I can’t remember exactly when I decided to move away from London, but I’d wanted to for years and Robin had been looking for work elsewhere for a while. We were also looking at houses in greater London for our expanding family, but it wasn’t easy to find something on budget. Sometime between losing Robin and the spring I decided to move while I was on maternity leave. It was perhaps a foolhardy thing to attempt to move away from my family to a new place where I had no friends or support. But I was so determined to get away from London, give Sophie and I a new start and be by the sea – a long-term dream.
People often ask why Bournemouth – and it was mostly chance I have to say. I did know people in Brighton, but it seemed quite pricey. I knew it was the south coast I was after being and so worked my way along the coast until I hit Bournemouth – it seemed like a good compromise between seaside, countryside but a large enough town to have stuff going on. So I started the usual trawling of websites and trying to work out the exact nature of places from photos and maps online. I found a few hopeful places, sensible homes to bring up a child. But I needed to go there. In the March we were invited to a friend and colleague’s wedding in Devon the same weekend as Mum and Dad were invited to a wedding in Eastbourne. So Dad booked a holiday flat in Westbourne, Bournemouth for a week so we could meet up after and have a look around. I got details of some of the estate agents ready, but knew nothing about the place really – only a bit of research from the internet.
The drive to Devon and the wedding went well enough. I felt a bit out of it as I’d not been with any large groups since having Sophie. It was nice to see people though, some familiar faces. Though it did seem like a thousand years since that life when I was working and Robin was alive. I was beginning to feel more confidence in myself and how capable I was – staying away with my baby (who was 5 months now) having driven myself there – no one else to rely on or pass the buck to. I only got my little car in the February, which was in part funded by very generous donations from Robin’s old school friends. I had never driven this far before. On the whole I enjoyed it – and it was even quite a pleasant drive back along the coast to Dorchester, where I met Mum and Dad, and then on to Bournemouth.
I can’t remember all of the things we did the rest of that week, but we looked in a few estate agents around Parkstone before I decided to try the other side of Bournemouth where you can get closer to the sea. Southbourne has quite a few estate agents in the high street and I went in all of them. I liked the high street. It had plenty going on, but wasn’t too busy and there were plenty ladies with buggies around – it seemed like a nice family area. I managed to find two houses I wanted to actually see. The first was quite far from the high street, and while it was a lovely house with great built in cupboards and a roll top bath, it had a mechanics garage out the back, no real view and seemed quite far away from the shops. The second was on a little one-way road just off Southbourne Road, near the station at Pokesdown and with shops around the corner and the high street a short walk. It was all plainly but recently decorated and had views from the back which were open because of the railway line, meaning the next row of houses were further away than they would normally be. That and with it being on the brow of a hill meant it seemed high up and light.
I went back to London full of Bournemouth thoughts. I mulled everything over and thought the second house was much more suitable. I didn’t want to wait and search further because of the time constraints. We organized a second viewing and Mum and Dad came with me again for a daytrip. We did all the things you are supposed to do – asked different questions and looked with a more critical eye. I also walked down to the sea with Sophie to see how long it took while my folks drove around a bit seeing what there was to see. We met up at the cliff top at a café there. Being by the sea drove it home for me. It’s where I had wanted to be for so long. The air was cleaner and the views great. It was a lovely place to bring up a child and make our fresh start. Though we were not made welcome in the café, were refused hot water (to make Sophie’s food) and heard barbed comments about too many buggies being a health and safety risk, on the whole I was feeling very much like this was a place I could live.
I put in my offer and it was accepted. The survey was fine. It mentioned the windows needed painting soon and the sellers were nice enough to give me another £1000 off the price to cover that. So then the clock was ticking. I really had to move to Bournemouth before I was due back at work. My neighbour who was renting was buying my flat, so that was easy and no extra fees to pay. I had to use my current mortgage suppliers as I was on maternity leave no one else would give me a new mortgage. But that was fine. They were very helpful and I organized solicitors with them too. It was all pretty smooth, though I have no idea why things take the time they do. My completion date was in August – 3 weeks before I was due back at work.
By far the most difficult bit about moving was packing up my flat while coping with a baby. I made a good start with the books, but found other things so awkward as the boxes began to get in the way – there was no where to put anything. Baby equipment takes up so much room, and by this stage I did really need the playpen, high chair, playmat etc etc.
I would never have managed it all without my folks, and on the big day my good friends Miles, Wayne and Nick who all came to my rescue. We paid for a van that Wayne was happy to drive and load – he was a total wizard at fitting things in there. Dad hired a small van too and I had my car. It was very stressful. I felt so bad that my friends were having to pack up the last things for me as well. It got to a time where I had to leave to get to the estate agents in time to get the keys! Nick came with Sophie and I in my car – it was good to have the company, and someone to answer my phone when the estate agents called wondering if I was going to get there soon as they wanted to go home. We made it, just in time.
It felt very strange to walk into my new home, all empty and blank. We had a good look around planning where to put things. Some furniture I wasn’t expecting had been left in the front bedroom, so decided Sophie would be better in the little room. It all felt very surreal. A while later the van arrived and then Mum and Dad. Miles, Wayne and Nick kindly set up my bed and Sophie’s cot before we all got fish and chips for supper and they left. I think Mum and Dad must have stayed on the camp beds – it’s all a bit foggy now. All I know is I had done this massive thing moving from familiar surroundings to somewhere I barely knew and had no friends and it was all sinking in.
The trains were louder than I had remembered too. The next few days I was fairly distraught – wondering what on earth had possessed me to do something like that. But it was still a lovely area. The neighbours turned out to be really great. We had more space and a garden with an apple tree. And not everything reminded me of Robin. It would be OK – wouldn’t it?