It was Valentine’s Day this week, and it’s cemented in my mind how one of the loves of my life is actually…. something that’s not even living! Well, not in the usual sense!
I first fell in love with Chester when I was in my late teens, having visited for the day with my aunt. Walking under the archway of the magnificent Eastgate Clock, taking me from Foregate Street to Eastgate Street, a sudden shiver went down my spine.
I was home!!! 🙂
That was the bizarre yet joyous feeling I had, that somehow this city would play an important part of my life. And so it would come to pass…..
I wrote many of the first drafts of my debut crime novel No More Lonely Nights while living elsewhere. I relied on an A-Z street map purchased from Chester’s local tourist information office to find the best locations for the story: Rowlands Heights flats in Newtown where the body is found; Bridge Street for the jewellery robbery; a pub by the canal, the Blacon estate, the MP’s house in Upton and the old police station.
I finally moved to Chester in the summer of 1995, having completed my year-long journalism course, and started work immediately at the Chester Chronicle as a general reporter, as well as police, courts and health correspondent.
My love affair with my adopted home city continued over the years, as Chester played host to numerous important life events. It’s where I met my first girlfriend, where I met and married my wife, and where we got our first house, in Handbridge overlooking the River Dee.
We moved down to London in November 2009 for work and social reasons, and consider ourselves fully-fledged Londoners now, albeit Northerners in London!
However, we still have family in Chester and relish visiting them a couple of times a year as we get to see the old town once more. As former residents, we see the place with fresh eyes and can be very critical about new buildings, closed businesses, and other changes we don’t agree with.
But I wouldn’t miss these visits for the world. My three other books – Long & Winding Road, written while still living in Chester; Strider Begins: Road to Nowhere and Till The Fat Lady Sings, both written in London – are all set there. My main character, DS Dominic Strider, works for Chester CID. He’s Chester through-and-through!
As much as I love my new home in London, and it IS a fantastic city with a wealth of opportunity, Chester is and will remain my first love. Well, when we’re talking cities of course. Other types of love are a whole new topic in itself!!!!