East Sussex, Norfolk and West Yorkshire are the three counties I count myself blessed to have lived in.
East Sussex has it all: rolling hills, beautiful coastlines, mild and sunny weather – the perfect combination for a young lad wanting to be out and about. I grew up in the village of Mile Oak, nestling in the South Downs. Its twittens, bridleways and open spaces were ideal for long, long bike rides and playing football and cricket in the evenings.
Brighton was a vibrant town in which to work with its seafront, Regency architecture and the fascination of the shopping area known as The Lanes. Later, the whole county became a romantic playground for Carol and me, as we visited the numerous pubs which plied their trade from the winding, leafy lanes. Just after Alliance & Leicester had made its business decision to relocate its professional activities to Leicester, I remember sitting in the HR Director’s office in Hove and being asked if I also wished to relocate. Behind him, I could see those rolling hills, the curving coastline and the sun glinting mischievously on the English Channel. “Yes, if I can take that with me” I replied. End of discussion.
Norfolk is a county of peace and tranquility. People only go there if they need to go there, no-one visits it en route to anywhere else. People say it’s a nightmare to drive to and from – the old joke is that Norwich is closer to the Amsterdam motorway network than the English one – but that is what gives it so much of its calming atmosphere. Norwich is a beautiful ancient city – its cobbled streets, boutique shops and tiny restaurants giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.
We lived in Attleborough, about 15 miles to the west of Norwich along the A11, a simple little market town which had once, many moons ago, also been home to one of my sporting heroes, Ayrton Senna, the world’s greatest ever racing driver (the Snetterton race track is just up the road). Attleborough and the surrounding countryside made a wonderful environment for recuperation from my exhaustion in 2000 with our garden being frequented by Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Muntjac deer and squirrels.
And so to West Yorkshire, a county about as contrasting to both East Sussex and Norfolk as you can imagine. Rocky outcrops, some ridiculously precarious roads and steeped in Industrial history. The area where we live, Longwood, is Luddite country. Just a stone’s throw away lies Milnsbridge House, where a group of Luddites were interrogated about the shooting of a local mill owner, William Horsfall, ahead of being tried and hanged for the crime in York in 1812. Directly above our own home sits Longwood Tower, built by unemployed mill workers as a protest against the onslaught of mechanisation in 1861 – coincidentally exactly 100 years before I was born. Sometimes, I swear I can hear their voices.
I count myself fortunate to have lived in three places of such contrasting mood, history and geography.