20 years ago today Mrs Z, our cocker Felix and I posted the keys of our house in Windsor through the letterbox and drove 194 miles to our new house in Ilfracombe, North Devon.
A big move and, while we knew in our hearts what we were doing, we had no detailed plan. People often recommend plans but I have a single-minded vision which has guided me to where and who I have wanted to be since a child.
In 2004, we had a number of clients in London and the Thames Valley, then emerging as the UK’s ‘Silicon Valley’. I was privileged to write for The Business Magazine, eventually billed as technology and e-commerce writer, interviewing and writing about big technology corporations and hi-tech start-ups.
At the same time, I was growing intolerant to the environment: crowds, motorways and aircraft. I grew up with these, born under the Heathrow flightpath and used to the 9pm Concorde drowning out TV headlines read out on the Nine O’Clock News. But now I found the first aircraft woke me up after 6am on Sundays and I was up by 7am because all I could think about was the next one flying over in a minute or so.
Mrs Z and I both loved Ilfracombe. My family first came here on holiday in 1969 by train and all had since revisited separately. In 2002, my Aunt and Mum were offered a holiday in Fremington and with no transport, I offered to drive them, along with Felix, and stayed a day in which we visited Ilfracombe – the loveliest day I spent with Mum for years. I drove home and half-jokingly suggested to Mrs Z we move to Ilfracombe. She said yes. We did.
After our move, Mum told us that she had first come to Ilfracombe with my Nan in 1951 when staying with a distant relative in Swansea, taking a paddle steamer across the Bristol Channel to escape for the day – leading to us to holidaying here in 1969. I have found the postcard she wrote to my Dad back then.
And recently I noticed that the backgrounds of two photographs from 1969 – one our Dad took of my brother and me on the platform of the old railway station and one taken by a stranger of our whole family – feature the house in which Mrs Z and I have lived for 20 years. It took 50 years to spot this coincidence.
Mrs Z said I would have gone crazy if we hadn’t moved. To me, living and working here has meant freedom. Felix would run like a stallion through the fringes of the waves on Woolacombe beach, free of all care – the total embodiment of freedom.
It’s been an eventful 20 years, personally and professionally, with many highs and lows. Business is a big challenge in this remote area but we still have clients in London and across the UK, and I have met many remarkable, lovely people, especially through publishing my business magazine.
I am glad we moved here during our working lives rather than in retirement. It was what we wanted and the enjoyment has outweighed the many risks.
The ultimate joy is the freedom for Mrs Z, the FFFC and I to walk along an undeveloped beach with no other soul in sight.