25 years ago The Bartram’s packed up the flat at 56 Girtin Road in Bushey near Watford, Hertfordshire, and headed for Wales and the county of Powys.
I don’t know the exact date but it was early in May 1988 that we moved from Bushey to Cwrt-y-Gollen near Crickhowell, and even nearer to Glangrwyney.
I was 11 years old, short, shy, had a bad haircut and would occasionally swear to the amusement of others…not a great deal has changed in the intervening years.
When we left I was in two minds; I really liked the street we lived on and the area we lived in. There were a series of streets shaped in a large triangle, upon which blocks of flats stood. We had a large playing field and a park all within a stones throw.
It felt like a safe place to be, playing football on the field, riding bikes around the place and generally having a fun time with my friends. I loved being at Bournehall Primary school; I achieved my cycling proficiency there, performed in plays and believe it or not, I was a bit of a class clown. Always ready to do something silly for the amusement of my classmates.
The reason I didn’t mind leaving, and the main source of me being the quiet person I am today, is that I was bullied quite badly at my secondary school; Bushey Meads Comprehensive. A school famous for two former pupils; a certain duo who formed Wham!
Of the 8 months I spent there, I was bullied nearly everyday I attended, both mentally and physically, including the age old lunch money thievery.
For about 2 months in that 8 month period, I would walk halfway to school and turn back around, knowing that both Mum & Dad would be well on their way to work. I would hang out all day and leave just before Mum got home, so that I could also ‘arrive home’ on time. The school was run so badly that Mum even attended a Parents Evening and was told I was doing really well! Anyway I’ve delved into my psyche far too much recently, so let’s leave it at that.This is me aged about 10. So short & innocent. I never stood a chance against the bullies! The photo was taken by the only other Watford FC fan I know, James Giblette. Who if he reads this, will also recognise the places below, as he lived in a flat above ours.
This is the block that we lived in. Firstly in the flat bottom left and then we moved for reasons unknown to me, to the flat bottom right. We had also lived in this area a few years previously, in a block that was situated behind where I took this picture from. The white car belonged to my Dad and was a Daihatsu Charade. My friends and I would regularly climb onto the low roof in the middle of the picture and then climb up the first two levels of the small squares you can see.
I went back about 7 years ago to have a wander down memory lane and not much had changed, just some cosmetic things. That isn’t the case anymore though. The whole area has been redeveloped, I suspect it was sold off to a developer who did what developers do.
I was of course hesitant about moving to Wales..because it was full of Welsh people and I’d have to speak the lingo! Of course that wasn’t quite the case. We arrived in Wales and immediately bought Barbour Jackets that were all the rage back then, mine was blue.
This is 74 Gills Avenue at Cwrt-y-Gollen, a few years later humongous porches were built to cover the fronts of every house along the street, which were handy for jumping onto from out of bedroom windows, but seemed to serve no real purpose. From the left: Shed/storage, bin area, front door, kitchen window!Of course time marches on and another of my homes has been knocked down and redeveloped. The street was flattened and where there was once a straight road, there is now a bendy one, so I think this is roughly where #74 stood!
This was another place I liked living, although I was very quiet, not so much when roaming the estate but definitely at school. I mixed with a small bunch but I never socialised with them or any of my class mates out of school hours, something that hampered me as I got older.
I’m quite bad at remembering names but I know I was dropped in to Mr Simms class. My friends from that class included: Julian, William, Stephen & Nigel (surnames left out ‘cos I can’t remember them all!) I kept away from the girls (nothing changes – I was scared back then too) but I had some proper serious crushes on a few, I’ve even friend-ed a few on Facebook over the years just to see how their lives turned out (they’re not all on my friend list now, in case anyone looks).
We moved to Brecon in August of 1997; the summer of Speed 2 & Lost World:Jurassic Park. I know that as I was suddenly in a town with a cinema! I think I went several times a week for months until the novelty wore off.
For the three Bartram’s that moved to Wales, it has proved to be our home from that day forward (not to say that wont change though). It’s also the place where we have all spent the majority of our lives; Mum and Dad both left their respective homes around 17/18 then moved around, only staying in one place for a few years before moving on.
The title of this post is ‘so…am I Welsh now?’ So after 25 years and 70% of my life in one country, am I?
Well the obvious answer is no, of course not, I’m English, a Yorkshireman no less, and will be forevermore, especially on Rugby International days.
That said wherever I end up, Wales will always be the place I call my home.
All my good memories are here.
My friends are here.
My Mum is here.
And there really aren’t many places that are as lovely as this country; both for people and scenery.
Here’s to the next 25 years!!