We finally have confirmation of something we’ve been fairly certain of for a few weeks – that our time in Sierra Leone is drawing to a close.
The One With The Common Sense has been offered a new job and handed in her notice. We expect to be heading to pastures new in January.
It wasn’t our intention to leave Sierra Leone quite so soon but this post required a January start and was too good an opportunity to miss.
Not only is it a great role but one based at a brilliant organisation, in a fantastic city; Liverpool.
The move back to my hometown is one we’ve talked about making for years, practically since we moved to London. But opportunities for the right kind of work were always going to be a sticking point.
We heard about this one as we were flying back from the UK in August, at a point when we were still wondering whether we really wanted to swap the relative ease of England for Freetown’s daily difficulties.
As it turned out, we settled back in with barely a problem, and life has been great on all fronts since we got back. But when The One With The Common Sense got the interview – and was subsequently offered the job – it didn’t take us long to make up our minds.
Before we came to Sierra Leone, I’d have said a year would be the optimum period to be here. For the One With the Common Sense, it was probably 18 months.
Professionally, however, she’s already made an impact in her office and can well justify leaving after 10 months for a new challenge. By December, my children’s writing should be a great leap closer to the point where I’ll (almost) be happy, and I’m already looking forward to resuming paid work.
So we had no qualms about calling time on our African adventure.
Still, after deciding to move back, we kept asking ourselves whether we’d really done Sierra Leone justice. Was it was worth making such a massive move for such a relatively short period?
We could spend a decade here and I’m not sure I’d truly have got my head around Sierra Leone. But I do feel like I know it at least a little and I’m not sure a few extra months living the same way we are now would make a massive difference.
Undoubtedly, working here helped The One With The Common Sense secure her new job – perhaps even tipping the balance in her favour.
This temporary move has probably also made leaving London a whole lot easier. The British capital is a fantastic place to be, and an extremely difficult one to leave.
But I remember stuffing the last of our junk into the loft of our lovely flat in Hanwell, that little London village we’d come to love, and thinking that – after days of chaos getting it ready for tenants – I never wanted to set foot in the sodding place again.
So, upping sticks to Freetown opened our eyes to different possibilities. Moving to Ireland seemed a much more serious proposition. And my reluctance to move back to Liverpool slackened.
It’s been more than 20 years – two entire decades – since I unloaded my bags at the University of Sheffield’s Ranmoor Hall. And at no point since had I ever wanted to go home; until now.
Despite that, I never really wanted to “settle” anywhere else either.
I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a move as this one (especially given it’s not even my work we’re moving for.)
Family, friends and football have kept me coming back so I’ve never quite lost touch. But both Liverpool and I have changed a lot. I hope we can still get on.
In many ways I’ll be more nervous about docking at the Pier Head than I was stepping on to Freetown’s rickety landing stage. Sierra Leone was only ever going to be temporary. If we didn’t like it, we could just leave. That isn’t the plan this time around.
That’s not to say we’ll never move again; Ireland (and, ahem, North Devon) will always be calling, for a start. But poor old Flumpo’s been dragged around enough for a lifetime already and it’d be nice to have something akin to a “normal” life for a while.
What I’ll do for work, I’ve no idea. I technically have a job to return to in April but that’s at BBC New Broadcasting House, in London; a heck of a commute.
I’m not worrying. Moving to Africa was after all, for me, about trying to broaden my career horizons.
The funny thing is that writing this blog and doing voluntary communications work has rekindled my interest in journalism.
By that I mean telling stories – of people and places – a step away from the news treadmill and without the yoke of ensuring political balance, rather than merely processing the headlines.
I’ve never had the guts to go freelance before. But increasing the variety of work I do appeals to me now… Ask me how that’s going in 12 months.
For the time being, however, we need to make the most of our remaining period in Sierra Leone. It’s too fascinating and beautiful a place to spend our notice period marking time in the sort of trough you can find yourself in when you’re preparing to leave somewhere.
We need to be as busy as possible in work and play. And we’ve made a decent start on that over the last few days, as you’ll soon be able to read in my next post…