But it was only relatively recently that I had the pleasure of meeting him.
Carole Bent, a friend of Joel’s for 18 years and latterly a close colleague facilitated the introduction. As part of their work together , Carole introduced Joel to a range of people also positively engaged in Swindon – some of whom he knew – and some previously unknown to him. The common factor being that all were taking positive actions in reference to Swindon.
Anyway, the nice upshot of all that was Joel taking an interest in this here blog and signing up to follow it – which thrilled me to death of course! I love a new blog follower of any description!
Always the lawyer, chatting with Joel felt ever so slightly like an interrogation. But it was a privilege to be so interrogated. 🙂
Last night’s event, organised by Carole at the request of Joel’s wife and daughters, constituted a wonderful opportunity for representatives of Swindon’s community organisations and businesses to pay fitting tribute to him.
Held n the UTC central atrium this was a splendid affair, in a super splendid building, in a splendid town honouring a splendid man. This man who had saved Nelson Mandela from execution was the biggest champion for and advocate of Swindon.
There’s no finer tribute to Joel than this film from Swindon’s Create Studios. He tells his story in his words and pays tribute to the Swindon people who worked for him.
My favourite bit? I‘m paraphrasing slightly: ‘Everything is good about Swindon. But I sometimes don’t think the people of Swindon realise how good it is. I want everyone to be proud of Swindon and say ‘hey – this is a good place, we’re proud to be from Swindon.’
He’s right. Everything IS good about Swindon. Well – almost everything anyway. And I can’t begin to convey the frustration I feel when I hear people knocking the place.
I like the entire thing, but in particular the last sentence: ‘There is only one thing that I will not concede and that is that might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.’
Thank goodness for the Václavs and the Joels of this world. And thank goodness too for the groups and individuals in this town that continue to strive for good causes. I’m in awe of the effort they put in. There’s too many to mention here but Swindon would be poorer without them for sure.
It was a delight to know you Joel – albeit briefly. From one Born again Swindonian to another: RIP.
It’s good to see what was – many years ago – the Wiltshire hotel and latterly The Thistle, back in use as the Thistle Express. It’s in a super fab location for sure. Literally a spit from the railway and bus stations and the town centre. The Kimmerfields car park is just across the road and only a further little spit up to Regent Circus and the Cineworld cinema and eateries up there. What you might call at the heart of things.
I have an opportunity to try the place out soon so I’ll report back on that soon. I look forward to the bottomless breakfast. It sounds good to me! In the meantime, the official press release follows to give you a feel for the place.
‘Thistle Express is aimed at the savvy, value-conscious, modern traveller, providing more choice when it comes to booking trips.
The latest addition to the next generation of Thistle hotels in Swindon is opposite the future commercial quarter, ensuring the 95-bedroom hotel is conveniently placed for both business and leisure travellers. It’s the ideal location for guests to drop their bags, head off to that wedding, get ready for their big presentation, or get some well-deserved shut-eye. For those travelling from further afield, Thistle Express Swindon is just an eight-minute walk from the main train station.
The hotel offers fast, free Wi-Fi, bottomless tea and coffee and free breakfast for all guests.
Smart TVs in every bedroom allows those staying to stream their own content, along with blackout curtains and Hypnos mattresses for a good night’s sleep. Guests can fuel up for the day with the hotel’s delicious, free buffet breakfast, offering a selection of hot food as well as lighter continental options of fresh fruit, yoghurt and pastries. And with no need to check out, Thistle Express is turning the traditional hotel experience on its head.
The unique interior concept has been beautifully executed by Faber Design who recently created the Formula 1 R&D Centre, now used as the new headquarters for a leading Formula 1 motorsport company.
Thistle Express Swindon’s General Manager, James Preece, says; “As the latest addition to the Thistle Express family, I am delighted to be a part of the team here in Swindon. We’ve got a great team lined up, all of which are local to Swindon, and we’re all excited to welcome our first guests this autumn.”
Neil Gallagher, CEO at glh hotels says, “We are very proud to be extending our new Thistle Express brand. With increasing investment going into Swindon and the surrounding area and the new shopping hub and commercial quarter opening, we’re ready to welcome guests to this new, modern hotel. We listened to our customers and responded to the demand for a value proposition with fantastic amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, which is crucial to all guests regardless of the purpose of their stay.” ‘
Photography by Brydn Webb (c)
Launch Group 37284 Thistle Express , Swindon.
Ribbon Cutting, Swindon Mayor, Maureen Penny with Neil Gallagher, CEO GLH Hotels.
Launch Group 37284 Thistle Express , Swindon.
Team with Neil Gallagher (Right) CEO GLH Hotels.
A big fan is Swindon businesswoman Julie Nicholls, who travels as far afield as Southampton and Surrey to take part in workshops and classes.
Now Julie is bringing 5Rhythms to Wiltshire, and has invited instructor Gay Murphy to run a free taster session on October 29 at Liddington Village Hall. If it’s a success, more classes could follow.
Julie, who is in her 25th year of running Body Mind Coaching, believes 5Rhythms not only makes her a better coach, but complements her own practice. Body Mind Coaching focuses on helping people lead a pain-free and stress-less life through a combination of massage, counselling and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).
“5Rythmns is perfect for people who want or need to exercise but are put off by classes, perhaps because they can’t follow the instructor, or they worry what they look like, or even because they struggle getting off the floor,” said Julie.
“With 5Rhythms, people can wear what they like – loose clothing is ideal – and they dance how they wish, with guidance from the instructor. It suits people of any age and ability. The beauty of it is that you dance your own dance, within your own comfort zone so there is no need to do anything that strains your body. There are no steps to learn and you can never get it wrong. This brings so much freedom to the body that it frees the mind.”
5Rhythms moves through five different types of music or rhythm – flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. The aim is to use movement as meditation and find inner expression. In each section the instructor invites participants to focus on an area of their body but without telling them how they should move, or even that they have to move that body part.
Julie says 5Rhythms helps participants to explore feelings and is therapeutic for the mind as well as the body.
She added: “It is a little like a dance-based version of how I help my clients, by helping heal their mind and their bodies. “
It’s all indoors so it’s a lovely shopping experience whatever the weather. If you’re visiting with young children it boasts a brilliant play area – and there’s a mini land train, the Hooter Express.
The shops include: Hobbs, Jigsaw, Reiss and the White Company to name but a handful. Find out more about the brands available at Swindon’s outlet village here, on the McArthur Glen website.
The key, I find, is to go there on a regular basis as you never know when you’ll find a great bargain and the stock changes on a regular basis. There’s a great choice of restaurants and it’s easy to spend the day there.
The terrace of Heelis looking towards the Outlet Centre
NB: The outlet centre is linked to the town centre by a tunnel. It used to be used by the railway workers leaving their homes in the railway village to get to the works.
It’s only a few minutes’ walk from the outlet to the town centre via the tunnel. So, if you’ve the time, the inclination and the energy it’s easy enough to do both. Plus, the tunnel boasts some rather cool art/light picture/sculptures of railway workers across the years.
2. THE ORBITAL SHOPPING PARK
The Orbital in north Swindon is another favourite shopping spot for me. Next, New Look, Marks & Spencer and Outfit all have a presence here.They are large stores so you tend to find great choice in each of them. The Orbital also contains one of the largest Asda Walmarts in Europe. The George at this Asda is huge so there’s always a high chance of grabbing a bargain.
Once again, it’s a pleasant shopping experience and parking is free.
3. GREENBRIDGE RETAIL PARK
This is another firm favourite of mine. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I love all things Laura Ashley and this is where you will find Swindon’s Laura Ashley as well as a huge Home Sense, Boots and Matalan. I tend to visit for homeware but can’t resist popping into Matalan to make sure I’m not missing out! Again, parking is ample and free.
THE TOWN CENTRE
This is last on the list for Swindon as it’s my least favourite place to shop. However, once you do venture into the town centre and ignore the layout, the parking fees and the lack of ambiance, the shops are more than adequate!
There’s a fab and huge H&M opposite an even larger Debenhams. The River Island is a pleasure to shop in and the New Look and Primark are also huge. I keep mentioning the size of the stores because it means that they have a wide range of stock (something you of course can’t have in smaller branches). It does mean you’re spoilt for choice.
By now I hope you’re getting the point! Swindon is a fab location for shopping. The combined retail offerings of the town are jolly good! But what if you want to spread your wings a little and go out and about for your retail therapy?
Out and about
The beauty of Swindon is that it is also close to so many other great places to shop. Marlborough is a favourite for me.
Marlborough is a beautiful, historic market town with boutique shops as well as the likes of Joules, Mint Velvet, Monsoon and Phase Eight to name but a few.
I LOVE a day out in Marlborough broken up by the obligatory cream tea. And now that Rick Stein has opened a restaurant there it’s a firm favourite for me as a location to shop – not that I’m food driven at all!.
This McArthur Glen set shopping location boasts over 130 boutique outlets including All Saints, Burberry, Gucci and Jimmy Choo. I’m drooling already! So, if you want a real treat, this is the place to go and grab yourself a designer bargain. It’s also a great place to people watch!
BATH, CRIBBS CAUSEWAY & CABOT CIRCUS (both Bristol), THE ORACLE (Reading), OXFORD & LONDON
With Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Reading and London not much more than a stone’s throw away you’re never far from a wonderful shopping experience when you live in Swindon. In fact, you’re spoilt for choice. I often have to flip a coin to decide where I’ll spend my day enjoying a little retail therapy!
It’s wonderful. I can be sitting in my conservatory and what should appear but a fox taking a little stroll round my garden. I see it often. Where I live, the side of the hill is a woodland. I am visited by all manner of wildlife. Sometimes deer can be seen wondering along the roads. They are quite at home. At dusk, it is not uncommon to enjoy a badger nuzzling the ground in search of bugs. (Luckily it hasn’t decided to dig any big holes in my garden.)
Blue tits, long-tailed tits, coal tits, goldfinches, bull finches, firecrests are among an array of feathered visitors.
For exercise, I love going for a cycle. I’ve never been keen though on tackling busy roads. Here in Swindon the cycle path network comes to the rescue. I can potter along the canal and up on to the railway cutting. My mother lives in Wroughton so I often cycle over to see her. I’ve worked out that by the time I get my car out and drive there, it’s no quicker than pedal power.
It’s a great opportunity to see more of nature. Herons, woodpeckers, swans, water voles. You can even take a leisurely trip in a canal boat if you fancy.
As I leave my house on my bike, I immediately turn down one of the little lanes that run to the canal. From there it’s very easy to get on to the old railway cutting towards Old Town. I branch off and head for Wichelstowe if I’m visiting my mum. Sometimes though, I’ll continue right through to where the old cattle market used to be and head out to Coate Water. The whole journey doesn’t touch a major road.
I can also do the same in the other direction. I can get to Waitrose by using the canal. It’s a very pleasurable way of getting the groceries.
It’s a fab article that highlights lots of super things about our town. That’s always ace to see and it deserves a share for that reason alone. It was written by Clare Wilson and you can find her on Twitter: @clarewilson86
In the article she writes about lots of things that I’ve mentioned on here in the past so it’s also a perfect opportunity to remind me – and you of some them.
I love too that she mentioned the David Murray John Tower – if only as point of navigation. I LOVE that building for all sorts of reasons. But I especially love how, when I’ve been away, and am coming home on the train that’s the first thing I see. And I know then that I’m home. In Swindon. It’s on my list of great things about Swindon for sure.
There’s much more in Clare’s article so give it a read. And thanks to her for writing it and getting it out there and for reminding us all of how surprising and super Swindon is.
There’s also much more in general. The main problem with Swindon is that there’s a plethora of fabulous stuff. And that’s no bad problem to have eh?