A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend in London. In the throes of the conversation he asked "When are you going to get serious and come to London Simon?" His reasoning behind the comment was that all the big business deals in this country are done in the capital, London.
I laughed the comment off, but later when I reflected on the conversation, as one does, it began to annoy me that I hadn't shot down such a southern-centric attitude. London is 250 miles away from where I live here between the historic riverside city of Liverpool and the rolling hills of North Wales. But each one of those miles might as well be ten. London means nothing to me now, like Las Vegas, it's an exciting and interesting place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
I moved 'up north' over ten years ago now. After returning from a few life-shaping months in the Californian sun, my old stomping ground in the south of England somehow didn't feel like the place I wanted to return to. I needed something new, something completely different.
The Wirral Peninsula reaches out into the Irish Sea and sits on the North West coast of England. Within 30 minutes of my home, I can be in Wales, essentially a different country and a place where one can get as lost as it is possible to be in this Kingdom. In fact, in North Wales they speak a language that as a Southerner I honestly thought was not spoken anymore, yet another indication of southern ignorance and what is known as the 'north-south divide.'
Just 10 minutes east of me and across another wide river is the city of Liverpool. Built on the blood of the slave trade, Liverpool seems to have paid for its misspent youth many times over. Beyond that is Manchester then the Pennines where the English rose reaches as high as it dares.
As much as I love the energy and atmosphere of metropolises like London, I feel no need to immerse myself in the frantic pace of city life. Every day I have the opportunity to watch the sun dip into the Irish Sea, something that is often simply spellbinding. Every sunset is unique and so often awesome. Even on the grayest of days, the setting sun is still able to attract spectators sitting in their cars or on the sea wall.
Watching the sunset is simply one of those irreplaceable pleasures in life that most of us could enjoy if only we'd allow ourselves the time. There is something indescribably calming about them. This is my Church, the place where I find God.
Tonight's sunset was stunning. I watched it from the shores of Caldy looking across to the distant lighthouse at the mouth of the River Dee and the foothills of the Snowdonia mountain range in North Wales. On the horizon, some way out into the stretches of the cold yet alluring Irish Sea is a sprawling wind-farm. On clear days you can see the huge windmills in regimental rows silently generating power as their vast turbines turn. Vast tankers from far-flung places made their way to and from nearby docks at a speed that seem suitably pedestrian from this distance.
I sat there watching the sky change color and planes threads their way through the clouds. The occasional person would walk past me while out walking a dog or just going for a Sunday evening stroll. Each breath I took left my mouth and gently faded like smoke into the evening air, a sure sign that winter is almost upon us once more. I listened to the music of Gustavo Santaolalla on my iPod, the perfect soundtrack to play out the sun as it bowed out on this cold October day.