparable city, preferably New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Bangkok. London is made up of thousands of close-knit communities and I thrive in the diversity, the variety and in getting lost in the exciting, messy midst of it all. By comparison, I find the provinces claustrophobic, monotonous and bland. Fortunately, M feels exactly the same.
However, my parents still live in the provinces, though in Norfolk now, rather than Kent. I love visiting them and eating their wonderful Indian cooking. We're a very close family of three and have always got on very well. However, as the train leaves London, I always feel the pressure descend.
Luckily that pressure's alleviated slightly by being able to upgrade to First Class, read loads of magazines, eat food I usually try to avoid such as cheese scones, jam doughnuts and Twix bars, and listen to music or try out new video podcasts. My short commute into work is spent reading books. I like to lose myself in other worlds whilst still being fully aware of what's going on around me. So I rarely listen to my iPod except at home when I hook them up to my Altec Lansing speakers. Behind the times, I'm still discovering podcasts and video podcasts. So far, I find most personal or homebrew casts too rambling for my tastes. But I'm growing to enjoy the BBC's Breakfast Takeaway and London News, the NYT's David Pogue, Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent and NPR's Shuffle podcasts.
Tomorrow we return to the city and I've got a long list of things I want to see and do. But even if we simply chill, we will do so with the knowledge that there's a wealth of sights and sounds just outside our door if we choose to immerse ourselves in it.
I'm a city girl snob, and proud of it.