One-year already in the UK for Damon!

One-year already in the UK for Damon!

Today is the one-year anniversary of Damon Beard’s arrival in the UK. He shares details about the last year; about the pros and cons of living in a 'new' country; about coping with COVID-19 lockdowns in Britain and above all, reflecting that South Africa will always be in his heart.

Damon Beard and sisters

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, I arrived in the UK. One year already …and it honestly feels like yesterday.

Those couple of months leading up to leaving South Africa are literally just a blur. What I do remember is the flood of tears and agonising goodbyes; selling my house; saying goodbye to East Coast Radio after 28 years -- the farewells, the sorting and packing -- asking myself a million times a day if I was doing the right thing.

I remember the final approach into London and knowing this was my new home.

Damon's flight into London one year ago

But the goodbyes were the hardest.

So has it been easy? No, most definitely not.

Do I love my new life? Yes, without a shadow of doubt.

Arriving on the 23rd of November last year, I landed slap bang in the middle of the cold and wet season. I had to stay in a hotel for the first three weeks. I had no car so anywhere I went was in a taxi - and when you’re paying in pounds and multiplying each kilometer by 22.30 (which was the rate of exchange at the time) – that’s enough to stress anyone out.

I had flu, I sniffed and sneezed and coughed until I couldn’t anymore and the pictures on Facebook of friends on the beach ‘back home’ really got to me.

To make things slightly more challenging, I’d also brought my little rescue dog over – but the UK is incredibly ‘dog friendly’ so actually having a dog here and carrying on with your daily life is just like having your child with you.

Damon and his dog

I spent the first six months living in Fleet, a really beautiful town in Hampshire. It made sense to stay there because my one sister was already there and having some familiarity when you land in a foreign country is hugely important.

Then COVID-19 hit at the end of February and having had my spleen removed when I was still at school, I was immediately put into the ‘vulnerable’ category which meant shielding and not being able to go out anywhere.

This is where East Coast Gold really became far more than just a job to me. I stayed inside for 13 weeks and presenting my show each day was my highlight. It was my ‘link’ to the outside world.

Going outdoors again after 13 weeks makes you really look at things differently. Suddenly I was grateful for walks in the park and a trip to go and buy bread and milk.

By the time lockdown ended, I’d already decided I wanted to live in Bournemouth - a stunning coastal resort town on the south coast of England with gorgeous beaches and a big South African population.

Bournemouth cliffs
Damon Beard
Damon Beard

We moved here on the 5th of June and in the short time we’ve been here, it already feels like home.

With winter fast approaching, some days are cold. Then there are days where there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it’s relatively warm.

Summer was magnificent with it still being light outside at 10 in the evening. We braaied on the beach and even swam …. and I have to say that the Cape Town water is WAY colder!

South Africa will always be in my heart.

It’s funny that when I’d heard other people who’d emigrated say those same words, I’d wonder what they really meant?

I realised that for me, it’s playing a Johnny Clegg song on-air.
It’s a picture I see of the gorgeous Durban coastline.
It’s the taste of biltong bought from the South African shop here in the UK and the instantly recognisable accent of a fellow Saffa in a crowd of people.
It’s presenting my show on East Coast Gold and getting messages from people in South Africa that make me feel like I’m ‘right there’ and have never left.

Those things that make South Africa and its people my home that will forever be in my heart.

Will I be here forever?
I don’t know.
Right now it feels ‘right’ …  but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Damon Beard

Catch Damon on East Coast Gold every weekday from 1-5pm and Sundays from 6-10am. Listen via the East Coast Radio App (just click on the gold logo) or via the ECR website.

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