Today, May 11th, is the first ever Somerset Day. Somerset Day has been established to celebrate everything that is wonderful about Somerset; it’s not just that place you drive through on your way to Cornwall you know.
I have lived in Somerset since I was eight years old, aside from my brief fling with Bristol, in a total of 18 different houses. Even though I loved living in Bristol, and had dreamt about it for years, I still felt nostalgic for what I consider my home county. What’s not to love about a country that includes historic cities like Bath, iconic towns such as Glastonbury, beautiful countryside and coastline?
For me though, the things I love about Somerset are more personal, like the drive over the hills between Taunton and Bridgwater. I must have made the journey hundreds of times and yet it still has something special about it. Every single time I drive it I think of my Gran, driving every Saturday morning from her home in Bridgwater to go to Taunton. She would visit the library, (she loved crime fiction) and Marks & Spencer, (she always had a little stack of their rich tea fingers in the morning), before going for coffee in the County Stores. She’d then drive back across the hills, stopping on the way at Hawkridge reservoir for a while to look at the view.
My Gran died over ten years ago now but I do miss her often. We spent a lot of time with her but I still feel guilty about the time I bumped into her in Taunton one Saturday morning, outside Clintons, when she was on her way to the County Stores. She had her library books already and asked me if I wanted to go and join her for her coffee. I must have been about 20, and would have had a small Bee with me, and when you’re 20, having coffee with your Gran isn’t always the top of your list, so I made my excuses and went about my shopping. It’s silly I know, but I still feel bad about that, and I hope she knows that if I bumped into her now I would definitely stop for coffee.
Slightly melancholy story aside, there are lots of other things I love about Somerset, so to celebrate Somerset Day, here are some of them:
- Both of my children were conceived and born here, in Musgrove Park Hospital. (The birth bit, not the conception, I don’t have some weird hospital fetish).
- I went to school here, and college, and even the first year of my degree course was done at Bridgwater College. I basically did all of my growing up here – good bits and bad – I don’t really remember living anywhere else as a child.
- Fair and carnival, obviously.
- I met my boyfriend here. (Ahhh!)
- I have roots here. Both my parents were born in Somerset and all of my grandparents died here. My Grandma and Grandad built their own house in Bridgwater back in around 1951 and they lived in it for the rest of their lives, until a few years ago.
- All of my memories of my sister Annabel are Somerset based; all of the games we played, tunnels we made under beds, the time we turned our bunk beds into a slide – it’s all in Somerset.
- I was living in Somerset when I quit full time employment and decided I was going to work for myself. It was the WHSmiths in Bridgwater that I visited to copy down the email addresses of hundreds of magazine editors, so I could tell them I was a writer now and to ask them what they would like me to write.
- I made all of my best friends in Somerset, picking them up along the way in school, college and then later at breastfeeding group and in work. Like my friend Jo, who I did A-levels with. My oldest friend Nicky and I liked the look of her when we started college so just plonked ourselves down next to her in our first lesson. “Do you want to be our friend?” we asked. “Sure,” she said. And the rest is history.
- The cottage industries and the people who are a little on the eccentric side – have you ever been to the Bakelite Museum in Williton? I rest my case.
- I learnt to drive here, practising my 3 point turns on the wide roads around the back of Asda in Taunton.
- I had my first kiss here – behind a bush in the playground when I was eight, with two friends keeping guard.
- Waking up to weird and wonderful stories from around the county on BBC Somerset and the top class radio journalism that is Ben McGrail.
What do you love about Somerset?