8 years ago this week, I packed up all my worldy goods, and drove my little Fiesta from Cambridge to Orkney on a one way journey. My dear friend Julia came with me to share the driving and my 8 year old son was in the back. My daughter was at a summer event and was going to fly up a few days later.
One of my frequently asked questions is ‘what made you move to Orkney?’ It’s funny because I’ve moved around a lot in my life with jobs and marriage and no one has ever asked me ‘what made you move to Salisbury, Cambridge, Oxford’ etc but they ask me all the time here even now. Maybe it’s the crossing water to get here that makes people curious or the fact it’s such a distance away from my old life. But the answer is quite simple. It was the right thing for me and my family at the time. I had a very happy life in Cambridge and a huge network of loving friends as well as my parents living nearby. On paper it may’ve seemed like madness to journey such a distance and start over; but as a Christian with a deep faith, I believed with my whole heart it was the right thing to do. If people had a problem with that, well I guess it was their problem.
I told my parents I was moving and had their full support to go for it. Just weeks before I was due to move my mother was diagnosed with an extremely rare and serious form of colon cancer. As dad and I travelled to visit her in the hospital I told him I wouldn’t move, I would stay and help look after her. As mum was recovering from her operation dad leaned over and said ‘Sarah says she’s not going to Orkney any more’ I remember standing at the end of the bed looking at mum, and she had an oxygen tube attached to her nose as well as drips and drains every where. She’d had a large part of her bowel removed and was due to start chemo soon after. She turned her head to look at me and simply said ‘you’re going’
Readers, I’d argued with God for many years about this move, but I didn’t argue with my mother.
So a few weeks later I waved goodbye to my wonderful friends and family in Cambridge and moved up to Orkney. I joined a local church and met Orkney Beef within 10 days of moving here, although we’d met briefly a few months before when I came up for a visit. However the story of our on off romance is for another day. In fact I think it would fill a whole book! but I clearly wore him down in the end as we will soon be celebrating 5 years marriage. My mum too miraculously recovered, and my parents moved up about a year after me. But there’s a very long story in between, perhaps for another day…….
Such a relocation isn’t for everyone. Orkney people have seen many come and go, as people move up excitedly and realise it’s not for them. I’ve seen it happen in my short time here and Orcadians have seen it happen a great deal more. If you are thinking of relocating then think and research carefully. What’s right for one may not be right for another, and you should probably ditch romantic notions of being self sufficient and living The Good Life within the year. Different soil and weather conditions for example would give you a massive dose of reality very quickly.
On the plus side there are enormous benefits to life in Orkney and I love the open space, seeing the sea every day as well as the tremendous talent and creativity there is on the island. I don’t miss the endless city traffic, motorways and multistory car parks one bit. I don’t miss queuing in shops with music blaring down your ear, I don’t miss crowds and crowds of people as you walk down the street. But the winters are long and dark. You have to learn to embrace the weather as there’s nothing you can do to change it. Travel can be tricky. The wind was so bad on Monday that boats were cancelled. The day we arrived however was Orkney at its best. A good omen. We were going to be staying at a friends house for a few days and we arrived to find the flags out. Pictured is the old Orkney flag and a special launching flag for new beginnings.
I can hardly believe 8 years has gone by. Much as I love my life and friends here, I still miss my Cambridge friends.Will I be here forever? I have no idea, because life has a funny way of bringing change when we least expect it. But for now, it’s my place to be; and I’m very happy with that.