Monday, 23 January 2012
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
When the children were young a favourite book was The Trip To Panama by Janosch. It's a beautiful picture book about a little tiger and a little bear who one day spot, floating down a stream, a piece of a banana crate printed with the word PANAMA. They decide that Panama must be a wonderful and mysterious place (after all it smells of bananas) and the book charts their adventures in trying find the land of their dreams where they hope to settle.
When we retired we started telling everyone who would listen that we were going to leave Southport and move down to London which became our very own Panama. After twenty years of living in a small northern town we felt it was time for a change and, with the business sold and our children settled at opposite ends of the country there was nothing to tie us to what has become our home town. We were fascinated by the lure of the big city and the opportunity to take in its museums, galleries, restaurants, exhibitions and everything else that goes on there 365 days of the year.
But first of all I had a hip operation to sort out and the move to London was put on hold until I had made a full recovery. The op went well and I was completely back to normal last spring. By then another distraction had arisen. Our daughter Sarah was pregnant and our first granddaughter Rose arrived in July. We spent the rest of the summer travelling backwards and forwards between Southport and our newly acquired caravan in St Andrews to make sure that we saw the most of our family. So the London move was again put in abeyance.
We were still telling everybody that we were off to London - our Panama but, in the autumn, Marion's mum Flo's memory deteriorated very suddenly and we started to spend time trying to help her and plan her future. She's now settling down in a care home and once again our thoughts have turned to that move. Why do we want to leave Southport? It's a pleasant enough town and we've been happy there but we're getting on a bit now and it would be good to see more of the country while we are in still in good health and the town is too big for us to feel part of the community and too small to compensate for that by having plenty to do. So we stared to look at London again.
It was a bit of a shock to find that housing prices in London have risen tremendously since we retired whereas housing prices in Southport have fallen back. This has now made the sort of modest London property that we had in mind prohibitively expensive and we have missed the opportunity that was just about feasible in December 2010. We'll now be telling our friends, who have listened patiently to our claims to be off to London for the past fourteen months that it's no longer on the cards. No doubt our claims to be going there were, like the boy who cried wolf's persistent claims, starting to raise hidden yawns or knowing nods.
But all is not lost. We've been doing our research on the internet and made lists of the top places to live (there are plenty of reviews). Suffolk comes up regularly in these surveys so now we are thinking about moving down there. And we aren't just saying that. We've booked a holiday cottage in February in a small town that has all the features we want - good local shops, good cycling, plenty of local activities and a pleasant climate. So, will Suffolk be our new Panama? Or will our friends, this time next year, be nodding patiently as we tell them for the twentieth time that we are off there? Watch this space.