A Family Affair: Long-distance love

When James Boyle became Controller of Radio 4 nearly three years ago, he and his wife Marie took the decision to have a long-distance relationship: James would live in London during the week, and Marie would continue to live and work in Edinburgh. The couple have been married for 29 years, and have three sons

Marie Boyle

I cope much better than James does with a long-distance relationship - but then, I've all the support of home, my own things around me, my own friends; it's a much more natural situation. And in fact sometimes, when you're working full time, it's quite nice to have a weekend to yourself. I can get to Glasgow to see my parents, for example, without feeling that I'm impinging on the time James and I have together.

We've lived this kind of life for about two years now. The decision was quite easy. For a start, I was in a full-time job I really liked, and I didn't want to leave it. For nearly 15 years I've worked in a language unit at a school in Edinburgh; it's for children who have various kinds of language and communications disorders.

When James's latest job came up we'd already moved several times for his career. Some years ago we went from Glasgow to Guildford. Then, when we went back to Scotland, it was to Edinburgh. We'd moved our three boys to new schools three times. This time we decided that the boys and I would stay put.

Had the children been younger, we might have considered moving again, but not at this late stage. I felt that, having left family and friends before, we were too ensconced to do it again. The boys are older now, of course, but one of them is still at home and another has returned. He was at university in Glasgow but he's come home. The two of them are in and out of the house.

James and I try to meet every weekend, either here in London or, more often, in Scotland. We always try to do something special on Friday nights - dinner out, or the theatre - because Fridays can be tricky, while you readjust: you're longing to be together, but you're both tired...

In recent months it's been more fraught for James and he's not been able to get home as often as he'd have liked. There have been a couple of weekends when he's not managed to get away at all, so that it's been two or three weeks before we've seen each other. And when he is home, the mobile phone keeps ringing; I do find that very disruptive.

James's life is kind of unnatural. He doesn't like his flat - he keeps saying he's got to move - but he never has time to look for another place. He's quite a homey person and I do worry about not being there to support him, especially when Radio 4 is under attack. In fact, when that happened last, when the Rajar figures came out, it was during my half-term week in October and we had to cancel our holiday in Madrid. I went down to London anyway, and was in the office for a lot of that week. It was good to see the support he got, and a lot of people came and spoke to me and gave me some comfort. But I know he finds it very stressful. On the other hand, he's quite good at being alone in these circumstances. In some ways, I think it's the way he prefers to deal with things. We phone each other every day, and in the long run he doesn't let it get him down. He does bounce back.

This last weekend, James came up to give a lecture at Edinburgh University on Saturday, then we both went south for a big Asian festival at the NEC at Birmingham in the evening. Then it was back to London for the recording of the annual Radio 1 pantomime. I'll be on the first plane home tomorrow. My son will meet me at the airport and I'll go straight into school. The only problem I can foresee is that I'll be tired for a day or two.

James Boyle

I don't like living away from home. It's been nearly three years now and it doesn't get any better. I'm losing my tolerance for this way of life. I'm totally worn out, totally unfit - never get out into the fresh air. Only this morning we came home - or rather, back to my London flat - and the burglar alarms were screaming, from the shops around the place. I hate it. The trouble is that I'm not methodical about dealing with it all. I'm so completely oriented towards my work. I say to myself, every day, "I must deal with this; I must get out more." In fact, I bought myself a pair of track-suit bottoms - I had visions of myself jogging around Grosvenor Square - but I'm the least sporty person in the world. The best I've done is to wear them to go downstairs and open the front door to put the bins out.

The difficult thing is that we get so few windows to take holidays, because we can only go away in the school breaks. I certainly get very tired. I did feel the loss of that October holiday. We shan't get another chance now until April. My staff have been telling me to take every other Friday off and I suppose if they push me out of the door I might. I'm hopeless otherwise.

Perhaps there are some good things to come of not living at home. One of my sons has always complained that I'm very hard to talk to. Well, he came into the office about a month ago and one of the girls was talking to him and she said, "I was quite frightened coming here but it was OK because I spoke to your dad and he's so easy to talk to", and she walked away. He came straight up to me and said he couldn't believe his ears.

And it did make me think. If there's one good thing about all this it is that it gave me a sense of perspective about him. I got away from all the classic father things - clean up your room, do this, do that - and I began to get a bit calmer, because I saw him so little and I wanted to do it better. It did make me stop short and think, well, I've got to stop being a grouch when I get home.

And you see, I always was very home-oriented, completely unadventurous. That is why I liked Radio 4 so much. I was your ideal housewife. I have listened to the radio incessantly, all my life; I used to write letters to the broadcasters. I wrote to Tony Hancock when I was a kid. When I was interviewed for this job, people thought all that was a pose, but it wasn't. It was true.

I'm very proud of Marie. In effect, her job is a greater rarity than mine. There are plenty of BBC controllers but only a handful of people - anywhere - with her skills. Personally, I've always kept a clear line between work and home, and I know that it upsets Marie that I don't talk about it. Marie, you do know that I work for the BBC, don't you?

Interview by Sue Gaisford

Arts and Entertainment
music

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain