If you’ve been paying attention at all listeners, you’ll have noticed that, over the last few months I’ve shared stories from friends and clients that I felt fitted with the notion of Switch on to Swindon. I had every intention of doling a round-up at the back end of last year but never got round to it. So, seeing this article from the Swindon Advertiser on social media kicked me into action. Just about a whole year has gone by since the SOT campaign launched. Yikes! Happy anniversary SOT! Pop the corks!
2017 has been a busy old year for me. With personal, blogging and business stuff via AA Editorial Services. The high point for me came late in the year with a contact, via this blog, from a Glocs based publishing house. The upshot of all that being I now have a commission to write a book about Swindon. Double yikes!
Anyway, simply so they’re all in one place, and starting with my own (and why not?!) are some SOT stories. Some of them, like myself, are SOT ambassadors. But all of them have positive things to say about our fabulous town.
And finally a couple from the Switch on to Swindon website. David Bent – because he’s a friend and I can. But also because I like what he says. Below is the strapline from his SOT story. I like that because it is. Swindon IS surprising and has so much going on. He’s not wrong!
Catherine makes lovely jewellery, which to some extent she can tailor to you – your wrist size, the type of fastener you prefer – that sort of thing. Her contact details are on her Facebook page – link above. These plaited bracelets are among my faves of her work:
Anyway, like so, so many people, Catherine pitched up in Swindon for economic reasons.
Finding self and community in Swindon – and a business to boot!
Like so many others before and after me, I came to Swindon for economic reasons.
At the end of 2000 I left my home town of Northampton to relocate to Swindon as my partner had got a promotion here.
There was some trepidation in this move as I can’t say Swindon as a town had received great recommendations from colleagues. Indeed, they were pretty negative about it.
I remember the first time I took a wander in the town centre and felt that I definitely didn’t want to move here. Yet somehow when the job offer came in and I found myself saying “yes”. Within a month or two we were selecting a new home on the Taw Hill estate. This was in the days before the opening of the Orbital Centre and the Thamesdown Avenue road.
In the main those days revolved around my workplace. I made friends, including some native Swindonians all of whom proved welcoming and friendly.
After a while we moved to Devizes for a couple of years. But then found that we were travelling back to Swindon so much for shopping and socialising that it made sense to return. After doing the rounds of showhomes we plumped for a house in Haydon End. We were the first people on the building site to move in.
We had children and it was when they were small that I became more aware of my need for local community. So I joined a baby and mum music group at Bath Methodist Church in Old Town.
A positive recollection I have of Swindon’s people revolves around an incident in Boswell’s café with my baby girl. She was sick, not only all over the floor but all over herself as well. Not being the most organised of mums I hadn’t got a change of clothes for her. To cut a long story short a fellow diner disappeared and returned with a new top for my baby. She refused payment from me. What a wonderful act of random kindness that was.
Lydiard Park is a fantastic place to go with children. I have loads of happy memories of times there. In particular, my daughter’s 1st birthday when a group of us mums and my mum had a wonderful afternoon playing with the kids on in front of house.
Around this time, the friend I’d met at the music club asked me to be God Mother to her little boy. Being asked was such an honour. Although I did feel a little coy about the fact that outside of Midnight Services, I hadn’t been to church in years. The Christening was at St Saviour’s in Old Town. It’s s a beautiful church with an interesting history to it.
John Betjeman, once said of it: “I would sooner be on my knees within the wooden walls of St Saviour’s than leaning elegantly forward in a cushioned pew in an Oxford college Chapel.”
This event proved to be turning point for me. I felt something spiritual – or at least felt I’d come home. I knew then that I wanted the church to be part of my life.
Twist and turns
Life took a further twist when I left my banking career in 2013. I’d worked for the company for seventeen years. But now, with two small children, I craved a meaningful way of life with a more equal work/life balance.
I felt a drive to do something more meaningful to me – that meant something creative.
The great thing about being in Swindon is the community of like-minded businesses women I’ve been able to connect with.
I’m a regular attender at ‘Ladies who Latte’ – a free and supportive networking group. The friendships formed at this and other groups have been invaluable.
In 2013, life took another turn with the unexpected death of my mum.
Around this time, getting to St Saviour’s to worship proved too much with two small children and I’d decided on a move to St John’s in Haydon End. The homegroup and Sunday school were super welcoming and gave much-needed succour at a difficult time.
What I like about St John’s is its community involvement. It offers practical services such as the rock café on Fridays and a pram club on Mondays. There’s a craft club to that I run together with another lady.
For me the church is more than a building and a place of worship. It’s a community and it’s important that it’s open to people.
I have over the last few years developed my passion for beaded jewellery. I’m still in the process of working out which way to take my business, but one regular feature of my calendar is a jewellery evening at Stanton House Hotel held in November. I have a collection of jewellery for sale, but the evening is as much about being social as it is about shopping.
But I’ve now had a chance to spend a night there so can share my impressions of the Thistle Express Swindon with you. And they are favourable!
I think the thing that impressed me most – or at least impressed me a great deal – was the free Wi-Fi. Now before you shrug your shoulders and say ‘Oh, big deal, free Wi-Fi is everywhere now’ let me clarify. This is free Wi-Fi that you can connect your device straight to. No need to register. No need to have to give your name, DOB, marital status, bra size and inside leg measurement. And even then every single time you want to use it you have to log on and accept terms and conditions. GWR, Southwest trains and Thamesdown Transport take note.
I’ve only experienced easy access Wi-Fi like this sur le continent so well done Thistle! Market research told them that people wanted this and they’ve listened.
Now – my room.
It had everything you could need: iron and ironing board, TV, safe, plenty of storage, a desk/dressing table – you get the idea. There was lots of versatile lighting and – lots of easy to access sockets. I’ve stayed in hotels where there’s been a dearth of sockets and what there was has been well hidden. So good work there. One wee niggle: I was disappointed there was no kettle and hospitality tray in the room. I do love a coffee before I do ANYTHING. Still, I guess if you’re that desperate for a cuppa you could chuck on a robe, get in the lift and grab one from the hot drink station near reception and in the eating area.
That quibble aside my room was what you’d expect: smart, modern, comfortable. The bed was super comfortable and dressed with only one cushion. Hurrah! I’m not a fan of this trend for piling the bed up with tons of cushions. Where do you put the blasted things when it’s sleep time? On the floor probably – where outside shoes have been. Yuk.
I didn’t actually have the best night’s sleep but that was to do with too much red wine that evening and no reflection on the room or comfort of the bed!
What there is downstairs is ample long/counter with sockets space for plugging in your devices. You don’t have to be a guest to go in for breakfast or coffee. The breakfast is included in your rate if you’re a guest. If you’re coming in off the street it’s round £9 including tea/coffee – a decent deal I reckon. And a coffee is £1.50.
Pleasingly it’s neither Starmucks nor Costa Lotta and it’s okay. I take my coffee black and find it hard to get a reasonable black Americano. This was. I’m not talking Brazilian beans crushed between a maiden’s thighs here – but a drinkable coffee (I had two so it can’t be that bad) at a sensible price point. I’ll definitely bear this place in mind next time I need a meeting with a client where we need Wi-Fi and a coffee that doesn’t require a small mortgage. It’s comfortable enough and it does the job.
The Bottomless Breakfast
I didn’t plan this trip at all well. The night I stayed I’d been out for dinner and eaten a mound of antipasto and pasta. Ergo I wasn’t hungry enough the next morning to take full advantage of the breakfast. I did though have some scrambled eggs and they were rather tasty actually. Suffice it to say there’s cereals, fruit and yoghurt and pastries. Water and juice and all the coffee and tea you can drink. You serve yourself with that from the drink station.
So all things considered I’d recommend this place for business accommodation and for a casual business meeting. I won’t lie – it’s nice to have an alternative to the Jury’s Inn. Not that there’s anything wrong with that place. Far from it – it’s comfy and nice. But it’s the ubiquitous Costa coffee. I’m fed up with it.
And this place has easy-peasy Wi-Fi. And it’s dead handy for Debenhams! That’s a big thumbs up from me!
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. “
Gosh, September is here and autumn is now fast approaching. So here’s a nice opportunity to share a few lines and photographs from Odile Motte that are a perfect evocation of long, sultry summer evenings from earlier this year. Particularly on days like today when it’s raining cats and dogs out there.
‘It is 9 pm on Sunday. Such a lovely warm evening, following a lovely warm sunny day. Far too nice to be inside. Time for a walk around Old Town.
Two minutes from my front door and I am in The Lawn. So pleasant and quiet at this time of night. The birds are still singing. The outline of North Swindon and Stratton in the distance on one side, the silhouette of Christ Church standing peacefully on the other side as night falls.
Walking back I enjoyed the contrast of Wood Street where drinkers also enjoy the warm weather or the band playing in one of the pubs.
Pew here for a hand-turned pen with a Christ Church connection
Swindon pen-maker Simon Webb, has a well-established reputation for fashioning exquisite hand-made pens from wood connected to aspects of Swindon’s history.
The latest piece of piece of wood to enter his workshop is a section of an oak pew from Swindon’s Christ Church. Commented Simon, ‘when I heard that, as part of a renewal project, the church planned to dispose of some pews I thought at once how fabulous it would be to give part of a pew another life as a pen.’
‘Underneath the dark exterior the wood is a lovely pale brown colour with a gorgeous grain structure’ said Simon, adding that he’s already been contacted by couples who were married at Christ Church and want to own a piece of it in pen form.
Christ Church have commented on Facebook: ‘We are delighted such beautiful pens are being made from the wood of one of Christ Church’s pews.’
Simon will launch the pens at the Old Town autumn fayre at Christ Church on Saturday the 9th September.
There are three styles of pen to choose from, all made to exacting standards. The range includes a gunmetal and platinum ballpoint, a standard-sized fountain or rollerball and a large desk pen. The fountain pens come in a presentation box, complete with leather carrying case and ink cartridges. Non-pen users can enjoy a piece of Ecumenical history too because Simon is also making cufflinks from the oak.
Prices for the pens range from £60 to £160 for the large desk pen. The cufflinks are £30 a set.
Other than at September’s autumn fayre you can buy a pen, from Christ Church wood or otherwise, directly from Simon. You can contact him on his Facebook page , call him on: 07834 375628 or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org For every Christ Church pen sold, Simon will make a donation to Christ Church.
Simon’s first foray into re-writing Swindon history – as it were – came with pens made from the beloved, storm-felled, 300-year-old walnut tree in Lydiard Park. Then came the STEAM museum pens, turned from a piece of Jarrah – a foundation timber in the GWR Works. For literature and nature lovers Simon has made pens from the famous mulberry tree in the garden at the Richard Jefferies’ Museum at Coate.