He said yes!!

On the 23rd December I received the call I’d been waiting for. Seeing Paul’s name flash up on my phone sent nerves to my stomach. This was the call I’d spent what had felt like an eternity waiting for. I took myself off into a meeting room and answered Paul’s call. We all know how this part of the story ends because I wouldn’t be writing this blog if he hadn’t said yes! Now all I needed to do was agree a date for my move. Oh and break the news to my parents which to be honest was the scary part! I’ve had a reputation over the years for suggesting things on a whim, without thinking it through and as a consequence, never really following through. The desire in me to move up North though was definitely not a whim though so it was so important for them to take me seriously.

I had someone else I needed to break it to first though. I mentioned in my previous blog that I had a line manager that my relationship was a bit shaky with at the time, and I needed to tell him. Luckily for me the opportunity would be presenting itself that afternoon when I had my end of year review. At the end of my review, he asked me if I had anything else I wanted to discuss, to which I told him I did. This was the first surprise for him and I truly believe he thought I was going to bring up the reasons for why our working relationship had broken down. Imagine the shock on his face when I told him I was relocating! Honestly, it was brilliant watching him trying to keep a straight face, as he asked me the why’s, how’s, when’s etc.

When it came to my parents, I started with my Mum. She’d left home at 18 herself to go and be a holiday rep in Germany and later an Au Pair in Austria, so I knew she’d understand my need to go out into the big wide world on my own, which she did. I hated the thought of my parents keeping secrets from each other but I asked her not to tell my Dad until I was ready to – I knew with my Dad I’d need a plan of action to prove that I’d thought it through, and to just stop him worrying!

It only took me a day to pluck up the courage to tell my Dad so on Christmas Eve I gave him the best Christmas present ever – his daughter was finally moving out!!! He took it surprisingly well – so well that I suspected my Mum might have had something to do with it. I’ve asked her since if she ever told him and she said she hadn’t. It meant a lot to hear that as in all honesty, I never expected my Mum to withhold information, particularly this big, from my Dad. I’ve also since told my Dad that I was surprised by how well he took it, and he says that he could tell how serious I was about it because I never think things through as well as I had for this.

The last people to tell were my brother and sister – my brother, Matt, who is 5 years younger than me, was pretty laid back about it. I don’t suppose it really meant much of an impact on him. My sister, Georgina, who is 3 years younger than me was a different story though! She’d shared a room with me for pretty much 18 years, so her excitement at finally having her own bedroom, and not having to share with as messy an occupant as I am, was something she couldn’t have contained if her life depended on it! I later found out she’d basically mentally redecorated the bedroom and purchased wall paper and everything probably within a month of me telling her I was going!

Finally, I just needed to agree a date. I thought long and hard about it over the Christmas period. I wanted to be there immediately and work had told me they wanted me up there as soon as possible. It wasn’t practical though as after putting all my money into studying I needed to get a little bit of saving behind me and I needed to finish studying. Eventually we agreed a date of 9th April, and it couldn’t come quickly enough

A return journey…

Over the next few months my life changed quite a bit…I moved into my final year of studying, I found out what a toe rag my boyfriend was and by mutual decision we finished things. I didn’t think too much about coming back up North but I did make it clear to my line manager that if anyone was needed to go up there again, I’d want first refusal on going.

My return to the North eventually happened on 1st December 2009. The Bolton office was short on trainers for an induction course and needed someone to come and run a week one. I obviously jumped at the chance as I’d been hoping for a return since my trip 9 months earlier. During my time up there I fell back in love with the place and was as open as I was the last time about how I’d move here if I wasn’t still studying.

Halfway through my third day, two of my colleagues, Deb and Ste, sat me down and talked to me about seriously considering the move. Ste even went as far as to say he had a mate with a spare room going that I could rent out, although I think he was also trying to set me up with said mate!! The more I talked with them the more it seemed like a real possibility that I could make the move work. I was bubbling up with excitement and hope….I really could do this!

Fit to burst, I went to speak with Steph, one of the members of our management team, and now my line manager, about the possibilities of relocating. She asked me to seriously think about what I was doing. I think she was worried I was just a bit giddy about being up North and it was all just a novelty for me! I assured her it really wasn’t but at the time I was only young (just turned 23) and had a bit of a reputation for going on a whim. I guess she wanted me to be certain it was the right thing for me to do.

I returned home on the Friday and began to plan. Could I support myself on my wage? Living alone on my salary, although a good one, would have been impossible in Essex.  Did I want to house share, rent a room or have my own place? I’d shared a room growing up so the appeal to living alone was huge. How would I tell mum and dad? When would I tell them? When could I go? I was due to finish studying in June and was happy to travel back to London for my final few classes and exams. I needed to get some savings behind me too – I didn’t have any money in the bank as anything spare was put into my course fees. Buying a property was out of the question for that reason but I didn’t want that sort of commitment yet anyway.
That week waiting for Steph to call was the longest week ever and when I still hadn’t heard from her I was a state! When I did eventually speak to her I confirmed that it was definitely something I wanted to do and she told me should would put the request into her manager. I didn’t have a great relationship with my own manager at the time, and I worried he would purposely try to block me off of what I wanted to do out of spite, so I wanted to keep it secret from him for the time being.

Paul, Steph’s manager, contacted me on the 15th December to ask me what my reasons were for wanting to move and to then stick it all in an email. Then all I could was wait…

My first trip up North…

In March 2009 a five week business trip to Bolton, planted the seed for my life changing forever.

I work in Learning and Development for a well known company (who shall remain nameless) who asked me to come up North from my home in Rayleigh, to support in a sales coaching initiative. I can’t say I was overly enthusiastic at the time – I had a boyfriend and I was studying part time to be a barrister, and I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to hold everything down.

I was only given a week’s notice for the trip so before I knew it, it was the Sunday before the Monday and my colleague and I were making our way up the M6.  (The M6 is my most favourite motorway ever…where else do you get to see cows crossing the road?! I nearly killed myself getting distracted the first time I ever saw that! )

I was staying up at the Mercure (back then the Ramada) on the A6 at Lostock. I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I stepped out the car at about 8pm. It was dark but I could see the snow on the tops over at Winter Hill (although I was adamant it was a mountain). As a lover of winter and the cold, I remember the chill in the air and seeing my breath. And I felt like I’d come home. I’d never travelled further north than Nottingham, yet here I was, not more than 2 minutes out of the Vauxhall Vectra I had as a hire car, and I’d never felt more at home in all my life.

Like any southerner, I cracked all the Peter Kay jokes about garlic bread and cheesecake when ordering my dinner that night (which I now know when North of Watford Gap, it’s referred to as tea!). There was no malice in it though. I was genuinely delighted by the broad Bolton accent I was hearing.

First days in offices you’ve not worked in before are always a bit scary. It’s like being the new girl, all over again. For some reason what sticks with me about my first hour in the office was the discovery that they did cheese on toast in the canteen for breakfast – something that didn’t happen in Rayleigh. The other thing that was so clear to me was that my first day nerves were completely misplaced! Never in all my life have I met such a friendly, welcoming bunch of people. I felt at home pretty quickly, not an unwelcome feeling and one that seemed to be recurring.

Over the course of my five weeks away, I coached seven people and developed a great working relationship with them but I also felt like I’d developed one or two friendships as well. Every Friday when it was time to go home I was so disappointed to be leaving.

By my fourth week I was openly talking about how if I didn’t have the commitments of my studying and my boyfriend I wouldn’t think twice about leaving Essex behind for a new start. The end of the fifth week was heartbreaking. I cried as I got a lovely send off with chocolate, flowers and wine, promising to add everyone on Facebook so I could keep in touch and I continued to cry all the way home. I really wished I could have turned round and driven back up that motorway.

Because of the lifestyle I had chosen – to study so intensively part time, as well as work full time, I didn’t have much time for a social life. Most of my friends were now working in London and had made their own friends and were socialising in London after work. I’d stopped being invited out anyway as I always had to say no, so I gradually drifted from my friends. My boyfriend was pretty shit and seeing someone else behind my back, although I had no idea. I didn’t even know something was up, as my previous two boyfriends had been pretty crap too. I didn’t know any different. I just thought that was how a relationship was supposed to be. Although I didn’t realise to what extent at the time, my life wasn’t making me happy. I must have felt something though to crave the escapism of the North so much…