The North Beckons: All change for 2022

I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions or using January to attempt a fresh start, but this year that’s how things have panned out. Back in February last year, I reflected on three national lockdowns and realised that, “I’m not at all sad about how I’ve spent my time over the last year, but I am a little sad about where I’ve spent it. […] I’d like to live somewhere with more space.” Our small flat is wonderful, and we’ve truly made it our own in the decade we’ve lived here, but the limitations of the space have become extremely clear since we’ve both been working from home. The lack of outside space means that we have to see other people if we want fresh air, and the open plan living area means that Topper hasn’t been able to shut the door on work since March 2020. So, discussions were had about where we’d like to move to and, after about six months, we realised that this was an opportunity to completely break free from London’s tiring grasp.

Working in Higher Education means that the chances of me being able to continue working completely from home are slim so we initially looked at staying in the commuter belt, but nothing sparked joy and browsing what was available within easy reach of London just made us want more. Nowhere we found in those searches felt like it could properly be called home, just simply another place to live temporarily. We’d discuss places in the UK that one or other of us were keen on but never managed to both agree until I started talking to a friend about his move to Yorkshire and realised that there was one city that had been on my “I’d love to live here” list for a few years.

Back in 1994, when I was doing an art foundation course and looking at textile design degree courses to apply for, I attended two open days; one at the University of Leeds, and one at UMIST in Manchester. Perhaps solely due to the fact that the Leeds one was on a Saturday and the campus was quiet, I ended up choosing the bustling centre of Manchester as the place I wanted to spend the next 3 years of my life. That choice led to me meeting Topper and moving back to the city in 2000 to properly begin our life together. It wasn’t until 2014 that I returned to Leeds, to visit the M&S Company Archive as part of my Master’s dissertation research. As I walked from the station, through the city centre and through the university campus, I felt excited and weirdly (considering I’d only visited the place once, briefly, 20 years ago) like I was at home.

Leeds Town Hall, photographed in November 2015 while I was being given a mini-tour of the city.

When I returned the archive in 2015 to give a lunchtime talk, I was given a mini tour of the university campus and some highlights of the city centre by the administrator of the research project that had sponsored the event, and it firmly planted Leeds high up on my list of favourite places in the UK. I’ve returned many times – for more research, academic conferences, and also for beer festivals! – but it was only last summer that it finally occurred to me that it could be a great place to move to. Also, I’m married to a Yorkshireman so he didn’t take much convincing.

Once this relocation had been decided upon as a firm plan for the first half of 2022, we started browsing Right Move and I also began to look at what sorts of jobs might be available to me. My original idea had been to properly start my job search in January but when my idle browsing turned up an absolutely perfect role for me back in November, well, I simply had to submit an application. Thankfully the lovely folk at Leeds Arts University agreed that I was the perfect candidate and so I’m extremely excited to be starting working there in March. Of course, this meant that our plans for the big move had a fixed date all of a sudden, so the next couple of months are going to be something of a blur!

This month I am also beginning an exciting two year writing project that’s going to need all of my free time, so being hundreds of miles away from most of my friends will actually be useful as it removes the temptation to fill my evenings with catch-ups over dinner or drinks. There will be a little bit of time for exploring my new local area, and some video calls with my closest friends, but I’m hoping that life will mostly be free of distractions for a while. I’m also hoping to (eventually) set up a nice writing space with a view of something other than the windows into strangers’ living rooms.

So, here’s to 2022 being a fresh start and the beginning of exciting new things. Inevitably this will mean that the blog will remain quiet but I’m sure I’ll be posting about my adventures on Instagram, and please drop any recommendations of things to do/see in the Leeds area in the comments below.

The gorgeous view from the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leeds, where we stayed in November 2019 to attend ‘Dark & Wild City’ at the Northern Monk Refectory.

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