Everyday Slow Living
20th March 2020
Welcome to the first article in our Everyday Slow Living feature, a series of beautifully inspirational people talking about what slow living looks like for them. Each person takes us into their lives to understand how they are living a slow, intentional or seasonal life. I find it so interesting to read these insights, each person tells a completely different story, with their own set of values, showing us all that each version of simple living is just as perfect as the next.
Kathryn is starting our series, we met through Instagram, like so many of my other connections here in Devon, she's an incredible copywriter, lovely person and we share a common interest of beautiful rustic interiors and dog walks on the beach.
7.00am: First alarm goes off. Kick boyfriend gently to inform him that he’s going in the shower first.
7.05am: Second, less gentle kick. Fall back into deepest sleep imaginable while he gets up and showers.
7.45am: Jackknife out of bed realising that you’ve slept through both back-up alarms and now have exactly 8 minutes to get dressed, showered and out of the house. Moan at boyfriend for “letting you sleep in”. This is clearly his fault.
8.10am: Run for bus. Miss bus.
8.12am: Run up Battersea Park Road in general direction of Vauxhall tube station. Hope that another bus comes along to rescue you.
8.30am: It doesn’t.
9.10am: Roll through doors of whatever office you’re working in that week, shame-faced that you’re late (again) and trying to compose your sweating features into those of a non-late person. Eat the hastily purchased pain au chocolat from Pret at your desk while you scan your to-do list and hope there weren’t any 9am meetings that were expecting your attendance.
9.10am - 6pm: A working day that consists of writing, small talk, meetings that could have been emails and no lunch break to speak of. If you do get out for lunch, it’s a little tray of moist sushi or a sandwich (again, probably from Pret because there’s one every ten feet or so).
7.00pm: Meet boyfriend or friends for film/drinks/dinner/drinks/did I mention drinks?
11.00pm: Return home. One nightcap can’t hurt, it is Tuesday after all. Practically the weekend.
1.00am: The pub next door is having a Drag Karaoke night. Lie in bed wide awake until you pass out at around 5.55am.
Repeat until your forties.
That’s how my days looked when I lived in London and worked in other people’s offices. I was freelance, but there wasn’t much that was “free” about it. I had much better geographical access to my friends, but we were all so busy that planning to see one another required two Doodle polls and six weeks’ notice.
So much of my time was spent on tubes and buses and in crowds of tired, angry people. I used to love it when I had a job in Vauxhall or Clapham (I lived in Battersea) because I could - blessed day! - walk to work. It was a real treat. And the fact that that’s what constituted a “treat” should tell you everything you need to know about how much I miss living in London.
I used to believe that living slow meant living boring. If I wasn’t grasping every opportunity life threw at me with both hands then I wasn’t really living. Who needs to sleep? Sleep when you’re dead, ammiright?! Well, actually, no. I love sleep. Glorious, nourishing sleep. Especially that special sparkly kind of sleep that can only be achieved by an early, booze-less night (lie-in sleep is never quite as good) and lots of fresh air.
When I lived in a city, I never really gave much thought to my quality of life or my “wellness” as such. For one thing, it wasn’t quite as trendy three years ago. I spent (and admittedly, continue to spend) countless minutes thinking about my weight (body anxiety is always in fashion) and the condition of my hair but I gave very little thought to my mental well-being or overall health. I assumed that if I was basically functioning and not imbibing my body weight in wine every night of the week then I was probably...fine. Wasn’t I?
Then an unusual situation slowly transpired. My happy-go-lucky boyfriend started to hate his job, which was odd because he loved his job. He was good at his job. It made him plenty of money and lots of people wanted to employ him. He bombed around the City doing fancy City things and seemed content. His career satisfaction was a given, something that never really hoved into view on my worry scape. Then he acquired a very difficult, unprofessional boss who made life a lot less fun. So much so, in fact, that my boyfriend wanted to leave his job, which he felt was the perfect opportunity to shake up the entire Etch-a-Sketch and just get outta London altogether. This was something of a surprise to me.
I thought moving to Devon was something we were going to do later. When we were old. When we were “done” with London. “Tired of London, tired of life…” and all that jazz. I had not planned on getting off the rollercoaster while I was still young, reasonably sexy and still had all my teeth. “But,” pitched my boyfriend. “Why wait until we’re too old to enjoy the life down there?” Within a few weeks, he had me convinced. Reader, we left. And we’ve only occasionally looked back.
Yesterday, I got up at 8.45am. I took the dog for a 45-minute walk, then I got home, took a shower (deep conditioned my hair and everything) and had a proper, filling breakfast. I wasn’t at my desk until around 10.15am and you know what? It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t at my desk by 9am. It didn’t matter yesterday and it didn’t matter today and it won’t matter tomorrow. Unless I have calls or video meetings, I can spend whatever hours I choose at my desk. How much I work is up to me, dictated only by the outgoings and expenses that I’ve committed to by choice. There are no colleagues to support, no manager to report to and no board of God-like directors to make sacrifices to. My working day is my own and the limits to my earning are set by me and only me.
We got a dog (it’s the law in Devon) which means I’m outside every day. In fact, there aren’t many days that I’m not on the beach and, in the summer, we even swim in the sea at lunchtime. I walk a lot. It’s our primary activity: we trek the South West Coastal path, roam across Dartmoor and even did a 20-miler from Stoke Fleming to Salcombe last year. We’re also learning to paddle board like the raging clichés that we are. If that makes us sound middle aged, well, then perhaps we are creeping just a little bit closer to middle age. And I have to admit, I’m here for it. The views on those walks are amazing and that wholesome, fresh feeling of having spent time in the great outdoors on a regular basis is just...intoxicating. Sorry but it’s true. There hasn’t been any miracle weight-loss or sudden ability to run a marathon (I don’t do running) but I am ever so slightly fitter. FitBit says so, anyway.
Everything is, indeed, slower. The Internet, the property market, the streets. I definitely did that Londoner thing of walking very fast behind ambling tourists in Dartmouth for a while until I realised I was the only one in a rush. With this slowing down has come a discernible drop in anxiety levels. A certain amount of stress follows you wherever you go in London, something I never really realised I was carrying around with me, but something I certainly don’t miss.
I do miss London. Of course, I do. I miss the excitement, the theatres, my friends, the community I’d built for myself and the thrill of living right at the centre of “it all”. The variety and possibility of a night out, the endless things to see and try. That thrill you get when your train trundles through Blackfriars and you get an eyeful of Tower Bridge? That never went away for me. Indeed, I still love that sight. But I can't bring myself to miss the drudgery. That unique brand of tiredness that can only come from following up a manic day in the office with a tube strike. That terrible crush at Oxford Circus when they shut one of the entrances. That sense of never feeling quite as “well” as you’d like.
I feel well every day in Devon. I get a cold every now and then (though much less frequently, it’s gotta be said) but, generally, my body feels happier and my mind feels clearer and more able to focus on the things that matter to me. I don’t have a commute to worry about, so I use that time for extracurricular creativity. I finally wrote my bloody novel, something I was just not finding time for while living in the capital. Even if it never sees the light of day, it’s something I wanted to do for myself for years. I re-discovered that I actually like cooking. I planted actual bulbs in my garden. I’ve joined an AmDram theatre company (God help me). When friends visit at the weekends (something they have been unfailingly brilliant at, despite the 5-hour drive and being quietly convinced that this was all some sort of premature midlife crisis), the time we spend together is high-quality and not spent remarking on how tired we all are. I doodle more - something I used to love doing. I make drawings and write rude little poems for my nieces and nephews which I post to them. Such a silly, stupid activity but one that brings me joy and amuses the kids. I’ve got time to do it because I made time to do it. It’s not for profit or creative kudos, it’s just for fun and absolutely nothing else.
When I left London after ten years of living fast, I was worried that it was the premature end of something. I worried that we were taking early retirement, giving up on life, welcoming boredom with open arms. What I have found, instead, is a life of peacefulness and creativity. It’s not “living the dream” as so many friends have put it, because there’s no such thing but there has been something dreamy about the slowness I enjoy down here. It is very easy to lament the things that came to an end when we left the city, but it’s far more exciting to think about what might be beginning in this new life by the sea. Even if everything does close at 4pm on a Sunday.
Emma & Mike, husband & wife, homebodys, although not ones to shy away from adventure, we created Vincent Trading with a passion for traditional methods, beauty in imperfection and our planet.
We live by the sea in South Devon and find ourselves listening to the waves after long days creating, we love nothing more than a cosy night by a fire with our little Cyprus rescue dog Lola.