Monday, 25 June 2012

Changing Horizons

"Sick of London, sick of life", or so the saying goes. However, after 5 years living and working in the capital, I found that inhabiting this concrete jungle was making me feel increasingly aggravated. Don't get me wrong, London has a lot to offer culturally and socially, but the daily commute to Westminster and the dirt, deprivation and noise in my East End neighbourhood, were getting me down.

View from my desk, Victoria, London

I found myself longing for outdoor space, greenery and above all, peace and quiet. Something inside me just couldn't put up with the grit of urban living any more. We tried to move, but it was just as the UK housing market crashed, so we were forced to stay in our one bed flat with no outdoor space.

After some months planning, we left our jobs, cleared the flat and both moved to France in search of a better  quality of life. Everyone thought we were totally mad, but also brave. Mainly mad, though. We didn't have any jobs, after all and didn't really know the new city we were moving to: Strasbourg. "Le Carrefour de l'Europe"* as it is called locally, is a much quieter and certainly more beautiful location than the East End of London.

View from our balcony. Sunset over Strasbourg.

One of the things I noticed when we first moved to Strasbourg, was the difference in noise levels. On a Sunday it was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. From time to time the faint clang of the bell could be heard as the tram trundled past our apartment. In France, nobody dashes around on Sunday in their cars, going to the supermarket or the DIY shop. This is because absolutely every shop is closed. Sundays are family days spent walking in the park or having long lunches together. The only other sounds to be heard were the swallows swooping past chirruping and occasionally, from its nest upon a rooftop, the "clack, clack, clack" of a stork's beak.

After a year and a half in Alsace, we moved to the Czech Republic for new work opportunities. This time to a city we had never even visited before! We weren't sure what we would make of the place and moreover we couldn't speak the language (unlike in France). It's 5 months since we arrived and although Brno hasn't got the picture postcard elements of Strasbourg, it has a pleasing, rolling green countryside.

View from the balcony. Brno, Czech Republic

I was hanging out my washing on the balcony this morning. The sun was shining brightly and the bell from the village church was chiming. Underneath that, birds were chattering and the lazy buzz of insects quietly filled the sonic spaces between. A neighbour walked past and I called out "Dobrý den!". He looked up and waved. I felt content. There is nothing awe-inspiring about the view from our flat, but it is so much nicer than what I was faced with every day in London, that I feel very pleased to have landed in this little corner of the world.

*Crossroads of Europe


  1. This kind of thing is exactly why I enjoy reading your blog. Something very different in my Google Reader on a Monday morning is always appreciated. Keep it up!

  2. Aww, thanks :) You know that I like to be different! ;) Very happy to have you as one of my readers.

  3. So glad to know you're enjoying your new life in Brno, even allowing for the difficult language :-) And you've certainly chosen an attractive part of the city to live in. Thanks for this reflective piece on why you chose to get out of London.

    Being my usual pedantic self, the quotation should be, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" (Samuel Johnson), but the sentiment is the same.