As a few readers will already know, I’m moving house. Hopefully at the end of August. It’s been a slow and time-consuming process that has basically taken up the entire summer, and will likely last until the uni term starts in September. Which I resent, in terms of taking away time and energy which would otherwise be used to do creative work. Oh well.

The move-in date is not yet quite fixed, but should be just after the August bank holiday. I took a quite reasonable price for the house, about 6x what I paid for it six years ago, and I decided to stay in Stoke-on-Trent. I’m moving to a new-build “off plan” rabbit hutch apartment that’s about two miles nearer to the train station than where I currently live. In fact, near enough that I won’t even need to cycle to the station. The views should be very impressively 180-degree wooded (I plan to webcam them once I’m in), the apartment faces south-west, it’s right on the canalside bicycle-path, and the location is very convenient for a cyclist and rail commuter. Photos will be on D’log by the end of August, hopefully.

Stoke might seem an odd place to want to live (for the benefit of overseas readers; it has a reputation for being an industrial city, full of disused steelworks/mines/potteries/slag-heaps and a population to match). But it’s cheap and has excellent rail connections, and is now seriously benefiting from thirty years of industrial clean-up and reverting-to-nature. And if you only travel around on the 100-mile+ network of off-road bicycle paths rather than on the roads, then 85 percent of the time it really does feel like you’re living in a large and mature garden-park.

It’s true that the city officially has the worst local council in England, although they can’t be faulted on their commitment to greening the city. And it’s also true that too many pockets of the city still have a chronic ‘lumpenproletariat’ problem, a sub-class still much like that of the Victorian Manchester so famously described by Engels…

“… vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, brothel keepers, literati, tinkers, beggars, the dangerous class, the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers…”

…but the underclass is at least shrinking in size, is relatively less violent than that of Birmingham or Manchester, and usually tends to stick to their own rat-runs. The city is more generally filled with ordinary decent working-class people who are even more friendly than Brummies (which is saying something).

The surveys that pop up from time to time in the press, saying that the city is “the worst at this or that” are usually a misleading product of the way statistics are measured only within council boundaries. In practice, “the city of Stoke-on-Trent” should include the middle-class Newcastle-under-Lyme that it runs into, and from which it was artificially split in 1910. Measure Newcastle-u-L and Stoke together as a single city (which they are, ‘on-the-ground’) and a very different set of statistics and survey results would appear.