We Need to Talk About Devon
On the 3rd April 2017 and after 44 years of living in Halifax I’m moving to Okehampton in Devon.
This has been a devastating blow for my existing plan of living here until old age, dying penniless in a council flat during a heat wave and being cut off my mattress a week later by bored council workers in hazmat suits. However I haven’t given up on that dream entirely and the moment I feel a bit peaky I’m ordering a load of milk, a council flat and heading back up North like a dying salmon.
As decisions go, you would think that moving to a beautiful part of the country and marrying the man you love would be something of a no brainer. However when you’ve never really lived anywhere else, that decision can be incredibly tough.
Those of you who went to university may have experienced this already. However to do it in your mid forties is a wrench. This town is part of me. I know every corner of it. I know how it smells in spring, summer autumn and winter. It’s in my blood and I love it.
This is a failing my grandfather shared. Apart from his wartime service with the RAF he was born, lived and died in Halifax and was unhappy for the greater part of his adult life. Perhaps there’s a lesson there?
Back in the 1990s I had an interview at a temp agency in Bradford. After the usual typing and spreadsheet tests, I was ushered into a room for a chat with a ‘recruitment professional’. She read my application form with surprise
“Is this right? Are you from Halifax?”
“Yes,” I said, nervously
“We don’t often get people from Halifax. They never want work anywhere else.”
It’s easy to see why. Halifax had the headquarters of the Halifax Building Society, the Nestle factory which makes Quality Street, After Eights and Easter eggs and the McVitie’s factory churning out Jamaica Ginger Cake. Then there were a multitude of large insurance companies, small businesses and so many pubs, clubs and restaurants that coach parties would come to the town for a night out. Jobs were everywhere. So working out of town was simply unnecessary.
So here I am packing up my worldly goods, hugging my nearest and dearest and heading down the motorway to the land of Ambrosia.
On Saturday an era ended, when for the final time in my little cottage, we did a five hour live podcast stream for Comic Relief. When it was over I handed the recording equipment to Andrew and Lisa to store in their Harry Potter cupboard in Manchester and waved them and Dill the podcast hound goodbye and a few hours later a slightly drunk Tom.
On Sunday morning the living room that had been crowded with microphones and good company felt incredibly empty and I found myself pre-emptively missing my friends and began to sob, big wet grief sobs, like when you’re a kid and a something makes your world fall apart. Then I had a Pot Noodle.
‘Why on earth are you putting yourself through this?’ I can hear you punching at your screen.
Love, dear reader. Stupid, soppy, romantic, idiotic love.
People do extraordinary things when they’re in love. There’s often no logic to it and in our case we’re breaking all the rules. Our wedding is on a tiny budget and will be organised in about six weeks and we’ve not known each very long at all. However the one thing that living 300 miles apart has taught us is how to talk to each other. We’ve learned how to communicate. We’re complicated, silly, giggly and grumpy people. He is an optimist who wants to save the planet and I’m a nihilist who thinks it is beyond saving. However, fundamentally we are similar and I want to spend the rest of my life with him, or until he gets bored and dumps me for a supermodel.
As some of you may know, the announcement of an impending marrage leads to a sudden flood of unsolicited advice. This is just some I’ve received:
“You’re going to irritate each other. You need to push through that until you stop noticing the things that irritate you.”
“Walk away from arguments. If you stay and shout it out you can really hurt each other. Go away and calm down.”
“Don’t use something that your other half did wrong in the past to justify something you’re doing now.”
“Remember why you fell in love. Try to remind yourself every day. Tell each other that you love each other.”
“Compromise Martin. You’re going to have trouble with that because you’ve been alone for so long. Learn how to do it.”
“Take some time apart. Make sure you spend time with your friends separately.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. If one of you forgets to buy the eggs, it’s not the end of the world.”
Then there was the sex advice.
“Make time for sex. It’s so important to maintain that physical closeness.”
“Be honest in the bedroom. If they can do better, tell ‘em. If they smell, tell ‘em. I send my husband to the shower regularly.”
“You’ll find that you may fancy each other less as time goes by. Go to a hotel when that happens.” (Not sure what that will do. Perhaps it’s the tiny soaps?)
Then the divorcees chipped in.
“Never let another person into the marriage, they will kill it.”
“You’re partners in a business. Sometimes you need to treat it that way. If they’re causing that business to fail, fire them and go it alone.”
“If they cheat on you once, they’ll cheat on you again. Divorce them. No second chances.”
“Just get a dog.”
Right, I have Marvel Blu-Rays to pack. Last one to the Belstone tea room is a woofter.