Ware in Hertfordshire, that’s where!!
My childhood revolved around trips to Ware as it is where my grandparents lived. I have so many happy memories of seeing Grandma and Granddad, but also our extended family too. As I explained in my last post, I have a wonderful set of God-parents and all of them came from my Mum’s childhood friendships. Whilst everyone has moved away from Ware now, it does hold a special place in our hearts.
Mum and I stayed overnight at the Premier Inn as we didn’t want to risk any traffic on our way to a wedding the next day. It was a huge let down and I would not recommend anyone stay there. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. It’s basic (there was no valet, no concierge and they didn’t even have a luggage trolley!!) but clean. I just had issue with the toilet tissue being those little squares you get in a public bathroom. Not as much as I had issue with the fact the twin room actually was just a normal bed moved over to fit a cot in the corner. Thankfully I was exhausted so did sleep for a few hours. If I hadn’t been on a flight just before staying, I would have been miserable.
In the end, after going to bed at some point past midnight, I woke up at 4am with jet lag, feeling cold and feeling very fidgety. Annoyingly fidgety. I really pissed myself off, so at 5am I threw on some clothes and set out for a walk around the high street. I figured I would go look at the river and the church and then head on back to the hotel for breakfast.
As I started walking though, my subconscious took me to where I needed to go. I ended up back outside my grandparent’s house. I haven’t been really since Grandma died a few years back. I got Mum to drive by when we were up for the funeral, but I hadn’t really had an opportunity to say my goodbyes. It’s one of the perils/perks of being an expat. You don’t have to deal with things when they happen because you’re not physically there.
To get there though, I walked to the bridge in/on Amwell End. I saw the place my Grandma’s hairdressers used to be, and was disturbed to see that I was up and about before the bakery was open. I guess that the baking isn’t done on site any more, like most places.
I walked along the river where I used to walk with Granddad. I saw the swans and some signets, and felt like he was right there with me.
I crossed the river through the library because I wasn’t sure if the entrances that we used to go through nearer to their house was still open. As I walked along I stared, as I always do, at St. Mary’s church and the war memorial.
Then off I ambled towards Lower Bourne Gardens. It’s no way near as far as I remember, which was probably a really good thing. Walking past the funeral home made me catch my breath and become momentarily sad, until just around the next corner I could see the newsagents that I used to walk to with Granddad to get the papers. Well, he would walk but we would have to jog to keep up.
Then I was outside Grandma’s house. It was always Grandma’s house and Granddad’s garden. So many memories came flooding back.
I stood still and just thought for a moment. Seeing Grandma out waving when we arrived or left. Seeing Granddad mow the lawns. Seeing the lavendar that used to line the path to the front door. Seeing inside the house. Remembering really. So much love in one place that it’s really hard to describe and it’s really very hard to type because my eyes are misting up at the memories again.
I had to walk away or become overwhelmed by it all. Or, the neighbours would have been slightly concerned as to why someone was stood outside their house. It’s a neighbourhood of curtain twitchers to this day!
Off I went, through the green opposite where we used to play. It’s all been jazzed up a bit since I was a kid but those swings were the best fun… except when you discover that your little sister is much braver than you and can swing higher!
Then back into town, stopping off in the church yard. There used to be brass plates on the path which we used to do rubbings from with Sunday School. They have all gone now. I assume because they were valuable? That was a sad indication of society today. They had been there since the 1800’s, and now they are somewhere that the kids can’t see. They still have the gravestones but that’s not as exciting really.
Having time to look around the church yard was eye opening. It’s amazing how much you don’t notice as a child, and then are too busy catching up with people on the rare time (read wedding or funeral) that you are there as an adult.
Before I left I said goodbye to Grandma, Granddad, Aunty Vera and Uncle Ernest (their ashes are all interred in the grounds) and set off again.
One very interesting thing was again having time to look at the bronze statue that has been outside the church for as long as I remember. It’s a man with a shovel.
Turns out that he is “The Maltmaker”. Apparently Ware was quite famous for malting. Something to do with brewing, I think, thanks to the River Lea that runs through the middle. I never knew this. I knew it had Wickhams who were famous worldwide for supplying of bits and bobs for the railway industry. I know that because my Grandfather was a frightfully clever Precision Engineer there. But I had missed the bit about the malt. Oops.
By the time I had ambled my way back to the hotel it was time for breakfast. That was a whole giant palava due to incompetent staff. On top of that, the food was all under cooked and cold. Again, wouldn’t recommend staying at the Premier Inn.
This was probably my last trip to Ware. I can always go back and will forever know how to get there and around when I am, but since everyone has moved away and now everyone is married too, there is highly unlikely to be a reason to go back. It makes me a bit sad really, but equally the town has changed so much that in a few years, it will be unrecognisable. Little things like the pubs not sweeping up the cigarette ends at the end of a shift, so it is like you are walking through an ashtray. That would never have happened in the past. It was such a prideful little town. Aside from that one incident when the Chinese had rats, of course!!