A new lease of life

PUBLISHED: 09:24 23 September 2013

Ben McGrail

Ben McGrail


Somerset Life welcomes the start of a new series of monthly articles from your favourite BBC Somerset presenters. This month Ben McGrail looks at why Somerset is the place to be:

Moving house: one of the most stressful things a person does. I’ve calculated 13 moves in total in my life.

I’ve no idea if that’s a lot or not very much, but it certainly felt like a lot when I was counting and got onto my third set of five fingers!

But in comparison to one member of my family this year, none of those moves have really been a big deal.

Imagine, after living in the same home for 36 years and the same area for your entire life, moving 120 miles away from what’s familiar to you to somewhere new. Oh, and you’d be doing this in your 80s by the way.

Well that’s the situation that faced by my grandmother (my Nana) this year when she moved from the outskirts of London to Shepton Mallet.

The truth of it is that although she was leaving a home she loved, she was leaving a location that was no longer home. In the best of ways, things change slowly in Somerset compared to the cities and compared to where she lived in the capital, I doubt anywhere in our county has altered as much in the past 20 years.

It’s gone from being a leafy, friendly suburb of the capital to a sprawling, overcrowded, noisy, dirty and, ultimately, dangerous place. It’s not somewhere I’d want to live, never mind wanting my Nana to be there.

I visited her earlier this year, before she moved, and the changes that I saw there made me appreciate life here in the county even more!

I can’t really explain it – but even as someone who was born in London and brought up in the home counties, when I moved to Somerset two years ago it felt like I was coming home.

From day one here it’s felt like the place I need to be and it’s not a feeling I can quantify, unfortunately. It’s just an instinct and a natural reaction when I cross the border on the A303 or arrive in the Levels on the train.

As for my Nana, she’s now happy. She moved here to be closer to family. She loves her new home and she loves Somerset (although I’m yet to install a radio tuned to BBC Somerset for a proper initiation).

She misses her old place and her friends but who wouldn’t after more than 80 years of familiarity?

However she told me that she now has a ‘new life’ and the fact that her neighbours have welcomed her so warmly and taken her into their community has made the transition much easier.

Ultimately her move has reminded me that I live in a special place and I mustn’t take it for granted. But it’s also highlighted that no matter what our age, we have to be brave when it comes to change. If my Nana can make such a change after so long, then surely we all can, can’t we? n

Ben McGrail - presenter, weekdays 9am-noon – BBC Somerset. 95.5FM and 1566MW or via bbc.co.uk/bbcsomerset

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