It was back in June 2010 that we moved to the Isle of Wight. Sally and I had been considering a move for some time before that – the nice little canal-side cottage where we were living in Ash Vale, Surrey was becoming too small for a growing family.
Businesswise, we were free to move anywhere. A few years previously we’d changed from directly employing staff to using a team of skilled freelancer cartographers which meant that we weren’t tied to a particular area or having the problem of relocating staff.
So we came up with a shortlist of possible places to live. And, because of the way we work, we felt we weren’t necessarily restricted to living in the UK. Actually, it started off as a pretty long list – we took a list of English speaking countries off Wikipedia and began crossing off places we thought unsuitable.
Australia sounded good but a bit of a long trip to see family and friends at weekends. The same for Canada and the USA. So we looked closer to home.
We had a brief discussion about Gibraltar before moving on to the Channel Islands – until we looked into the problems of buying a house over there and the prices asked for very modest properties.
But, the idea of living on an island had formed in our minds.
One of our other criteria was to move south if possible. Warmer summers and milder winters were a definite attraction, so all of the more northerly islands surrounding the UK were ruled out. Eventually, one of us (and I’m not saying who) suggested the Isle of Wight.
We went through the usual thoughts of ‘Isn’t the Isle of Wight only for grannies and retired people?’ and ‘Aren’t they about 50 years behind the times over there?’ before remembering the great beaches, the scenery, the slower way of life (we’d had holidays on the Island previously) and the slightly warmer weather.
And there was the added bonus that house prices were considerably cheaper on the Island too.
So, we moved.
We’d only been on the Island a short while before ‘island mentality’ set in. I doubt if this is in any way unique to the Isle of Wight, but living on an island does make you think in a slightly different way. Islanders, we quickly noticed, tend to stick together. Everything is very island-centered. There may be around 110,000 people on the Island but you feel you know everyone and people tend to be much friendlier than a lot of places we’ve lived on the mainland.
While everyone else, it seems, is going global, living on an island makes you think very local. From local food and drink to employment for local people.
And then there’s the quirky things. Like the fact that the trains on the Island are ex London Underground trains of around 1938 vintage. They can’t run any other trains because the bridges on the Island were built too low. And they run well too – we actually have the most punctual train service in the UK, notwithstanding the fact that there is only about 8.5 miles of railway line! There are no motorways and only one stretch of dual carriageway about half a mile long. But, apart from during the times of the music festivals, there’s rarely a queue of traffic anywhere.
Island Line train (formerly a London Underground train) at St Johns Rd Station, Ryde
An Island Line train in dinosaur livery
No self respecting Island would be complete without its fair share of eccentrics. The clear leader in this field on the Isle of Wight is David Icke. A former professional footballer and sports presenter on the BBC, it all went a bit pear shaped for David around 1990 when the spirit world began, allegedly, to pass messages to him. He followed this up in March 1991 with a press conference where he announced that he was a “Son of the Godhead”. Several books followed, with one making the claim that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian. The Queen and Tony Blair are, apparently, reptiles. We have our doubts about one of those but are willing to believe it about the other.
David has his own youtube channel where you can view his videos and he does sell-out tours – he is doing an all day presentation at Wembley Arena in October 2014. Tickets are available online.
Local newspapers are always interesting to read and the County Press is no exception. We’re always amazed at the somewhat trivial stories which manage to make the ‘news’ pages. Take these three for instance:
Perhaps there’s something about folk from the Island and windows, but a worryingly high number seem to have problems with them. Or, maybe, they just have problems with doors and use the windows instead? Who knows? We’ll report back in a few years time when we’ll probably be using the window to get in and out of our house. And calling out the fire brigade when we get stuck.
Along with the lack of motorways, there’s also a complete lack of shopping centres on the Island. What we have are High Streets. Remember them? Their demise everywhere else in the UK has been well documented but here, on the Isle of Wight, every town has its High Street and all have more than their fair share of small, independent shops.
Yes, there’s a very large Tesco where, over time, you’ll bump into just about everyone you know on the Island but there’s also a huge number of small, local food stores and delicatessens, coffee shops, restaurants, greengrocers and fish mongers.
Hey, you know what? It does sound like England from 50 years ago! And, you know what else? It’s actually none the worse for being like that.
Island Line photos: Wikimedia Commons
David Icke: Wikipedia
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