I really love where I live.
I sat down recently and thought I would write a list of all the things I like about Royal Leamington Spa, the town where I live with Mr A. The following list came out just like this, in no particular order. All of it within 20 minutes walk from our house.
- Jephson Gardens and the Pump Room Gardens: the wonderful green spaces that run alongside the river all through town.
- The river Leam itself: the weir, the canoe club and the annual races. The only downside is that the river has flooded on a couple of occasions, filling our cellar during the worst inundation. That was before we lived here, in April 1998.
- The bowling greens and the bowlers, especially during the National Championships when they close our road to traffic.
- Victoria Park, with its tennis courts, paddling pool, play area and skateboard park. They even have cycling, running and walking races there.
- Pubs: The Cricketers (of course), The Star and Garter and The Red House in order of distance from our front door. We don't see the Star and Garter or the Red House much nowadays.
- Newbold Comyn, which is a relatively wild area with a golf course as well. There's an play area with stuff that's suitable for older children (i.e. me), and a hill, which is the only high ground around the town. There's also the sports centre and swimming pool, which I have only been inside once, but it's nice to know it's there should I need it. It's where we played rounders when I used to organise the badminton club summer picnic.
- The Apollo cinema and Royal Spa Centre - two music and film venues within walking distance. I should include Kellys, even though we don't go there any more, for having the most unconventional manager and clientele. And not quite walking distance, but definitely in cycling distance: Warwick Arts Centre.
- The annual Leamington Peace Festival, which is the oldest of its kind, or something. Taking place over a weekend in a couple of weeks' time, it's free to all, and has all sorts of strange stalls and services as well as live music. Not so much fun when it rains. It usually rains.
- Lansdowne Crescent and Lansdowne Circle: a crescent and a small cul-de-sac in the Regency style with beautiful houses and gardens. Lovely architecture.
- The glorious gothic town hall and nearby statue of Queen Victoria, who awarded the town its 'Royal' status. Her statue is an inch or two off-centre on its plinth, due to a WWII bomb that fell a bit too close and made her jump.
- Holly Walk: a wide avenue bordered by trees that is a slightly longer but very pleasant walk into town. A new sushi bar is advertised on this road - I have warned Lola II that I might not need to visit her any more if I can buy sushi in my home town...
- Our own house, garage and garden. It's perfect. If only we could maintain it in the order it deserves. I have a few jobs to do over the summer.
- Our neighbours: Mr A knows nearly everyone in the three roads that form our little enclave, because he is so often in the garage and people stop to chat.
- The mainline station that has direct trains to London, Oxford, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland. Chiltern Railways runs between London and Birmingham, and is one of the nicest train companies in Britain, I'd say.
- The town's restaurants, especially Eleven, Casa Valle, Wilde's, Paprika Club, Five Rivers, Oscar's and the Thai Elephant. I'd include the Saxon Mill and the White Lion but they aren't within walking distance, although we did walk to the Saxon Mill along the canal once.
- Mill Road footbridge over the weir, which used to be our route into town from our rented flat on Leam Terrace when we first moved to Leamington. I really miss that walk over the bridge and through the park into town.
- Clarke's greengrocer shop, and the Regency fishmonger's shop. Clarke's is an amazing place, with vegetables and other goods in racks, on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, on the walls, outside and everywhere else you look. It's all fresh, often unusual, and I'm so glad I decided to forgo the out of town supermarket in favour of local shopping where possible.
- T&H motors, despite the car seat fiasco earlier this year. They know our names, and are always as helpful and friendly as can be.
- Local shops, both independent and national: especially Waterstones, Bravissimo, and all the art shops that seem to have migrated here, the organic food shop where I get olives and the Asian supermarket for noodles and pickles. Even though I don't do shopping, I love the fact that I could walk around town and find almost anything I want. The two shops I actually used to go into have now both closed: Hawskhead and Fopp. I wonder if it was my fault.
- The Pump Room Library: I love a library, and this one is even open on Sundays. The building houses an exhibition about the baths that used to be there, an art gallery and a café.
After I'd finished that list, I thought I try and think of things that weren't so good about living here. The only one I came up with, and it's pretty pathetic, is that we are a long way from the sea, in every direction. About as far from the sea as it is possible to be on this island. That's not too bad. We're very lucky.