Veronica and I are the ‘newcomers’ in the former York Terrace (now only a small part of the rather more boring St George’s Road), having arrived at Hanover House (www.hanoverhouse.org) in January 2007. It is quite evident that the turnover of permanent residents is quite slow as the houses are all of a superior quality, beautifully designed and built and located in the superb central Cheltenham Bayshill location. A few have been turned into flats in the relatively distant past, and there is obviously a faster turnover of the flat population, but the family houses only rarely come onto the market.
Of the family houses, there is a large block in the centre of the Terrace, starting from the former No 2 York Terrace and continuing up to about No 10 with only one house converted to flats in that sequence. The family from No 2, once their girls had left home moved elsewhere but retained ownership of the house and let it out, but the rest of us are full-time occupiers, with a wide range of backgrounds, interests, experience and occupations between us to help make an excellent pot-pourri of conversation when we meet up. Since our arrival we have made good friends of the other residents and a fair degree of mutual back-scratching goes on – not to mention the odd encounter in peculiar circumstances – but I won’t dwell on any of those!
There has been a number of social gatherings – many instigated and organised by Veronica - but the latest, regretfully, was to say farewell to our very good neighbours Robert and Liz from next door at No 3 York Terrace, who move to a pasture (or at least house) new - and as yet not fully decided – in the near future. With a downsizing of family, as their daughter now lives and works in London, they had accordingly decided to relocate to something more appropriate, but will be staying relatively close-by in Cheltenham, possibly in the very friendly Bath Road community area. Veronica and I will miss Robert’s cheery banter and concierge and parking attendant services and Liz’s help in disposing of feathered ‘casualties’ and providing an emergency breakfast service (on the occasion when Veronica broke her wrist).
The farewell session started as a very informal drink of something sparkling or beer, and nibbles in our drawing and dining rooms (which have in part been ‘morphed’ from No 3, as we seem to have acquired a range of Robert and Liz’s furniture over the years), but turned into a very animated and sociable session, culminating shortly before midnight. Conversation had been lively and on the whole erudite, with subjects ranging from local matters (refuse collection), to careers, the economy, history and archaelogy, the state of Russia and the automotive industry, euthanesia, the death penalty, education and the future of exams, and a wide range of other subjects. Hannah from No 5 has just completed her GCSEs at Pate’s Grammar School and was bombarded with advice about future courses of action to take, ranging from her father’s suggestions about the law, Robert’s about business and my own interjection about the armed forces (to maximise on free further education, adventure training, sport, excitement and excellent management training) but I think it might have landed on deaf ears. Probably the most constructive part of this conversation came later when Julie, our Cambridge-educated Ladies’ College Head of History, offered Hannah career and option advice whenever she wanted it. (Just as well she’s not Hannah’s parent – who listens to them?) Further discussion followed about our local baby seagull (the subject of a previous blog), which I had called ‘Jonathan’ but Hannah insists is ‘Edna’. It’s clear that neither of us is entirely clear on its gender!
Jonathan/Edna seems to have taken up local residence and managed to get upstairs in No 5 before being ejected, was later seen ‘checking’ the front doors on the day after I pushed him/her/it onto the path beside the (recently) fast-flowing river Chelt, and has been seen regularly in the park behind the houses, totally tame (unfortunately) and without any overseeing parents in view. The latter state was demonstrated when our Golden Retriever Sophie, having her daily constitutional in the park, spotted the large but immature gull pecking under the park’s bushes, and thinking this another squirrel-type playmate, rushed pell-mell at it. However the gull didn’t even blink and carried on as though the dog didn’t exist. Sophie, taken by surprise, swerved round it and carried on her way. Later on during the drinks session however, it became evident that there wasn’t universal support for the gull; our local NHS senior nurse evincing a far-from-humane solution for gull disposal – mostly because as a shift-worker there is nothing worse than a flock of squawking seagulls wheeling around your house from dawn onwards when you’re trying to catch up on some sleep!
At last as the very pleasant evening drew to a close, most of those who had to work the next day faded out, and as they emerged from the house (with no more than a few yards to meander home), noted that the first rain of the day was falling – and it was St Swithun’s Day! This means that, according to the tradition/superstition, it will rain every day for 30 days. Hopefully it’s just possible that this could be retrospective or might work in reverse, as it seems to have rained every day for the previous 30 days and the forecast indicates that things might actually improve towards the end of the week. But we won’t hold our collective breaths. The weather has certainly been tough on the lovely Danish guests who are staying with us for the beginning and conclusion of a cycling holiday around the Cotswolds – the terrain a bit different from that found in Denmark, linked with the rain and an initial glitch with delivery of bicycles…. A noisy drinks party downstairs probably didn’t help much either, but hopefully they were far enough up the house in the Rossetti Room not to be bothered too much.
Robert and Liz, as was quite correct, were the last to leave, coincidentally at about the same time as No 5′s Andrew, who rather cheekily suggested that Robert returns to keep our communal hedge trim, which he has voluntarily maintained as a regular, very community-spirited activity over the years that he’s had the privilege of being a York Terrace resident. Later we heard that Liz had asked Robert why they were leaving as they had such lovely neighbours? At worst though, they won’t be more than about a mile away and so will be able to visit as much as they like. They’ll both be very welcome…