Friday 4 May 2012

A cold homecoming they had of it

Back on what was for a long time home turf, we've eaten award-winning pie here at the Farmer's Boy, caught up with old (and best) friends, tutted once again over the untidy mess that our once-loved former home has become (spied on through the gate), been appalled at the shocking state of the minor roads, and been taken by local guide Mary on a tourist's tour of Ross-on-Wye on what felt to us like a bone-bitingly cold day.

Ross is a busy little market town, its central Market Hall surviving 350 years of traffic along what is now the A40 squeezing past its worn red sandstone pillars. Once, every third business was a pub, every fifth one a butcher's, each with its own slaughter-house. We sneaked into dark alleyways that we never even noticed when we lived here, were invited into a fourteenth-century almshouse which was pleasingly warm and cosy, though the living room was about the size of our bathroom back home, and walked through the cemetery behind the church, where playwright Dennis Potter is buried, and the children have a sad little section all to themselves.

There was a story about highwayman William Lester, mortally wounded as his horse bolted right through the town, another about a love-lorn and tragic young couple, and lots about benefactor John Kyrle, the Man of Ross, after whom the high school is named, where I once briefly worked, and whose students were wandering through the town at the end of lessons, one of them wearing just her uniform polo shirt. Brrr.

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