It’s almost 11 years, six months and three weeks to the day when I left North London and took up residence on the south side of the Thames. How well I remember it. Preparing to leave North London the street was bathed in a clear autumnal sunlight that amplified the shimmering brilliance of the yellow/red canopy of leaves on the trees, while the morning air was heavy with the lingering stench from the sewage works around the corner. As the removal van started to pull out from the kerb, there were no parting hugs or good luck wishes from the neighbours, just a series of warnings in hushed, fatalistic tones that would have probably scared the grim reaper to death.
“You’d better watch yourself over there”, Edna from number 17 whispered to me with a frightened expression, “They’re a right bloody load of psychos. Didn’t you hear about those muggings in Lewisham on Crimewatch? One of the victims died!”
“No I didn’t” I said trying to sound jaunty, although in the circumstances it wasn’t easy, “But people get mugged over here as well you know.”
“True,” she replied unconvincingly. “But you’re more likely to get a kicking in South London than you are here!”
I wanted to say something about statistics not necessarily bearing out perceptions, but the van was moving before I could even get the words out, so I had to content myself with a quick wave and the promise not to leave the house after 8pm.
When we finally reached our destination there wasn’t a mugger or murderer in sight – just a massive pile of dog droppings on the path to the front door. As I didn’t have a pooper scooper with me, there was no other option but to unload the van and side step the offensive mound. Several hours later when the last stick of furniture was indoors, I curled up on a couch and gleefully reflected on the certainty that I would never have to move again.
How wrong I was! Eleven years down the line the tea crates are back and the suitcases re-opened as I’m heading for suburban Surrey.
When my husband was elected Mayor of Surrey Heath, one of the first things we had to do was to organise a new house. We thought it would be easy, but we were wrong. Between us we’ve acquired enough possessions to fill a warehouse and shifting them from one property into another has been more than just a little bit time-consuming.
It was something that neither of us had counted on, just as we hadn’t realised the emotional wrench of leaving behind a much loved home, or the dismay at throwing away objects that we’re still attached to but which are no longer of any practical use. And that’s only the half of it! In spite of repeated telephone calls to what’s laughingly described as a “helpline”, the engineer from the satellite TV company still hasn’t connected our set, meanwhile my car is being more temperamental than usual, and I’ve suddenly found myself juggling the demands of what can only be called a double life. For part of the week I’m Juliette Foster, Business Presenter BBC World, whilst for the rest of the time I’m Juliette May, Lady Mayoress of Surrey Heath. No wonder I’m often confused. But would I change things? Definitely not, because I’m getting to know my adopted community, while its friendship, warmth and integrity more than compensate for all the relocation problems.
Hopefully we’ll never have to move house again, but since that’s a bit like tempting fate, it’s probably better to keep quiet about the subject.