Dearest Forest Hill,
Well, it’s been a whirlwind romance, hasn’t it? I mean, I met you properly exactly one year ago and even though we’d flirted a few weekends in the past, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how perfectly meant for each other we were set to become.
When you love someone, you have to let them go. Isn’t that how the saying goes? As painful as it is going to be, the time is soon approaching for us to part. As I pack up my little flat and say goodbye to SE23, the most glorious of postcodes, try to keep in mind the most important thing. We had but a short while together, but gosh, wasn’t it wonderful?
I want you to know, if I was loaded, I would never dream of leaving you. One day, when I am so rich it hurts, I shan’t be swanking it up in West London or even (shudder) North London, I’ll be right back here. Because a love like ours lasts a lifetime and absence only makes the heart grow fonder.
I was in a bit of a state when you first met me, let’s be honest. But you took me in your arms and gave me wine and banana bread and coffee and so much farmer’s market kale for such a reasonable price, you put me back together and for that I am eternally grateful.
It all started with the perfect flat. Not too big, not too small. An arty farty studio in the middle of a woodland, just big enough for one.
It didn’t take long to fall in love with the local hotspots. Namely, the Horniman Museum with it’s Saturday farmer’s market. I don’t think one weekend passed that I did not hang out here, buying funky wine and curly kale by the bucketload with a variety of plus ones.
Since this is the forest, it was only fitting that I invite in some of the local wildlife. Forest Hill provided (note – not actually wildlife, properly domesticated and everything) by gifting me my very own spirit animals.
We made it so far as Christmas, our six and a bit month anniversary. Christmas shopping was a sinch, I mean with Bunka and Doopo Doopo what else could you need? I hosted the very best of Christmas dinners several times over, filled the flat with fairy lights and took walks in the park on crisp sunny afternoons.
But the thing you do better than anyone else, is the coffee shops. I’ve become quite the connoisseur, I’ll admit. For breakfast, St David Coffee is the winner. Remember that time you gave me banana bread with Nutella AND honey? I mean, that was just indecent. For whiling away an afternoon and transitioning to evening, my heart belongs to 161 Kirkdale in Sydenham. Not technically Forest Hill, but still in walking distance. Any place that lets me set up in a corner with a laptop and a pile of post it notes, keeping the coffee coming until it turns to wine, is my kind of place. I finished my first proper book in 161 Kirkdale and they gave me bubbles to celebrate. Bet YOUR coffee shop never did that.
And let’s not forget The Montage. My usual bank holiday spot and a treasure trove of inspiration, the writing is literally on the wall and the coffee is spectacular.
Forest Hill is a crazy special kind of place. It has a library that people still use. It has a swimming pool. It has an ice cream parlour. It has a DVD RENTAL STORE. It has artists and comedians and writers and musicians. It is a magical forest hidden away in South London and I am lucky as hell that I got to spend a year here.
And while I am soon to move from the Forest, to the Garden (of England) because frankly I’m one person with one salary and Zone 3 is just too damn expensive to buy anything bigger than a garage, I’ll be back to visit. Because no one is going to come to Zone 5 let’s face it, so we might as well meet in the middle.
Be seeing you, Forest Hill. And thanks again for the wine.