Originally a Londoner, I now live in the most northern town in England, a mile from the Scottish border. In one direction is the sweeping coastline of the North sea, where on a clear day from the old bridge you may see the Holy Island of Lindisfarne aglow in a haze of sea air; landing place of the saints who Christianised England. The other direction takes you into the undulating landscape of England's largest and least populated county, Northumberland, punctuated throughout with the reminders of many a battle gone by; the ruined castles and abbeys, the intemperate land at whose border the Romans under Hadrian decided to build a wall, rather than venture further. Northumberland's landscape is triumphant and relentless, sublime and unconquerable; inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets and one of the last bastions of affordable mansions in the Kingdom.
For me coming from a city of 10 million to this town of 15,000 could not have been more of a contrast. London's skyline alone is so dense as to be almost unfathomable compared to here, where you may see hills twenty five miles away, striped with golden beams of sunlight of an evening, like a Renaissance painting.
I still miss London, however, for as Dr Johnson said, 'A man who is tired of London is tired of life'. So speaks the city temperament.Walking in the city means starting out from wherever you are, on any day, at any time and wandering, quite without the need for a plan, past such an assortment of interesting objects and people and places that you are spoiled for ever having to think of anything to do. I'm from central London, so as a student my various jobs would take me from Waterloo, across the Thames, through Charing Cross, past Trafalgar Square and into the West End to the theatre I worked. Some days I might take the route by the river instead, passing the National Theatre and crossing at Westminster past Parliament before cutting through St. James park, up the steps past the Duke of Wellington's statue, left at Piccadilly Circus, through Leicester Square and then on to work. After work it would invariably be to Soho amidst a macabre troup of ageing actors, directors and journalists.
But life changes and we grow up. Now, with a family of my own, wandering aimlessly in the company of strangers is no longer a priority. The small schools, the uncluttered streets, the safety of personal property become the things to appreciate. As a singer/musician I also appreciate the lively folk music tradition here. As a writer I appreciate the space to stop and think. My interests go from books to music, theatre and film, to architecture to art and history, religion, sociology and anthropology. I'm delighted by conversation and searching for meanings in everything.