I can’t imagine a different way of life
“I was born and bred in Harrow but I left to join the Army when I was 15. After that I worked at Kodak for 25 years. I met Val on a walking holiday in Crete. We moved to Henley, and then to Watlington to get nearer the countryside, and be near the M40. The town didn’t interest us, it was a period of depression, with shops closing down, and seemed quite a boring place.
I could never live in a place and not be involved in it. I joined the British Legion, and met people through being a postman, and through Val’s art classes. I’m still heavily involved in the British Legion, it’s going through quite a transition at the moment. We’ve got 170 members but it’s difficult to get people to do things – we can’t run the fete this year as the people who were doing it, the good old die hards, many of them are in their 70s and 80s now. It would take more people to come forward.
I run the raffle which is a big part of the fund raising effort by the Watlington British Legion. I’ve also written a book about the Watlington War Memorial, which can be seen in the Library. There’s only one person on the Memorial who still has relatives in Watlington. There’s also a relationship between the War Memorial and some of the graves in the churchyard. I took some little cub scouts round to find all the graves, and gave a little talk about each one. I’m committed to that kind of thing in town.
I’ve also got an allotment. We got the allotment before the house! In those days there were only about 5 of the 45 allotments that were workable. I got the worst one, as I like a challenge. At that time, allotments were at an all time low in popularity. What we did was make the allotments much smaller to make it easier for people to take them on. I built my own greenhouse and keep chickens. It’s wonderful growing your own veg. It’s not cheap, but it’s the fun of seeing them grow – that’s what it’s all about. It’s nice and quiet, and I’ll listen to radio 4 on the radio. I take my binoculars – we’ve got red kites but also kestrels, sparrow hawks and green woodpeckers as well as all the songbirds. The green woodpecker has a lovely chatter as it flies over the allotments.
Since I’ve been here, Watlington has changed. It’s shown itself to be more than I thought it was. Perhaps the organisations were always there but it took a while to find them. Also, it’s improved its image. It’s a thriving country market town with lots to do. You can’t be bored here. I can’t imagine a different way of life now.”