Up until about six years ago I was never really a fan of the beach. It was alright for a few days, but the sand used to irritate me, and I’d much prefer looking around the towns than going to the seaside when we were on holiday. I was definitely a city girl.
Then something changed. I’m not sure exactly what made me feel so different. A couple of months before I found out I was pregnant with Harrison, we went on a big family holiday to a cottage in Wales. It was up in the hills in North Wales, with no mobile phone signal and no local shop. It was surrounded by countryside and overlooked the beach. It was stunning.
At some point during those two weeks, I realised just how calming being by the sea is. I didn’t have to be on the beach to feel relaxed – I just needed to see it. Sitting on the balcony of the cottage, watching the waves from a distance, occasionally hearing them crashing, walking along the promenades or sitting in a tea room next to the harbour; it all had the same effect. Even when it was busy and surrounded by tourists, it still always seemed so much more peaceful and calming.
I remember the drive home, and with every mile closer we got to Birmingham, my stress levels turning up another notch. Literally, as we pulled off the motorway into the city, we were cut up by an idiot on his mobile phone. That just summed up coming home to the city for me. I’m not completely blinded to the fact that this doesn’t happen near the sea – it has it’s fair share of idiots there as well I’m sure. But for someone who has very little patience with people, living in the country’s second city isn’t exactly ideal.
We have just got back from four lovely days in Wales, just five minutes down the road from that first cottage. My parents had the kids stay over with them in the holiday cottage that they had rented, and we stayed at the village pub. It was idyllic and beautiful. Every morning, we woke up and looked out of our windows to views like this.
We couldn’t see the sea from where we were – from every direction all you could see were green hills covered in sheep. Just knowing that the sea was five minutes away in the car was enough for me. At no point during those four days did I feel stressed out or worked up – even when the kids played up. The second we got back to Birmingham I started feeling the way I normally do – on edge constantly. I hate driving, because in literally every journey, even the 5-minute school run, someone cuts you up or tailgates you. We have already been the victim of a cash for crash claim – not surprising seeing that we live in the country’s worst area for it. Ten minutes down the road is one of the country’s most deprived areas. Every day there are shootings and stabbings in our local area. I always worry about taking the kids to the local park – it is never a surprise to see syringes, used condoms and broken glass. It really is vile here, and the quality of life is, well, shit.
I’m not stupid. I know living by the sea doesn’t erase problems. There are plenty of problems. We have been to some real sh*tholes on the coast. I also know living there is very much different to being on holiday there. But I know for sure that generally, the quality of life is so much better. In the area where we stayed, there were miles of countryside and miles of coastline. Rather than have to drive an hour out of the way to find somewhere nice to go for a walk, we could go for a walk every day if we wanted, right on the doorstep. I know I would be fitter and healthier. The boys would grow up in a much nicer and much safer environment.
Moving to Wales is no longer just a dream. It’s something that we need to do, and that we are going to do. I just can’t imagine spending the rest of my life in a busy city like Birmingham. I think I would probably go insane. I need to be by the sea.