And so, some ten months after retirement I have completed fully the first DRAFT of my memoir. Why did I start out on this journey – well, I needed to ensure that when I retired I had a number of things I could focus on. And as good as it is to wander aimlessly along the cliff paths of the East Devon-Dorset coastline from our retreat on the outskirts of Lyme Regis, one also needs something to do when its “pissing down with rain”! So I write:
I have found writing, sort of “therapeutic” and have also got myself embroidered in a Local History Project. The history project focuses on the area of Bedminster Down in Bristol, and those who come from that area are often referred to as “bemmydowners”. And yes I am a true “bemmydowner” – born and bred in captivity you might say.
Currently I am focussing on the specific history of Cheddar Grove School – and the thing that links this all nicely together is the Zion Community Space, where I tend to do all my writing.
Bristol Water Head Office sits in Bridgewater Road, on Bedminster Down. A road often ridden by Highwayman in the 17-18th Century – “Stand and Deliver” and all that – or was that Adam Ant? Cheddar Grove Primary School is located in – yes, well thought out – Cheddar Grove, which is in Bedminster Down. It opened in a temporary building on October 10th 1927, with 80 registered pupils and a Miss DE Salter as its Head. It has been serving the area of Bedminster Down, and surrounding areas ever since. And finally Zion Community space used to be Zion Chapel, opened in 1863 to serve the local miners and their families. Now a Community Space that provides a host of other services to the community.
Of course the debate about what “Bemmy” Down consists of continues to capture the attention of many when being debated under the influence of alcohol. When WJ Kew built the houses that exist at the back of Bristol Water he called it “Uplands”, and by doing so put a clear dividing line between his private housing development and its nearby Council House tenanted neighbours. Uplands parents would be aghast if it was thought their children lived on “the Down” – there had to be a distinction between the two areas. The children – well they didn’t give a toss. It made no difference to us – because it was unimportant. Maps are drawn that include Uplands in the area of Bedminster Down but the name “Uplands” survives – by way of Estate Agents, using every mechanism possible to enhance the environment the property stands in. But it is not the property that defines the area it is located in – it’s the people that do that – the community.
And the community of Bedminster Down has once again shown its true colours with its recent tribute to John & Shirley Quantick, who died within four days of one another just a couple of weeks ago. They lived and raised their family on Bedminster Down. Like many other lifetime “bemmeydowners” they were popular, loved and respected.
As communities change it is worth us all remembering the values that made those communities what they are. And perhaps, somehow, in spite of all the challenges – we can keep that spirit going.