Tuesday, 13 January 2009

To The Suburbs! (...and back again.)

At the moment, I am between homes, and staying temporarily in a proper house in a suburb. Actually, it’s more of a neighbourhood, which is a subtle but important distinction.

I am living in a house, not a flat, with different rooms on different storeys. A house has stairs, and corridors, which is disorientating and inconvenient after years of having everything so close at hand. Friends have suggested that I could rent a whole house for the same price as a flat, but why would I want to? I don’t need the space. Even though my frugal belongings exceed the confines of the tiniest dolls-house newbuild, I still miss the convenient, compact layout of a fair-sized flat.

What’s worse, I have to travel. The act of waiting for a bus and then the slow, dreary journey back to the city wastes two hours every single day, which is new experience for me. Somehow, I always sit next to a gifted yet disturbed individual ranting in my ear about their magic hands, or other special talents. When I walked everywhere, at least I could escape to other side of the road. Now I race for the exit clumsily falling over those poor women with no choice other than carry their children in unwieldy pushchairs.

It’s better to live close to work (family and schools are also important, before you say it) but I feel adrift. I suspect my friends (well, the ones who live outside the city) thought I’d see the light and make my future away from town. Suburban rents are mostly the same as the city. However, add in travel costs (taxis etc.) and it’s actually more expensive to live here. And I don’t want to live here as it is.

Being positive, at least it’s peaceful. I don’t miss the pandemonium of nocturnal urban streets but I do hate the cold. Houses are draughty: newbuilds have many faults, but they are usually warm and snug, with constant hot water. It’s not like that here. Even with the central heating on full, I’m usually wrapped up in a duvet.

Cities have everything I need; urban life suits me, and a flat is attainable. Is a friendly café too much to ask for? Café Nero, never reached this far. The (now closed and derelict) restaurant which advertised tomato soup as if it was a rare, luxurious delicacy gets me every time. Around here the only remaining businesses are betting shops and dodgy travel agents, next to electrical goods stores which specialise in unlocking mobiles and probably unlock other secured objects for the right price. Pods of churlish scallies brandish rottweilers. The pubs are scary. I’m missing the bars.

Like the man in The Shawshank Redemption I am screaming in the night: “I don’t belong here!” City living isn’t an exotic fancy notion I will outgrow. For me, it’s entirely sensible.

And the difference between a suburb and a neighbourhood (make that a ‘hood)? Well, a man was shot and wounded five doors down from here recently. Recalling the body count in Dovecot Towers, I wonder if death walks beside me. Or is that just the way of things now?


Caoilte said...

You should keep your powder dry for the recession in full swing. If '91-'95 was anything to go by we ain't seen nothing yet (and they say this one's worse).

RenterGirl said...

I know; that's why I'm hanging back with flathunting. It's getting silly out there.

Anonymous said...

The UK does bad city: London, a toilet by global standards, beats the pants off the rest of the UK's urban and suburban areas. But when you compare London to proper cities in other parts of Europe and the world, it sucks massively.

It is hard to find the sort of relaxed but high standard cafes, bars and restaurants you would find in Europe, and that civilise its cities. As for the UK's burbs, read JG Ballard: they are the holding tank for life's failures. Bleak.

RenterGirl said...

A fair point, but there are nicer suburbs. It's just that why is what makes life comoftable, like properly stocked shops and supermarkets, friendly bars etc the domain of posh places? Which are often even dearer than the city centre?

ReubenH said...

You still live in Manchester I assume? I noticed late last year that for newsworthy crimes Manchester is punching far above it's weight... every fresh horror seems to be there or Liverpool.

RenterGirl said...

Hmmm...Reuben, I don't know if that's true. Manchester can be 'newsworthy' but there's stabbings in Glasgow, the child murders in Doncaster (truly awful) and London has it's fair share of the action. Even rural communities aren't immune. Any urban area has its moments. But, it seems that wherever I am, carnage is close by...

thumbs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the reaper said...

loads of those inner city coffee shops are about to close.

City living cuts pollution too.Every time I drive anywhere paritculalry at rush hour,I jsut can't believe that there are people doing leicester to Derby every day by choice.

RenterGirl said...

Oh, I'm not so bothered by the no cafe Nero, but is nice to escape the house for a brew. And it does cut down on pollution. I'm not being precious, but city living makes sense for me.

Anonymous said...

honestly you are the most moaning get ever. that's the bottom line

you could live in a fur-lined yacht on mars with free caviar and premiership games and you'd whinge about the reception

i've just realised, you're like a not-funny charlie brooker


RenterGirl said...

And yet there you are, reading my blog, taking the time to comment, and then issue your scintillatingly witty and intelligent critique, against the tide of so many people who also endure the downside of renting. Who unlike you, give their names. I release you. Whatever hold I had; I let you go. You no longer have to read this blog. Better now?

the reaper said...

'honestly you are the most moaning get ever. that's the bottom line

you could live in a fur-lined yacht on mars with free caviar and premiership games and you'd whinge about the reception

i've just realised, you're like a not-funny charlie brooker


what's the matter Raj,the tenants been abandoning your dream of urban renewal for a better life in a two up two down?

the reaper said...


read here and weep at the second comment.

does raj wear a wig?

the reaper said...


I see the TV work has dried up since march 2008 as well Raj


wonder what first attracted stunning 32 year old maria to 50 year old multi millionaire Raj?

RenterGirl said...

Reaper, you clearly have inside knowledge? Do you know this person?I just laughed at the description of the 'dream home.' It's the blokiest thing I did see. And too right, I'd moan about living there!

PRScampaigner said...

Hi, love your Blog!

would like to discuss my plans that may interest you...I also have a Blog at www.sheilamckechnie.org.uk.

Contact - debbiecrew at blueyonder co uk apparently writing the address this way will cut out span mail.

MattW said...

I quite like the suburbs - although I wasn't a car owner I wouldn't live there unless the public transport service was top notch.

RenterGirl said...

It depends on which suburb, really Matt. I seem to be in the Dovecot Towers of suburbs. An public transport is regular, and reasonably priced. I am sensitive flower, perhaps, but I'm not used to the scrum of a queue, and the ill tempers. I'm glad I've visited this planet, but I don't want to live here.

Michael O'Flynn said...

Great blog - interesting issue this - I've just run some stats on rental searches in manchester and most to the top 20 are city centre - if you'd like the list of the top 20 props in jan let me know and I'll forward,


Michael O'Flynn (Editor)

RenterGirl said...

Please! And thanks! Erm...editor of what are you Michael?