Voices: Prince William has just done 40-year-olds a huge disservice

Now that Prince William has turned 40 (with all of the usual embarrassing family photos of terrible haircuts, awkward smiles, teenage gawkiness and chubby baby cheeks to prove it), he’s announced he’ll be moving his family to the shires.

To the shires! Like he’s an elderly hobbit, who’s had a riotous life taking the ring to Mordor, some chaotic adventures with Sam and Bilbo, but is now old, and ready to hang up his cloak in favour of a pair of slippers and a pipe by the fire. What’s next, Wills – fish and chips on Fridays and the slow wait for death?

That’s right, according to reports, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are taking their children out of school and moving from London to Berkshire, where their new home will be a house on the Queen’s Windsor estate.

But speaking as someone of exactly William’s ancient, haggard years (I’m 40 too), I really want us to do away with this rhetoric that once you enter your fourth decade, you are on the downhill slide to retirement – the idea that you should automatically go in search of a quiet life; that you ache to be surrounded by… well, nothing (fields of wheat?); that you can’t have fun anymore.

Not only can most people not afford to move out to the countryside, but I am having more fun in the city in my early 40s than I have in years – even decades. Why? Well, because I’m out of the dependent “baby years” (which, while wonderful and life-affirming in so many ways, were not at all conducive to feeling independent, frivolous or “free”). I have a job I love, a home I’ve worked hard to make “mine”. I have incredible friends and “fill my cup” with people who nourish me (and vice-versa). And I bloody love a night out in town, which for me means London – with its thrilling buzz and hum, its jazz bars and pop-up restaurants.

I can’t help my love affair with city-dwelling, you see: consider myself incredibly fortunate to live in (or near) a big metropolis, which throbs with diversity – and diverse appeal. In London, you can find yourself listening to a Cuban band one minute, a punk band the next. It’s overflowing with food choices from all over the world – want excellent Ethiopian? Head to Shepherd’s Bush. Nepalese? Head to Putney. Korean BBQ? I recently popped in to try to get a table at a place a friend had recommended on Shaftesbury Avenue – it was packed, and it was incredible.

Vegan, vegetarian, incredible fish markets, traditional East End pie and mash… for me, London is a constant chaotic love affair with food, with museums, with galleries, with music and with architecture. It’s completely connected thanks to an incredible public transport system (rail strikes this week not withstanding); I can visit friends without having to drive (or pay the congestion charge) and it has everything I can imagine ever wanting – whereas those “we moved out to the country during lockdown” stories only make me shudder. I relate more to “boomerangers” (though I would never have moved out in the first place). It’s not that I haven’t ever lived outside of London as an adult – I spent 10 years in Wales and two in Tokyo. But something just kept drawing me back.

Maybe I’m biased, what with it being the city of my birth – but I can’t imagine ever wanting to “move out” of London. I want noise and chaos and infectious excitement, I want my kids to join me at Pride marches and for us to swim at open-air lidos and to have picnics at the top of Parliament Hill. I want them to soak up the sound of the city in all directions, with all its varying colour and noise: from south to west, to the canals that run north from Broadway Market to Camden. I want to take them to gigs and festivals and huge parks, to protests and poetry recitals. I want them to meet different people, have different friends, hear stories from their classmates with families from all over the world.

Yet as soon as you turn 40, just as we’ve seen with Prince William, “moving out” isn’t just an idea, but an assumption. I get asked all the time when I’m doing it – now I’m pushing 41 and have two children. And it grates, it really grates.

I am fortunate to be able to live in London, I fully understand that – with its extortionate house prices and rising cost of living. I feel lucky because I was born here, my family are all here. I live close to where I grew up: a pretty part of the East End that has parks and forest but is still on the Tube – somewhere the neighbours get to worry themselves silly about knife crime and “gang violence”, yet host jubilee street parties where Brenda won a prize for the best Victoria sponge and everybody delighted in moaning about the fact that the bins weren’t collected until WEDNESDAY. Wednesday! In this day and age! Those Elizabeth II cupcake wrappers, bottles of Echo Falls and Ukip-friendly flags won’t recycle themselves, Dennis!

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Still, “moving out” is firmly on the agenda, even where I live, which is still London but in touching distance of suburbia. “Moving out” is what people talk about, whenever there’s an organised “year three mums’ night out”: once everyone has finished complaining about how there isn’t enough homework, and why they’re not happy with the school because they wouldn’t let them take little Django (I did mention I live in east London, right?) out of class a day early to get the best deal at Center Parcs, conversation always – always turns to “finding a house in Tunbridge Wells” (or wherever the chosen spot may be). And it’s always “when” – not if.

”Moving out” is nothing new, but it now seems to have become the great middle class ideal; the only life plan worth having, by way of an Essex barn conversion.

But to me, and others like me, “moving out” is slowing down, symptomatic of embracing your own decline. And I’m not ready for it. I’m “moving out”, yes – but only of my house for the evening. I think I’ll head down to Ronnie Scott’s.


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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