Frome, Somerset, UK
By Janet & John Walton
We spent some time pondering the topic where we live? Does this include where we call home or just where we live and are they the same thing or not? You can live somewhere and know nothing about the place venturing out to work in the morning, closing door at night to be seen in morning once again. Is this where we live or just survive?
I look at the lives of my husband, John, and I. We came from similar backgrounds but different cities, it was the constant movement that brought us together and has been an integral part of our lives. Have we been searching for a home or did we carry it with us?
For my part, as a child my parents moved every few years until I was about 8 years old then we stayed put for my primary school days. At 13 years life on the move seemed the norm with house moves, city moves until one day whilst living in Durban I met my husband. I thought married life would be different and more settled.
No way Jose, life had other ideas. 21 house moves over roughly 30 years including a country move from South Africa to Britain. Home always seemed to be in the boxes we packed and unpacked. Many times boxes remained unpacked from move to move. I suppose the not letting go of ‘stuff’ was a way of having something permanent.
Frome has easy access to London, 21 minutes on the A1, or 20 minutes via Wharncliffe Rd. The long way round is A303 & M3, a whoping 2hrs 41 mins. I kid you not. That would be the A1 in Jamaica, (and Little London), or Wharncliffe Road, Ontario, Canada. We have chosen to live in Somerset United Kingdom.
Saying that, with our history it very well could have been any of them. Maybe we have settled but the town has not and that is why it suites us.
Our arrival in Frome was quite by chance. Living in Essex and wanting to move to the South West, rental properties would not wait for us to view them on weekends but would vanish once listed.
So we bit the bullet and took a chance choosing a likely looking property, we took it. Frome it was.
The agent was not keen as six month rental unseen is very unusual he cautiously said. Even hinting that a view of the property was basically a requirement to rent. After lots of soothing and negotiating, the offer of six months’ rent in advance sealed the deal. Cash in hand a negotiating tactic well understood by us South Africans, or Saffers as I believe we are now called. We needed to also live in temporary accommodation for a month, not, well received by Jones, a cat from Fair Isle that had joined us during our stay in Shetland.
We landed in Frome in August 2012.
And we loved it!
We loved it from the word go. We were fortunate to be close to town, easily able to walk and explore. The traumatised cat settled quickly spending hours out doing cat things and the dust settled. We were then lured into the countryside close to Frome giving into a dream to live in the country and soon realised our mistake.
Frome was where we were happiest. So, back to where we now live, where we have made a home, made friends and found space to breath. The ‘boxes’ are slowly being unpacked. Some habits die hard.
Frome as we know it, vibrant, changing and full of creative forward thinking people is apparently quite new. 10-15 years ago it was tipping into the doldrums with low employment and all that goes with it. But the town council took action and all have benefitted.
Today we have a town council made up entirely with independent councillors which is wonderfully free of politics and totally focused on Frome and what benefits its inhabitants. They work hard to keep independent shops alive so you will find all manner of enticing edifices luring you in to discover what they have on offer. Many hours have been spent investigating always discovering something you didn’t realise you needed.
Why we love Frome
What we love most about Frome are its people both local and incomers like us who have all been so welcoming and if inclined you could go out every night; to see live music, eat delicious and varied food, attend poetry and comedy evenings. The list goes on and on. Much like Celine Deon.
Pub quiz’s have provided many laughs as our lack of knowledge is highlighted each month but we return determined to be better the next time, thankfully joined by our new friends who are invaluable. Watch out ‘The Frome Flings’ are headed your way.
It is those friends who add the final layer to our home the place where we live.
John did not move as much as I did as a child, but once he turned sixteen his family sold their house in Hillary, Kwa-Zulu Natal and tried a flat in Durban, then a house in Pinetown and finally a flat in Glenwood. All names I am sure well known to Saffas.
When I met John he was now living in Johannesburg and I, a Joburg girl, was training in Durban. However we were fated to meet and did so through a mutual friend.
Over the years as we have travelled from Durban to Johannesburg, Beaconsfield UK to Shetland with Hertfordshire in between. Then back down to Essex and eventually Frome.
The places we have lived, those ones that are home, those places that leave in indelible imprint on your being are always filled with people.
Some of those places we can barely remember whilst others are referred to again and again. The compassion and community of the Shetlanders, (John met four people from Durban there, a cop from the Berea, a diver from Umbilo and a couple on the ferry), the evenings in the pub and forge at Much Hadham.
I could go on and all those memories include wonderful people who touch you in many ways be it a once off encounter or many hours spent together. They are so important to where we live, neither of us realised this until finding ourselves in Frome. Making a home amongst people we are grateful to call friends. Frome is full of life, ideas, with a drive to support everyone and anyone. We are so at home in Frome there are no plans to pack our bags and move on again.
John, talking to a fellow writer in Frome mentioned that he had yet to discover his ‘Tribe’, never having felt that he belonged anywhere.
She said, you have, The Tribe of Creatives.
Frome our Home.