Being truly content for me first started when I moved to Northumberland eleven years ago. I faced the usual obstacles of starting a new life, settling into a completely different way of life and finding a new circle of friends, but I managed it eventually. Having The Farmer's dad living in the house didn't help as he was pretty obnoxious at the best of times, but I got through that, knowing that this was where my heart lay, and I was strong enough not to let him drive me back to a place where I knew I no longer belonged. There was a time when I thought I could make a go of living a contented life in a town, back in my mid-twenties before I got divorced. But it wasn't to be and it took me a few years to realise that if I'd stayed in that area of the north west, there would always be something missing. My move to the north east, ie Northumberland, proved to me that there was indeed something missing and that something was a solid foundation where I needed to be completely true to myself. There were other reasons for me moving up here, but even though I had a life pre-Northumberland, I didn't have this life, the existence that is me. Definitely more country-bumpkin than townie!
Before my late father-in-law passed away, I used to take Amy down to stay with my mum about every five weeks. We would have a lovely weekend, visiting old friends and family, going out for meals, Saturday's shopping in Bolton; it just felt like old times. But getting back home on the Sunday afternoon was bliss. The book I published last year begins with the following three paragraphs that describes my feelings even today:
"I fought back the tears as I turned the corner and saw the house standing proud on its hill, sheep grazing in the bottom fields. It was as though time stood still, nothing had changed. There was nowhere I wanted to be more. It drew me in by some kind of magnetic force, wrapping its soul around mine until I had no control.
I sat in the car for a while watching the rabbits go about their business, totally oblivious to my presence. The wind rustling through the trees and the birds singing to one another was all I could hear as feelings of affection poured from my soul.
The farm house, a large stone building, had an aura of warm colours around its walls. This was my dream come true. Relief and excitement besieged me as I realised that I had finally found the last piece of my jigsaw, the piece I had searched for all my life. I was complete. I was final. I was home."
I don't go to my mum's very often anymore; probably about four times a year, maybe five at a push. The Farmer doesn't come with me because he needs to stay on the farm, but also because he can't cope with the hustle and bustle of the traffic and densely populated towns. I used to be used to it. Now I find it alien. I'm going down there tomorrow, just for the weekend. And already I can't wait until Sunday.