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Letter: Saying Goodbye to Guildford

Published on: 13 Aug, 2012
Updated on: 15 Aug, 2012

The beach by Nairn

From Ollie Clokie

(Ollie Clokie lived in Church Road Guildford until his recent move to Scotland. He was the Deputy Chairman of Guildford Liberal Democrats, Chairman of G4 Residents Association and the first person to film a Guildford Borough Council meeting.)

Last month was my official three year cancerversary. I had a meeting with the Oncologist who likes to stay in touch, presumably because I have so many interesting theories on pretty much everything. The next day, as planned, we loaded up our car and headed North to the Highlands to start a new life.

It’s three years since a man in a white coat with an ultrasound machine looked up from a part of me that I’m rather fond of and asked “Have you got any children?” A strange question but I had been having quite a strange day anyway… “Yes”, “Oh good”… I’m still not entirely sure why he asked – there could be two reasons I suppose and fortunately for me neither of them came about in the end.

The next man in a white coat asked if I’d called my wife yet. I hadn’t. “You should.” he said. I did. And it was only when I heard myself say the word “tumour” that I started to feel the flood of emotions and fear that accompany news like this.

I can honestly say that I was terrified for most of the next month or two. Every test, and there were plenty, every visit to St Lukes or the Royal Surrey or Mount Alvernia, was another raffle where the best prize was not being worse and the worst prize didn’t bear thinking about.

I appear to be fine now and am not one to dwell on misfortune – we’re all just where we are and we can choose to make the most of it or not. But this changed the way my wife and I look at things.

What if it had gone the other way? It happens. Perhaps you know this already from personal experience – in which case I suspect you’ll understand even more how important it became to stop sitting around waiting for something interesting to happen in our lives.

If you like your life the way it is, don’t read “Driving Over Lemons” by Chris Stewart. Fortunately for me I read this book whilst convalescing from surgery and found it an amazingly emotional and inspirational read. Instead of dreaming about a new life somewhere he loved, he actually went and did it. And he encourages the reader to do something adventurous with their own life.

I decided to start small and to do something for my community at the same time, so I stood and lost in a local election. Okay I decided, well that didn’t look too adventurous after all, although I had been looking forward to arguing with Conservatives which in Guildford is often the same thing as trying to help your community.

Perhaps our adventure could be something even more fun than local politics, if that’s possible.

About a year ago we started to look for a project in the Scottish Highlands, a place I left at the age of fifteen. I’ve always assumed that I’ll retire somewhere there but hadn’t ever worked out how and anyway, we’re not even half way through our working lives. We considered buying a guest house or hotel but that turned out to be a lot of hard work and too much of a balancing act with two young children.

We kept thinking and it eventually dawned on us that as long as my wife is fairly near to an airport and has an internet connection she can more or less work anywhere. In the end we decided that she would carry on doing what she does now (something with computers that I think is more than plugging them in although I’m no expert) and I can do what I do (being Mr mum), only somewhere I truly love and in a house and garden that we would never be able to afford in the South of England.

In March this year we went to stay in Nairn, near Inverness for a few days and it just felt right. Now, five months later, we live here in a wonderful house a few minutes stroll to the beach. It’s a bit colder, there’s the famous Highland midge and it’s dark for half the year. But despite these things it is truly stunning, and for us and our values and the way we choose to live it’s the perfect place to bring up our children.

It’s hardly the biggest adventure. We’re not out in Africa feeding starving children or dodging bullets to bring medical aid to civilians. We’re not even driving over lemons. But we have given up the comfort and security of doing what we were doing. We’ve said “ ’til we meet again” to many of our friends and said goodbye to Guildford, the town we’ve got to know and love, all in the hope of a better life in the Highlands.

I felt a little bit like a 21st century middle-class British Woody Guthrie in “Bound for Glory”, or perhaps Jack Kerouac in “On The Road”, and realising this I felt a tingle of excitement as we loaded up our battered Volvo and headed North.

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Responses to Letter: Saying Goodbye to Guildford

  1. Pauline Surrey

    August 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    It sounds wonderful, Ollie, and very exciting! You are a loss to Guildford though. Good luck!