Eastbourne Life with Graham Walker: Why move to Eastbourne?

Graham Walker
Graham Walker

“Why are we moving to Eastbourne Dad?” is my ten-year-old son’s most frequent question. My usual answer is just to say that your mum and I chose to move to Eastbourne “because it’s the sunniest place in Britain”.

When the sun does shine such as on the gorgeous weekend we enjoyed last week, which included a trip to quirky Drusillas Zoo, I get away with this. Cloudy days bring gloomier thoughts about missing friends and happy memories of our former South London home. As winter arrives and dark late afternoons are upon us I am going to need a better answer.

My wife of eleven years, tells me that we belong to a new category of families called ‘middle laners’. We have certainly opted out of the career fast lane, as putting family life first means we both only work part-time. But we also have demanding jobs in London that we don’t want to give up.

So we are resolutely hugging the career middle lane, perhaps annoying younger colleagues up and coming in their careers who want to go faster but find us in their way. The recession has made us nervous but despite huge job losses in our areas of work our jobs are safe for now. So we are lucky to have choices about how much to work and where to live.

So why move to Eastbourne? One of the main reasons is that it offers more opportunities for us to enjoy a more outdoor life by the sea, the South Downs on our doorstep and Westray, my old clinker sailing boat, in Sovereign Harbour. As for other options, we never seriously thought about living ‘The Good Life’ in a remote rural idyll. Or at least my wife, who spent her teenage years in a small village and refuses to contemplate living somewhere where a car is essential to get to the shops, was never going to consider it.

Having grown up in London and being twelve years older, I have watched episodes of ‘Escape to the Country’ with dreamy thoughts of an early retirement growing vegetables and keeping chickens in a remote rural homestead. However, all such thoughts always leave me once I consider the potential impact on the boys’ lives. Giving them more opportunities to take up outdoor pursuits in a lovely environment must be good. Denying them the everyday access to friends, shopping and entertainment that teenagers enjoy in somewhere at least as big as Eastbourne feels like cruel and unreasonable punishment.

My reply to friends on why I have moved to Eastbourne is that it is part of slowing down my work life while the boys are young and having more opportunities to cycle, fish and sail. I think my wife probably tells friends that we came to Eastbourne “because it is near Brighton and the only way I could stop my husband trying to convince us all to move to the Outer Hebrides!”.

The boys both love their smaller schools where it is clear they are happier and more relaxed than in their comparatively huge London primary school. They tell their friends that “people are kinder and more polite in Eastbourne” and more importantly that ‘we now live much nearer to Games Workshop’.

Eastbourne is therefore a happy compromise for our whole family. I’m ecstatic to be here though I do occasionally worry, as the driving force behind moving, that if my wife or one of the kids become unhappy then I will feel responsible for ‘ruining their lives!’.

What I want to tell my sons is “now we live n Eastbourne and I look at the sea and the big sky above it I feel differently about life and find it easier to put mum, you and our friends before work”. Perhaps I’ll try this on them on the next cloudy day.

Unless Herald readers have any better reasons for living in Eastbourne that I can borrow?