Sometimes we don’t know why we do the things we do. When I look back at critical decisions I have made in my life – they were never easy to make. The first of such decisions was the one to leave Northern Ireland and move to Nottingham. I was a District Manager with what was then the Gateway Building Society. I was happy. There was a decision to be made when my husband’s company pulled out of Northern Ireland and he decided to study to be a Chartered Accountant. He could have studied in Belfast but something made us think that I could apply for a job in Nottingham and he could also study there. We didn’t know whether that was a good idea or not and so we made a list of reasons for going and reasons for staying and weighted them out of 100. It turned out there were equal reasons for going as for staying and when we added up the weightings – the totals were exactly the same. I applied for the position and thought I would let fate decide. If I was offered it – we would go. If not – we would stay. We moved to Nottingham.
Fourteen years ago I remember that strange feeling of being happy again. By then we were living in Oxford. I had this odd idea that you couldn’t be happy for the rest of your life or you wouldn’t learn anything. You wouldn’t grow. My husband and I went on holiday for two weeks to Mallorca. We decided that this time, we would make our decision on what our next move would be after spending the first week of the holiday in silence. By then we had learnt how to meditate and had attended several silent retreats. We created a retreat schedule, placed it on the fridge door, bought all the food in for the week, decided who was cooking what, when and stayed in silence. It was almost total silence – only one word was spoken – when my husband let an expletive out as he squashed a mosquito to death in the early hours of a morning.
At the end of that week of silence, I produced two sheets of blank paper and we had to write down what we wanted to do before breaking the silence. I wrote go back to Ireland with work and my husband wrote that we should come to Mallorca. I was pretty surprised at that. I had already made him give up his job which he loved, telling him to ‘throw away his game boy’ to find out the meaning of life. I was able allow him to take six months off because I been awarded a bonus for achieving my sales target for the year. For both of us to give up our jobs seemed a step to far for even me.
Yet when we talked about it, I realised that it was fear that was holding me back from taking such a big risk. As soon as I felt that fear – I knew that we had to come to Mallorca. A few months later we had sold our house and left with Ziggy the cat and two suitcases. We were on our way to Mallorca to rent a property in an olive grove – in a house which had no running water, no fixed line telephone, no TV. That is the house that Gurtha rents in The Secret Wound for forty days. Over the next eighteen months we invited more than a hundred people to lunch. We began to understand how different Mallorca really is to the UK and Ireland. We decided to integrate as much as possible with the local Mallorquins. We met Pep the gardener who chopped off his fingers in an accident whilst cutting an olive tree – picked them up – put them in a plastic bag and drove to the hospital in Palma. That very same Pep took an axe with him to Palma as an influencing strategy to get money back which he hadn’t been paid for oranges. He jumped over a fence with the axe and wielded over the head of a prize pig and with a couple of phone calls – the debt for the oranges was repaid.
Over the fourteen years in Mallorca – there was an opportunity to step back, be in nature, to read, paint and write. Eden Burning was my first novel – published by Urbane Publications in 2015. The Secret Wound will be published in June 2017. I loved having the opportunity of weaving two worlds together – that of Belfast, the land of my birth and that of Mallorca – the land of adventure.