It’s changed a bit! When I came to work at what was then Pickering and Pickering in 1978, fresh out of law school, Tamworth was a very different town to the one I know now. The outdoor Lido in the Castle Grounds was a popular summer destination, asbestos was still being manufactured and coal mined at Birch Coppice. Anyone travelling through Tamworth on the A5 Watling Street passed by the thriving Reliant factory producing the now legendary Robin and aspirational Scimitar (“Princess Anne has one you know”). It was to be another 2 years before the Queen opened the new Ankerside shopping centre and the Tamworth stretch of the M42 was just an idea. After work I was able to go to Amington and attempt to strike a golf ball at what I now appreciate has to have been one of, if not the, finest municipal golf courses in the country.
Working in Pickerings town centre offices I could shop in Halfords or Tesco in Gungate precinct, collect hot buttered toast from the Co-op Milk Bar on Colehill or buy a vinyl LP from Woolworths in George Street. I had to mind the traffic though, there was no pedestrianisation.
It wasn’t all great. A collective sigh of relief went up when the infamous Bolebridge Street flats, better known locally as Colditz, were eventually demolished. And in those days, anyone new to the town was inevitably asked the question: Tammy or Brummie? The two didn’t always get on. I had come from Lichfield which fortunately offended neither side and gave them free rein to tell me the faults and failings of the other.
But whilst it’s fascinating to look at the past and reminisce, I don’t forget what a great place Tamworth has been for me. The industry and commerce may have changed but what a town we now have. The recreational and retail facilities are the envy of all. We have a host of incredible social and voluntary organisations where individuals worked tirelessly for their community. Then there is the business community that overcomes challenges and adversity to thrive and provide employment for many.
I took the decision to retire 12 months ago at a time when a pandemic was the stuff of Hollywood. The impact which this awful disease has had in just a few weeks is devastating and businesses face challenges never before imagined. Times are tough and will continue to be so for months to come but I am confident, no, certain, that the people who have made Tamworth what it is will pull through this crisis with the same resilience, determination and enthusiasm I have witnessed over the last 42 years.
One of my few regrets is that as well as causing untold misery the pandemic has deprived me of an opportunity to say farewell to the many friends I have made whether as colleagues, clients, professionals, businessmen and women, neighbours or acquaintances. I wish you all well. One day we shall be able to shake hands, embrace and maybe raise a glass together.
And how shall I spend my retirement? The usual answer would be to take plenty of holidays and travel. I don’t think there will be much of that happening in the short term, but my wife Jill and I will be settling down in our new home in Devon where I hope to do plenty of DIY, spend some time on the water and maybe teach my grandson to catch a few fish. Perhaps I can try to improve my golf, which isn’t much better than it was when I stood on the tee at Amington for the first time all those years ago.
I shall not turn my back on the town that’s been such a massive and influential part of my life. I’ll be back, and I shall be looking for the Lambs result every week - what a disappointment it was to have almost certain promotion snatched away recently. Oh well, there’s always next season – some things never change.