Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why I pick city over suburbs - even & especially with family

A non-baby post, for a change!

Our 'spare room' - which will be baby's room.
Small but perfectly formed...
We live on a boat. A large boat as boats go, but a small space by most local standards. It's a confined space without outdoor space of our own, and that has some downsides - notably, the dog needs to be walked every time he needs the toilet, he can't just be let out. Later on when we've got the child, equally, I can't just open the back door and say, out you go!

Beyond that I truly struggle to come up with downsides. I love living in the city. My grandmother, with whom I rarely agreed about anything, was a city dweller all her adult life (and brought up two children in Vienna) and could not understand why anybody wouldn't choose to live in such a convenient place. I lived in New York City for a while and I'm still in touch with an amazing family with three girls who choose to live in Manhattan, right in the place which the majority of people (who can afford to) will leave as soon as they start families.

Bristol certainly doesn't compare with NYC in scale, but it's city living, make no mistake. So, you ask, it's crowded and living space is small and why do I love this?
One of our local parks - usually plenty of dogs
to play with!

  • I get to live on a boat! - OK this isn't the kind of city living most people experience, but.... a boat! The character, the freedom to roam, the water's reflections on the ceiling... I love our home.
  • Walking everywhere. Within (easy) walking distance are my dentist, GP, vet, a convenience store, and pretty much all the attractions tourists come here for. Within longer walking distance is my work, the main city centre with all its shops and services, the hospital, local markets. Our car gets used, on average, twice a week - the Mr. cycles to work as it's too far to walk, so he gets a workout each day without having to think about it.
    Not using the car has several advantages:
    • It keeps me [somewhat] fit to walk rather than drive places.
    • My Mr. enjoys cycling and it keeps him seriously fit - his route is very hilly!
    • Wear & tear on the car, and fuel cost, is much reduced. 
    • If I need to get somewhere in a hurry I can drive, but most of the time the walk to wherever I'm going takes me as long (short) as it would if I lived in the suburbs and drove to things.
  • No gardening / ground maintenance. It's no accident that we have no allotment... I can't stand gardening. I'm not sorry to have no grounds to maintain! I do love a good outdoor space, however, and there are five large outdoor spaces within easy walking distance. We call the closest one, a small green under a flyover right by the river, 'our backyard' - almost the entire way to it is car free and the dog can go off lead, once there we can sit on benches or in the grass as he explores in safety. I look forward to times spent with our little one there too. If we want to walk a little further, there are proper woods to explore, a stately home with its grounds, ponds, rolling hills... how can a puny piece of yard compare?
  • Neighbours. Now this may again be specific to our situation, but we know and talk to our neighbours. We help each other out. Anywhere I've lived in suburbs people rarely even knew their neighbours, and since everyone has their own large house / space to retreat to, life doesn't really happen in shared spaces the way it does in the city - where much of the living is done outside the small home, like in parks, libraries, or in our case, sitting in the sunshine on the pontoon with the neighbours. 
  • Community. A different kind, not thinking about immediate neighbours but communities of interests. Whatever your interests: in the city, you'll find a group of like-minded people doing interesting stuff. I played Volleyball in New York City, and ran with the Hash House Harriers; in the last few months I've been astonished at the amount of community spirit and support for local mums. There are baby friendly cafes with baby/toddler activities; regular meet-ups for walks; plenty of baby/toddler activities to get involved in and make friends. If you're lucky enough to find an interest-based group in the suburbs that chimes with your own interests, good for you - but mostly, if it does exist, it's probably quite a long drive away.
  • Culture. This from a totally non-arty person. I appreciate having local history and culture right around me, being able to access landmarks and tourist attractions and - in the future, with kiddo in tow - museums, the zoo, aquarium, libraries... all of which run kid-friendly programmes and features. Free and cheap opportunities to learn and entertain kids abound here.
I have never felt confined in the middle of a city. I don't always love all aspects of cities - in larger ones, the pollution, overcrowding, sheer noise and so on can make me crave a getaway into silence and solitude. But I always come back to the city. It's where so much life happens, and I can't wait to introduce our little one to the bustling life of the city!

1 comment:

  1. Posting this for my own benefit - fantastic article about family living in the city (NYC)


Thanks so much for sharing!