As this is a time for reflection, here’s a post that has very little to do with gardening and more to do with my new home – Bath. After five months of living here, here are 20 things I’ve learned…
1. People seem happy. They’re not in a hurry and they don’t seem stressed. In London, a minor incident or traffic infringement could turn a mild-mannered cyclist/pedestrian/driver into a foul-mouthed harpy in the blink of an eye. In Bath, people don’t seem bothered if you keep them waiting at the traffic lights/cash machine/till. Most of the time I don’t even think they’ve noticed. Drivers let you pull out/cross the road before them.
2. Strangers smile at you on the street. They chat to you at bus stops and in shops. Staff in shops and restaurants are really friendly and professional, and they remember you.
3. People I’d never met before have made me feel really welcome. They’ve given me lifts, fed my cat, dropped off books and eggs…
4. The city is the perfect size. It’s small enough to be manageable but big enough not to feel claustrophobic.
5. Everybody knows everyone else. The friend who installed my new boiler went to school with the bloke over the road. My electrician went out with my neighbour. An architect friend designed the extension of the house my vendor moved into. Etc.
6. The Christmas market makes the town centre a no-go area for locals in December. The traffic is a nightmare and everywhere is packed.
7. In cafes, they care about their tea. They tell you how long it has brewed for, and how much longer it needs.
8. Ditto coffee. Bath is the only place where I’ve had a lecture on which bean might suit my latte best.
9. There are some very good specialist shops. The owner of the independent bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, told me that Bath is a place people come to in order to realise their passions. He did exactly that himself.
10. The charity shops are amazing. There are loads of them, and they sell really good stuff.
11. The vintage market on the first and last Sunday of the month is fab. My favourite stall holder, from Bristol, reckons it’s the friendliest for miles around.
12. More places sell Farrow & Ball paints than sell milk*.
13. You can get into places (unless the Xmas market is on, obviously). They’re busy, but you can usually get a table. You don’t have to book cinema tickets three weeks in advance.
14. The local paper, the Bath Chronicle, is excellent. I’ve only been here a few months but I feel I know what’s going on. Bathonians are often surprised at how much I know about the place, and it’s all thanks to the Chronicle. I love the fact that there’s no mention of gang shootings or crack dens, just charity fun runs and moaning about the traffic.
15. The Bath accent is lovely. The best word to say in a West Country way is ‘pervert’. (There’s an entirely innocent explanation for how I know this, believe me.)
16. You’re a bit of a freak if you don’t have a car. I don’t have one yet and I’m not sure I want one. Parking is a bit of a nightmare, and it’s expensive. And then there’s the hill starts… I’m thinking of getting an electric bike.
17. The buses are crazily expensive. But the driver often waits if you’re a few seconds late, and lets elderly people sit down before pulling out. Everyone thanks the driver when they get off.
18. First Great Western trains to and from London are exorbitant at peak times and barely affordable the rest of the time. You can’t travel when you want to, but when you can afford to. The train to Bristol is permanently delayed.
19. You can see green hills from wherever you are. You can walk directly into countryside from the town. I don’t think the novelty of this will ever wear off.
20. People from Bath don’t really understand why I chose to move here. They like their city, but maybe they don’t appreciate just how great it is. Moving here is the best thing I ever did, for most of the reasons above and many, many more.
Happy New Year!
*Possibly not true.