A new land, a strange land: our home.

River Witham (near Boston)This was a reflection on our first year in Boston, Lincolnshire. For some reason, I failed to publish it, back when I wrote it, so its almost a year out of date already!

When we first arrived in Boston, we found ourselves in a wonderfully fresh situation: a new start, a new home, a new career direction, new friends; a new horizon.

Obviously, it was also a little terrifying. Just substituting “new” for “strange” makes that clear: strange home, strange career direction, strange friends; everything that made a feel secure, all the familiarity, gone!

  • We lost our home, that we had lived in for 5 years, to have it replaced with a tatty, abused detached house surrounded with a tangled green jungle.
  • After 8 years doing Medicine in South Yorkshire, I suddenly found myself in a very different patient population, with different services, on a General Practice training course.
  • Whilst many of our friends here are strange (Tammy especially), at first they were strange by the nature of being strangers.

Of course, the strangeness fades fairly quickly. Returning to Sheffield now feels very odd, whereas Boston feels more like home than Yorkshire ever did. Our new life has made us realise that we were unhappy, and a little lonely in Sheffield: we had many friends that we connected with intellectually, but the city never really clicked with us emotionally.

I really believe I can sense God’s hand in the move: I would never have expected us to “up sticks” and disappear off to Lincolnshire. Yet we did, with only 48 hours to make the decision, and it was definitely the right call.

One month in Boston

Last month, we took a big step as a family. We moved from our familiar, friendly home in Yorkshire over to the barren flatlands of Eastern Lincolnshire. In doing so, we said goodbye to 8 years of friends, and hello to convenient beaches, widespread obesity, and owning another house that needs every single room done up before we will be able to relax!

I’ll take you through some of our key moments with some photos:

This is our new home: Orchard Cottage, on Woodthorpe Avenue. It’s on the slightly nicer side of town, but needs quite a lot of work! The garden hasn’t been touched for about 2 years, so we are having rather a lot of pruning done at the end of the month, and some building work after that…

Joen has settled into things well, and both he and the dogs are loving the big new garden. As you can see, there are cat flaps everywhere, coupled with awful red carpet in the kitchen, and mammoth spiders in every room. Katherine hates all 3 of these things, especially the eight legged monsters.

One of the key aspects of our corner of Lincolnshire is that it is as flat as a pancake (In fact, if you read this study, its likely that its considerably flatter, since it would appear that pancakes are not terribly flat). The downside: its a bit boring. The plus side: we can cycle everywhere. Joen has decided to live on the edge though, since he has now worked out how to remove a cycle helmet, rendering it useless.

Alongside the uninteresting terrain, there is considerably more sky visible, so sunsets and dawns are rather beautiful to behold. Sadly, the road I take to work each morning is almost due East for large sections, meaning I can barely see beyond the brain melting glow of the sun. The unending flatness means that a 44 mile round trip is just about doable on bike, although I’m not achieving it every day.

I have begun my GP training, which involves hundreds of hours spent reflecting, signing sick notes and prescribing amoxicillin. Here you can see my office, with a photo of the family, and a coffee mug, recently filled on my most extravagant new purchase, a DeLonghi EC 152 Coffee Machine.

As mentioned above, we have several fantastic beaches, 20 miles or so down the road; and we have made the most of them already. Here you can see Joen swimming, playing and eating the sand on the beach at Chapel St Leonards.

Finally, the most important photo is that of our new child, around 50% ready now. Probably a she (the ultrasonagrapher wasn’t completely sure), we look forward to her arrival in January!

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, support and hot meals over the last month, especially Eagle, Sadie, Daniel, Tammie, Hannah, Helen, Micky & Rachel, and thanks for the unpaid manual labour of Nick & Jon!

Acknowledging Life

Photo of Joe and LoisA few nights ago, we said goodbye to some great friends, Joe & Lois, on their way to live forever(ish) in Zimbabwe. This, on the same day that the senior partner at my practice retired, and my wife and I decided to move to Boston in 2 months.

I’ve been feeling a tremendous amount of emotion, as if something tangible has been torn from me; my brain is looking into the future, and feeling a loss that hasn’t even happened yet.

Why such a response? It’s strange, because I’m genuinely happy about all these changes!

I’m joyful that two friends are going to live in my favourite continent, under huge, romantic skies and terrifying political regimes, with a vast multitude of surprisingly friendly insects to keep them company.

I’m pleased that a fellow doctor is taking up a well earned retirement, with his health, his wife and the money to enjoy his days following his heart’s content.

I’m excited that my family and I are moving to Boston, a town I’d barely even heard of until Tuesday, and yet will soon be calling “home”.

So, if these are all such positive events, why am I so sad? I thought I’d look a little through the breadth of our literature and culture to find some consolation. In this, as with most emotions in life, Shakespeare has something apt to offer:

Parting is such sweet sorrow.


As one GCSE revision website explains this, the quote above puts my feelings in a different light: “It is therefore delightful that parting can hurt so much“. The sadness just reflects how much I love the Ovendens, how much I value my colleague, how much we treasure our Sheffield friends.

Tennyson made a similarly iconic statement (which is just as well, since that’s what famous poets are meant to do):

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Whilst most people know that quote as used in a romantic context, it was actually a poem written by Tennyson about losing a good friend.

In realisation of this, I’m going to try and avoid being sad about this any more. In fact, the next two months needs to be a celebration of everything and everyone we love, value and respect in Sheffield. I want to laugh with you all – as The Jam said:

To be caught smiling is to acknowledge life.


Let’s really acknowledge life together, my friends. For a final verse (if cut in half), I leave you with Philippians 4:1:

So, brothers and sisters, I love you and miss you. You are my joy…