Forget America, Australia or Thailand - when I packed up my life in London recently it was for a new one in Derry. Ask and I’ll tell you that career change and property aspirations were the motivation behind the fresh start. Ask anyone else and they’ll tell you it’s because I married a local and Derry women always return to their mammy.
Not that the move was a hardship you understand, nor even a leap in the dark. My own mammy is Derry born and bred. She has yet to return permanently but did insist on an annual pilgrimage during my formative years.
Hence every summer was an exotic adventure to Ballyliffin via various great aunts in Rosemount. Like I said, forget America, Australia or Thailand. I’m no longer getting spooked by elderly women and their glowing Sacred Heart pictures but am adjusting to change. This is not just the change in location but the changes to Derry itself from the way it was in my memory.
All my recollections of Derry are washed through with a brown tint. This may be just my memory but I suspect it’s more the case that Derry used to be exceptionally brown. Certainly everything seems to be gloriously colourful now from the quayside flowers to the City of Culture branding. Even Mason’s bar is currently a fetching shade of cerise.
It’s a wonder that I can enjoy the Turner Prize in Ebrington barracks. This was always a scary compound from which helicopters materialised. Granny Donaghy forbade outdoor play when these were airborne for fear of surveillance.
Upon reflection I’m not entirely sure that a seven year-old boy pretending to be Glenn Hoddle posed a major security threat.
The helicopters are gone and I’m allowed out now. I might miss a few London night spots but there’s plenty here to keep me entertained, especially as music’s my thing. Were shopping my thing I’d be sorted too, though it’s sad to note that a boom in retail never fails to bring with it civic homogenisation.
There’s plenty more besides, all of it apparently now “wee”. I’m intent on visiting a wee museum or two, seeing a wee play at the Millennium Forum and getting a few wee visits to the Brandywell. I may even get out for a few wee drinks one of these days and fall into a wee alcoholic stupor.
Ballyliffin remains just up the road. It hasn’t changed drastically, just a few more hillside houses and stones on the beach. That eternal view is there and I still get the urge to run full tilt over the rocks whenever I’m back.
There’s things I’ll miss. Family and friends are further away although somehow I’m now in more regular contact. With both siblings betrothed to Derry folk too, a reunion I reckon to be inevitable. Equally inevitable is Tottenham Hotspur finally coming good the year I give up my season ticket.
I’ll not miss 90 minute journeys the 20 miles to work. From Derry 90 minutes will get me to Lough Erne or Bundoran. Wherever it gets me the scenery will be better than a declining North London suburb.
Perhaps, with City of Culture, it’s that I’ve picked the best possible year to relocate. I already feel more relaxed and engaged than I have in years. I like to think that enough people have been inspired by the year to build on its success. I hope I’ll take some inspiration myself.
Whatever happens though, don’t follow my advice and back Spurs for the league. Some things never change.