Shrewsbury is an exceptionally beautiful town. It nestles in an oxbow on the River Severn. Much of the original town centre dates back to Tudor times, and some of the shops have beautiful old wooden beams typical of the period. There is also a modern shopping precinct, and the whole town centre is easy walking. Of particular beauty is The Quarry, which is the flood plain around the river, and it is here where the annual flower show takes place. We couldn’t have wanted a nicer place to live. There was just one problem, it was miles from anywhere!
9 Garmston Road is an extended semi detached house situated on ‘Sutton Farm’ which is a 1960’s housing estate. There is a small parade of shops and a pub at the top of the road, and the whole area is very quiet. A short walk from the house is The Mere, which contains a small lake and some nice common land. At the back of the row of houses at the end of our road, was a small play area with swings, slide and a climbing frame, so there was always somewhere to take the children for a walk and a play.
We quickly made friends with our neighbour Doris, a kindly but slightly negative older lady. On our first meeting she accidentally leant on the freshly creosoted fence panel and ruined her coat, which we offered to replace. Over the road were Trish and Trevor who were also very friendly, However it was meeting Richard and Elaine Jones from Barnabas Church that made us feel at home. They had a house on the edge of The Mere, and two boys about the age of Luke and Alana, so we often met up for children’s parties or to take the children to the park.
We turned the dining room into a big playroom, as we had a big enough kitchen table for meals. We also had a small room off the kitchen which we used as a ‘proper’ dining room, complete with the round table with the wonky legs that Lawrence’s students had made in Kenya which came from our flat in Reigate. Over the last couple of years, to Donna surprise, she realised that she was truly a natural mother and threw herself into the role wholeheartedly, creating many opportunities for creative playtime with a ‘make it’ box and a dressing up box, and an ‘interest table’. With frequent trips to the mobile library, and children nearby to play with, it was a happy year for us all.
Alana obviously wanted to walk, and was never happier than when she was in her ‘walker’ and able to toddle round the house, often chased by Luke.
The one advantage that we had in moving to Shrewsbury, was that it was just over two hours to Leeds, instead of four and a half from Horsham. So we were able to see much more of Chris and Mark and Benjamin, who was fast becoming Luke’s ‘brother that he hadn’t got’. It also meant that Lawrence and Eileen could easily come and stay, and Lawrence, bless him, could come and help with DIY projects on the house.
Christmas and Birthdays
Since Benjamin’s birthday was also in December, we went up to Yorkshire for a joint birthday party. Chris and Mark suggested that we hire a clown for the party, and split the costs between us. It seemed a good idea, as it was an excellent way to occupy a dozen small boys in the middle of December, who would prefer to be outside running round and making lots of noise! It wasn’t a great success, the clown scared the children! I don’t think it was his fault, but we would have been better with an all round children’s entertainer.
At Christmas we went down to my parents in Hove. My folks had been to Shrewsbury once I think since we moved, but they hadn’t seen much of the children, particularly Alana who was only three months when we left Sussex. Looking back, I am extremely grateful that we chose to go down to Sussex for Christmas as my father died six months later.
Eaton Mascott Hall
Bob Gordon had rented Eaton Mascott Hall, a large country house in a village called Cross Houses which was about four miles away. I had a studio there at the back of the house and continued to produce graphics and displays for use on the King’s Coach. I built a little darkroom in the back of the very large utility room. I had to fight my way through the laundry hanging up to get to it, but it worked. The Kings Coach project was becoming very successful and I started working on displays in other languages for Bible Colleges in Europe who wanted to be associated with us, and had bought ‘bendy’ buses. (Two part single decker buses). I reproduced all the displays in Dutch, German which was a challenge, not speaking a word of either language.
Eaton Mascott Hall was a nice place to work, very different from the hustle and bustle of Roffey Place, and it was very quite and peaceful. I could get on with my work and come and go as I pleased. The house had a lot of grounds attached to it, which were let out to the local pheasant shooting club. Occasionally I would be given a pair of pheasant to take home, We had very little money, but could entertain with Roast Pheasant, which was very posh, except you had to pick out the shot when you ate it!