Published on April 8th, 2022 | by The Town Crier0
Letter from California
Dear Tunbridge Wells:
Longtime resident, Pat, 94, still scooting around town and to Pembury in her electric trolley, has sent me the ¨Town Crier¨, which released volumes of precious memories of our family´s 23 formative years in Tunbridge Wells.
When we were a young family living in rural Sussex, we often went shopping in what the children called ¨Tumbinge Wells¨ In 1977 we bought a 3&1/2 story townhouse next to Calverley Grounds, the 5 children´s chief play area. They created dramas on the bandstand, collected beech nuts to roast as ice cream topping, built miniature houses with nature’s bits and pieces. On the day of first snow in 1979, they rode all on one sled, which event was photographed and appeared on the front page of the Daily Mirror.
Education from elementary through university, and for us parents, teaching assignments, filled the next 20 years. My first job in TW came when Wegelin School of Russian Ballet needed a French O-level teacher. The students´annual ballet performance was of high quality, part of TW´s performing arts. A number of theatre, opera and orchestral productions from which we walked home in delight, are alive in every family member´s memory. My husband, however, relied on the train for his teaching job in London, his bike locked in the guard car. When there were rail strikes, early morning carpools took over.
Californians are impressed to learn that in ¨Royal Tunbridge Wells¨, a generation before climate change became a topic, Claremont School pupils drew up and delivered a protest to Weeks Department Store for having abandoned paper bags for plastic ones, ( the excuse being that rain caused the bag´s printing to stain customers´ clothes ). They are equally impressed to hear that 50 years before Covid-19 the local library sterilized return books if a reader had suffered an infectious illness.
Do events like the Council of Voluntary Services annual luncheon, the Women’s World Day of Prayer, St. Augustine´s Christmas dinner, Age Concern´s lunches, WI´s bake sales still bring members of the community together? Here I am in San Luis Obispo, CA, 11 miles from the mighty Pacific, splendid trails leading to the hills flanking the town (among them 9 extinct volcanoes), and I am dreaming of spring in Kent: snowdrops, daffodils, wood anemones, primroses, budding trees on the Common, the verges, the footpaths, blossoms in hedgerows which I pray are undisturbed by development.
While the ¨Town Crier¨ assures us that the Wellington Rocks are intact, the urban environment changes inevitably. Upon my last visit to TW, I was remorseful that Noakes was no longer there. Where else could I buy a teapot lid or pastoral designed linen tea towels? Long disappeared are the Art store and Music Centre by the train station, the Irish Linen Store on the High Street. In the Pantiles, at dusk, can you still catch a glimpse of Beau Nash at dusk?
I cherish the memories and friendships that represent Tunbridge Wells, a town to respect and love.
Your old friend,