Posted on Sunday 23rd September 2012 at 12:18
It has been known, over the years, for me to occasionally talk about the goings on in my life on this blog; the big changes as well as the small. Let it be known, then, that in the year of Our Lord 2012 AD and in the month of July, we did up sticks and leave the City of Plymouth and set up a new home in the village of Church Crookham in Hampshire.
To many of our friends and acquaintances in Plymouth and the surrounding area, this move was seemingly unexpected, but to L and I it was inevitable, and in line with plans that we had made some years before. I talked a little when we moved to Plymouth about the pros and cons of the different living environments I'd encountered over the years. At the point that I left that particular post, we'd just settled into a city centre flat with sea views and shops within 5 minutes walk of our front door. Now we have "upgraded" as it feels just now, to a two bedroom semi on a quiet and attractive estate with lots of trees, green spaces and a canal, with countryside sprawling away in one direction and the urban sprawl of the London commuter belt in the other.
We moved to Plymouth in 2009 because I'd just finished my degree in Bristol and L was a couple of years into her's in Plymouth. We hadn't planned to settle there, it was merely a stepping stone. That isn't to say that we wouldn't have stayed if we'd liked it enough and if we could have done. After all, we were there for 3 years, which is long enough to settle into more or less any community, and we'd done a pretty good job of settling in down there.
I read something somewhere recently about how different cities provoke different feelings in people and tend to push them in particular directions. The example I remember from the article was New York, where, apparently, the main motivator is money, and very little else counts for anything.
I can attest to this impression of cities, as Bristol tended to leave me feeling upbeat and excited, and sill does whenever I visit. Plymouth, sadly, left a very different feeling. Despite the lovely people we met and the wonderful landscapes and countryside surrounding the city, the overall impression of the place we had was distinctly negative. We arrived their feeling positive and excited about exploring a new place, but as time went on, we found ourselves becoming increasingly cynical about the city. Every time we went to explore a new quarter, we found it run down, grey, or just plain boring. With the exception of a couple of places, such as the Royal William Yard, we rarely returned to places we didn't need to visit, and we were reluctant to spend as much free time walking around the city as outside of it.
As the years went on, our disappointment and frustration at various aspects of the city, whether it was the depressed economy or the poorly stocked shops increased to the point where we could hardly think of anything nice to say about it. And this, despite living in the nicest area of town, visiting the theatre and restaurants regularly and popping to the shops most days of the week.
The result of all this was that when L finished her degree and was ready to look for jobs, she didn't bother looking for them in Plymouth. True, we already knew that getting a teaching job in a city with two teaching collages would be tough, but if we'd wanted to stay there, we would have tried.
Instead, we looked to relocate far away, and eventually found ourselves just 20 minutes drive from my childhood home. Obviously the fact that we're living practically in my old backyard probably does make me a little biased, but I'm pleased with the move. I'm pleased with the area, with our life style and with our general situation. And I'm not sorry that we left Plymouth, in spite of everyone that we left behind.
Last week we went back to Plymouth for the day, for L's graduation ceremony. I think we were both curious about how we'd feel, returning there for the first time in weeks. When it came to it though, I didn't really feel anything at all. Some things had changed, most had not. The former gay bar next to our apartment building has gone straight and been renamed "G-SPOT" (yes, really), and a bit of building work has taken place, but otherwise it was the city we remembered. Looking back, the only place that tugged on the heart strings for me, was the M&S in Drake Circus, because it was where I'd bought both my suits. That was as emotional as it got, after 3 years of living in Plymouth.
And as I remarked at the time of our departure, if you don't fall in love with a place after 3 years of living there, it probably isn't the place for you. Goodbye Plymouth. Thank you for having us, and for giving us your friendship and happy memories. We'll be heading home now.