I don’t really know what gave me the idea, but from an early age I was determined to be a lighthouse keeper. You know, a lot of boys my age used to say that they wanted to be engine drivers, but that never crossed my mind. I suppose that I must have seen some photographs of lighthouses somewhere, or perhaps my parents took me to visit one, I just can’t remember.
Of course, like a lot of children’s dreams, mine gradually faded and my life followed a more conventional pattern. It was only after I had married and had children of my own that I began thinking about it again. At the time, I was teaching biology in a good secondary school and we were living in a pleasant three-bedroom house in a smart neighbourhood – the sort of home that most people would be content with in fact.The problem was, I was just not satisfied.
I had never mentioned my boyhood dream to Susan,my wife, and it took me some time to summon the courage to raise the subject with her. I was afraid that she would laugh at me and tell me I was being foolish, but to my surprise she listened sympathetically. She went so far as to admit that she too found suburban life a bit dull. We started researching the possibilities together. At first, I was disappointed to discover that becoming a lighthouse keeper was not going to be as easy as I had imagined. I hadn’t paid attention to the advances in technology which means that most lighthouses no longer have keepers in residence.They are automatically operated from control centres many miles away and receive only occasional visits from engineers for maintenance purposes. I was sure that my dream had been shattered.
But Susan is made of sterner stuff than me. She would not give up and kept making enquiries. It was while she was surfing the Net that she came across an article about Lundy Island in one of the on-line newspapers. Now, Lundy is a small island about twelve miles off the coast of Devon in south-west England and I had thought it was completely uninhabited. In fact, roughly 30 people live there on a fairly permanent basis. Some of these are volunteers, but at the time Susan found the article, the Trust, which runs the island, were looking for staff to help manage the tourist accommodation on the island. The salaries on offer were not brilliant, but free accommodation was included in the old lighthouse keeper's cottage!
We talked it over with our two children, twins who were about to leave home and start their university studies, and they told us not to think twice about it.That very same night we sent off our letter of application and began the agonised wait to see what would happen. Well, you can imagine the relief we felt when we were invited for an interview but, knowing we still had a long way to go,we did not celebrate too much.We set about learning every detail we could about Lundy so that we would, hopefully, impress the interview board and I must say that the more we learnt, the more excited we became about the prospect of living there. We have been living on the island for four years now and we have never looked back.We still own our house on the mainland, but I doubt whether we will ever live there again because life here is wonderful and we both get great satisfaction from our jobs. Susan has always been a good administrator and organiser and for me it is like being on one long field trip as I help tourists discover the rich wildlife of the island. It just goes to show that childhood dreams can sometimes lead to great happiness as long as you don’t give up on them.