From South to North – The Great Divide
Every self-help manual counsels against it. Every ounce of commonsense shrieks at the thought of it. Who in their right mind would decide to move their lives from South to North because of a house casually spotted on holiday?
But that’s just what The Husband and I, along with the then Nine-Year-Old, did. Fresh from the waves and winds of Tiree – the outermost of the inner Hebrides – we broke our journey back to London in the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The sun twinkled on the estuary, fishermen plied the ancient craft of netting salmon in the Tweed, Berwick nestled snugly and prettily behind its ancient Elizabethan fortified walls, and our hearts yearned for a bit more holiday and a bit less normality.
So it seemed normal to spot a house for sale and fall in love with the idea of moving into it. It seemed natural to spend the car journey from Berwick – the last town in England before Scotland – to London discussing how we’d arrange our finances to purchase this house we’d seen just once. It was a bit scarier when two months later the house was ours.
How the heck were we going to organise our lives to move from London to Berwick? Besides, we LOVE London. Its frenzy of people and cars, its cultural diversity and opportunities to soak up culture, the sheer anonymity of it. The fact that all our older children are there – and the rest of our families are easily accessible from it. London is the place we love. Well, I do. It seems The Husband – a Londoner born and bred and no spring chicken – has begun to yearn for a rural idyll. He wants to work less and enjoy life more. What loving wife would argue with that?
So, a year after buying the house, we took the plunge. The Husband trekked up and down the A1 in a Transit. And, with the help of The Silvery Haired Old Gentlemen (his oldest friends in more ways than one), he shifted the essentials of our London life to Berwick. We left our London house in the safe hands of the 23-year-old London Daughter and two of her friends – with plans to sell in a year’s time. What could possibly go wrong?
How hard could it be to translate our leafy North London lives into a Berwickian version? It’s a slightly mad work in progress. And the comparisons between London and Berwick life are often rather surprising.
Since our move, I’ve documented some of my thoughts, experiences and ideas in a regular monthly column in our local newspaper – The Berwick Advertiser. On this site you can read those articles and more random blog updates about the joys and struggles of adapting to a new life. Do offer feedback and comments. Whether you’ve made a huge life change or stayed where you are all your life; and whether you live in Berwick, London or some far flung part of the globe – I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
Funny old World, I too am wondering how I’m coming to be treading the same boards in the ESP Pantomime first week in February.
Now I can combine cyber space and real space, cafe curio and Marygate, with your blog.
That’s small-town living for you! Look forward to raising a glass with you in the bar at the Maltings after one of our performances! Meanwhile…keep it real dahling!
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
We moved from London to the depths of Aberdeenshire over 20 years ago. Since then we’ve moved around the shire, and last year we moved south to East Lothian. Although I was brought up in the London suburbs, I would never, ever go back now – the noise, the cost, the crowds are all too much. I love living in the countryside (although here we do have very easy access to Edinburgh, which pleases my teens), and I love the small towns round about, where it’s possible to get involved in so many things. I like recognising people in the street, and being recognised by them. I like going to shops where someone will still bring your shopping out to your car, and to little local libraries where the librarian is happy – & has the time – to have a chat. In the summer, village flower shows are a delight. And I absolutely love all the wonderful tea rooms, cafes and little galleries around here.
The downside, when we first moved, were that we were living 35 miles from Aberdeen, with a new baby and a new puppy (madness), and my husband was working 15 hour days. However, as a result I had to get out there and make friends – the Deeside NCT just about saved my life, and I still have some wonderful friends from those days. Now that my youngest (of 3) is 14, I have much more time, and am involved in all sorts of things in the area – the local art & craft centre, the new library, even the much-derided ‘rurals’ (Scottish Women’s Rural Institute). I go to authors’ readings, exhibition openings, – anything that I like the look of – and there is so much to choose from. I’ve done an OU creative writing course and have met some great people through that, and also through Twitter. The internet has really transformed country life – when my son was a baby, all we had was the landline telephone, the world has changed radically.
I hope you enjoy Berwick, it is a beautiful place. I love the Borders and would like to move down there once my daughter has finished school.
What do you miss about London? I can’t think of a single thing.
How lovely to have you stop by and leave a comment. It is very different living oop North – and, unlike you, I do miss London. However, two years in it’s mainly people rather than places. The Borders is so beautiful – and with Berwick we get the best of both worlds – inner city and rural living!! East Lothian is lovely too – enjoy! Take care, Jackie
Very interesting blog. If you ever want to come and look around St Davids’ Masonic Hall with our 400 years of Berwick history inside let me know.
Thanks for taking a look at the blog. Funnily enough I tried to come and look around the Hall on the last Heritage Open Day but missed out it wasn’t open when I stopped by. I would absolutely love to look round sometime when it is convenient. Thank you.
Thanks again for taking time to look over the blog
Fascinating to hear the story of your big move which has many similarities to ours! Just 2 months ago we moved from our busy lives in the South of England(near Southampton), to Berwick-upon-Tweed and have just taken over a guesthouse here. Unlike you, we have our young family in tow but have left lots of good friends down there. That’s been the hardest bit so far for us.
We are, however, loving this beautiful town and area and feel like our coastal adventures are just beginning.
I’ll look out for your column in the advertiser!
Hi Ruth – welcome to Berwick! It’s an amazing place to live and bring up a family. Good luck with the move and the business. I stopped writing the column in the Advertiser a while back but will look forward to meeting you in person around and about our vibrant little jewel of a town!
Thank you! I see now how long ago your article was written 🤦♀️ but yes, no doubt our paths will cross in Berwick – there definitely seems to be a strong sense of community which is lovely. All the best, Ruth
I am now dreaming about moving to idyllic Berwick! It looks and sounds so lovely!
It would be wonderful to see you here, Heather! Here’s to that.