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County pride

PUBLISHED: 10:51 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:07 28 June 2016

Calling our Norfolk natives home. James Matthews tells us about swapping life in London for scenes like this at Brancaster Staithe. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Calling our Norfolk natives home. James Matthews tells us about swapping life in London for scenes like this at Brancaster Staithe. Picture: Matthew Usher.


James Matthews celebrates another Norfolk native returning to the county after life in London

Norfolk, I’m proud to say I’ve recruited one of our own back to the county.

Well, to say “I” would be stretching the truth somewhat, but I’d like to think I’m one of the reasons a lifelong friend and Norfolk native, Zoe is leaving London behind and returning to her roots.

You see, Zoe is a Norfolk gal through and through. But like me and so many of our mutual school friends, she was once a teenager keen to escape the sleepy suburbs of a county she was a little bored of for university and the bright lights of the capital. Zoe and I often used to meet up in central London as fresh-faced graduates, eating our way around a world of cuisines, drinking in a new bar every night and generally staying out a little too late.

It was an exciting time. With a graduate salary and an extortionate rent you’d be lucky if you broke even at the end of the month, but you weren’t in London to save. You and your friends were all there to have a good time and pack in as much as you could in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. London was engrossing, offering the perpetual anticipation of being able to do anything at any time.

But gradually something changed. While the potential London offered was still there, you’d increasingly find yourself sticking the kettle on and putting your feet up instead of joining the throngs in town. London would still be happening outside your window but you’d decide to sit it out. “There’s always tomorrow... or next week”, you’d think to yourself as you collapsed into a comfy sofa at the end of a long day in the office.

And then of course, as you creep up to (and past) 30, Norfolk’s celebrated charms look increasingly attractive – the more relaxed lifestyle, Norwich’s culture and vibrancy, the countryside around you and a spectacular coastline on your doorstep.

Okay, as you’ve probably realised, that was my story rather than Zoe’s. Now a successful teacher, I don’t really mind why Zoe has decided to swap teaching the children of West London for the children of Norfolk, but it’s definitely our gain.

She joins a growing group of friends who have been enticed back to the county after over a decade in London. We often sit around a table in a Norwich pub, just as we did when we were 18 and on the cusp of escaping Norfolk to embark on our individual adventures. But now we bore each other silly with grown-up conversations about interior decorating, pension plans or our latest car trouble.

Actually, I’m not sure Zoe knows what she’s letting herself in for, but I for one am delighted we need to squeeze another chair in around the table.

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