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Moving home in a pandemic: I love it (but I also hate it)

By November 21, 2020No Comments

After almost a decade in London, Lynn Enright moved back to Dublin. It wasn’t an easy decision but it was the right one…


It was thirty-seven degrees Celsius the day my husband and I decided to move from London to Dublin. Inside – where we were supposed to sleep and work and cook and eat – it was thirty-five degrees. We had a fan but when it’s that hot, the fan can’t help, not really. When it’s that hot, there’s nothing to do but lie there, perspiring, waiting for the relief of rain and wind.

We all acted as though the threat of coronavirus had passed that week in August. During March and April, our neighbourhood had been subdued, people stayed inside terrified and sad and obedient; it was quiet except for the sound of ambulance sirens. Now, the streets were busy and everyone had a tan. We were being encouraged to “eat out to help out”, with the British government subsidising our breakfasts, lunches and dinners. People made their way to restaurants, often more than once a day, especially if they had air conditioning. We went to one of those restaurants, a newly opened place in Dalston, to compile a list of pros and cons.

There are really good restaurants around here, I pointed out: inexpensive, authentic Turkish and Vietnamese places, as well as some of the best bakeries in the whole of the country, maybe even the world. My husband wrote that down. It looked quite stupid written down.

It’s very difficult to list all the ways that you love and hate a city and compare that to all the ways you love and hate another city.

You can try. You can say that London is exciting but expensive. You can say that you still get a thrill when you sit on the top deck of the bus but that you hate that you have no garden or balcony. You can say that you will feel bereft saying goodbye to the brothers who run the local newsagents but that you feel angry and weird and like a failure when you peer in the window of the estate agents across the road and see that a two-bedroom flat costs £800,000.    

You can say that Dublin is endlessly fun but also really very expensive. You can say that when you see your little niece, the one who lives in Dublin, you feel a joy that is pure and sweet, but that you worry you won’t be able to maintain a career away from London. You can say that the expanse of the Phoenix Park at sunset feels magical but that sometimes everywhere else in the city feels a bit too small.   

You can say it all, you can write it down. In the end, though, you just know. You know your time is up. You know that you are too hot and too cranky and too tired. When Joan Didion wrote what is still the best essay on the middle-class dilemma of swapping one city for another, she put it this way:

“I talk about how difficult it would be for us to ‘afford’ to live in New York right now, about how much ‘space’ we need. All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.”

And so, soon after that evening in the restaurant, my husband and I packed up our belongings, hosted a socially distanced picnic to say goodbye to friends, and moved to Dublin.

By moving, we became part of a trend that was written about in newspapers and magazines. People were deserting the big cities and moving to the smaller ones or the countryside. An economist, quoted in a Saturday newspaper supplement, said that now people would come to a metropolis to find a mate and make business contacts and once they had done that, they would move away. That’s just how it would work, post-Covid, he said. He didn’t mention friendships or favourite pubs or lidos or activism or neighbours or feeling comfortingly tiny in the shadow of a skyscraper. He didn’t mention how sad it can feel to move on, even with a mate. Even with what you might, if you were feeling formal, call business contacts.

My husband was moving to a new city, a new country; he was moving away, moving on. I, on the other hand, was moving back. I worried about that: was I giving up? Was I abandoning possibility?

One friend sent me a message. ‘Whatever you do, you must feel like you have failed.’

She quickly followed up: ‘Must NOT. Shit.’

She apologised for her typo. I thanked her for it. It made me laugh so much. It made me realise how preposterous it is to link your self-worth to a city.

Moving, in the end, was relatively straightforward. Soon enough, we were Dubliners. We loved it. We swam at Seapoint and we walked along the canal in the evenings. Soon enough after that, the entire country went into a second lockdown and we all entered a kind of nowhere. It feels like we have moved somewhere to watch Netflix. We have moved somewhere to make endless pots of soup. We have moved somewhere to do Yoga with Adriene. We have no friends here, or that’s what it feels like, but maybe that’s just what it feels like for everyone right now.

When friends from London message me to ask me how Dublin is, I answer them in the future tense. It will be really nice. I will see my family so much more. I will find a better balance between life and work.

I used to live in London and I will live in Dublin, when there are open pubs and packed cinemas and busy theatre foyers, when we can all be together.

I will love it and I will hate it. There will be pros and there will be cons. It will be home.

Lynn Enright is a journalist and author, writing for Vogue, ES Mag, The Guardian and is a contributing editor at Grazia. Find Lynn Enright on Instagram here and on Twitter here.

Read more: Dublin, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down   |   Keeping it country: Being queer in rural lockdown   |  ‘There were twelve children in my school’

Photo by Tomek Baginski on Unsplash