When the journalist, podcaster and author moved from Greenwich to Margate with her husband, it was the opportunity to create not just a new home together but a life as well, she tells Jessica Jonzen
DAISY BUCHANAN AT DREAMLAND, MARGATE. IMAGE: DALE SHAW
“When are you moving out?” It’s a question often asked of (and which preoccupies) many Londoners. It is inevitably followed by “where are you moving to?”
After years of finding her stride in London, Daisy Buchanan was one of the growing number of thirty-somethings ready to leave the capital and find the place where she could put down roots with her husband, Dale Shaw. “We’d known for a long time that London wasn’t for us in the long term and we’d visit different places for a weekend and wonder ‘is this the place? Is this for us?’” she says.
The couple had a lot of friends who had moved to Margate in Kent and, having grown up on the Dorset coast, Daisy found herself drawn to the idea of living in a seaside town. “Margate had a lot of ‘mentionitis’ around it – there’s this very British legacy in Margate where everybody goes there for fun,” she says. “There’s something quite nihilistic about the seaside – lots of people are, if not escaping things then postponing them, and I’ve always found that quite charming. In London, there’s a real mentality of being defined by your success and you come to Margate and there’s a wonderful realisation that no one cares.”
There’s something quite nihilistic about the seaside – lots of people are, if not escaping things then postponing them.”
Dale found a flat to rent in the converted Royal Sea Bathing Hospital which had extraordinary sea views from every room. The couple were sold and left their flat in Greenwich in the Spring of 2017 for a new life together.
The move to Margate wasn’t initially as easy as Daisy thought it would be, however. At one point, it threatened to trigger Daisy’s anxiety disorder, something she has written about in her journalism and books. “I had a real mini crisis when I moved,” she says. “My first book How to be a Grown Up had just been published and I think when you’ve been working on something for a long time the period afterwards is always a bit anti-climactic and weird,” she says. Her much-loved grandmother had recently died and her niece and nephew, Penny and Arthur, had just been born. “I came to Margate when lots of changes were happening in my life that were making me question my identity, and part of my identity was London.”
LEFT: PICTURES FROM DAISY AND DALE’S WEDDING ON THEIR BEDSIDE TABLE SIT BESIDE A VINTAGE BBC MICROPHONE. RIGHT: ‘OUR MARRIAGE IS A UNION OF TWO BOOK LOVERS,” SAYS DAISY. IMAGES: DAISY BUCHANAN
London was, Daisy says, a city she had struggled to make her own and so to leave it was somewhat discombulating. “I had a good year or two of living in London and feeling a bit broken and scared and wondering if I would ever be one of the people rushing around who looks like they belong,” she says. “It’s a nagging anxiety that never goes away and there’s the feeling that if you stop for a second everybody will pounce upon you,” she says. After years living with friends and then moving in with Dale, and with a successful career as an award-winning writer, Daisy had become one of those people who ‘belonged’. And then she decided to leave.
Feeling the residual pressure from London to be out all the time and making new friends, Daisy was surprised by the intensity of the social scene in their new town. “I think we thought moving to Margate was going to be a little like retiring but that first summer here was one of the booziest times of my life, it was worse than university!” Daisy laughs. “I think that with the pressure to make new friends and feeling like you had to fit in by drinking a lot, there’s no wonder that I felt a bit mad.”
I think we thought moving to Margate was going to be a little like retiring but that first summer here was one of the booziest times of my life, it was worse than university.”
After the initial frenzy of socialising, Daisy slowed down and realised what was really going to make her happy and settled in her new home. “I love feeling a bit closer to nature and the things that make me feel really happy are walks, and hearing the sea outside my bedroom window. I’ll never get tired of that – it’s a joy and a privilege.”
After the anonymity of London, Daisy also loves knowing people in the shops. “There’s so much going on and everyone is welcoming. It’s like that scene in Beauty and the Beast where Belle knows everyone,” Daisy laughs. She is mindful of the trap of being perceived as a ‘DFL’ (dick from London) she says, and endeavours to contribute to the community. “I know that Thanet is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, I’m really aware that it’s important that new people bring positive things to a town. It’s difficult to do that without making it somewhere that’s difficult for people who’ve been here for ages but I think it’s more positive than negative,” she says.
DAISY HAS A FONDNESS FOR LOBSTER – BOTH TO LOOK AT AND TO EAT – AND COLLECTS THEM. “DALE HUMOURS ME AND WE EVEN HAVE A ‘NATIONAL LOBSTER DAY’ IN OUR HOUSE,” SAYS DAISY. IMAGES: DAISY BUCHANAN
At home, the couple share the cooking and love to entertain. As the eldest of six girls, Daisy grew up used to cooking for large gatherings and as an adult, nothing pleases her more than a full house of their friends and an abundant dining table. “I think that women of my mother’s generation of the second wave of feminism felt that cooking was drudgery and they were understandably furious about it and less interested,” says Daisy. “These women birthed a generation of women who fell in love with Nigella – Nigella being a real force who made cooking seem bohemian and sexy and fun and adult and it didn’t seem like a weary chore or obligation. It was something that seemed very adult and aspirational. Cooking now is about absolute abundance and second helpings and greediness – for friendship and fun, as well as the food.”
The bare white walls of their flat have now been covered in their collected posters and prints, while shelves bow under the weight of the couple’s books: “Our marriage is the union of two book lovers – I think if you took the books out of our flat it would fall down,” says Daisy, who reviews books for The Independent and also hosts the You’re Booked podcast (the clue’s in the name). “We’ve just chucked out about 200 books but the shelves are still full.”
While Daisy and Dale, who met on Twitter and married in 2015, had lived together in London, their flat in Margate is the first home they’ve really created together. “Everything in here, especially with the books and the pictures and silly little things we’ve collected, they take on a special meaning,” says Daisy. “This is the first time in my life when I’ve been able to think about what I like – that rug, that blanket – and we’ve got to aesthetically accommodate each other and become quite open to it. Even having a calendar on the wall so we know what each other’s doing is special, having gone out with lots of people who couldn’t possibly tell me what they were doing in a week because they might change their mind.”
It’s funny how ‘love nest’ is such a tabloid expression but I feel like that’s what this is.”
Having lived in Margate now for two years, Daisy feels rooted in her new home and much of that is thanks to the space she and Dale have created together. “We moved here with the idea of saving because we couldn’t do that in London but I honestly have been happier in this flat than anywhere I’ve ever lived, I just love it” says Daisy.
“It’s funny how ‘love nest’ is such a tabloid expression but I feel like that’s what this is,” she says. “I have moments where I think ‘I wish there were fewer jiffy bags in the love nest, or that we could do something about the overflowing laundry basket in the love nest,’ but I feel very safe and happy here. “I think about my twenties and the hedonism and fun and how much of that was connected with never really liking where I was living and never really feeling at home,” Daisy says. “I always felt that Dorset where I grew up was ‘home’ – full of objects and memories and permanence, and now I feel I have that here. Everywhere you look our lives touch and I think that’s what love is.”
Daisy Buchanan’s latest book The Sisterhood: A Love Letter to the Women Who Have Shaped Me is out now (Headline, RRP £14.99)
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