Reflections by Val Pommier on 128 Hampton Road, Bristol BS6 6JE
It was in 1987 that Jean-Noël and I made our first visit to Bristol for an interview to be wardens at the Friends Meeting House in Redland.
We were welcomed by Mary Friend, the clerk of the Warden’s committee who continued to watch over us for many years.
You offered us and the other candidates a weekend full of surprises. We were hosted in different families (John and Pauline Roberts were our hosts). You organised a party for us to get to know as many Friends as possible. You took us on a trip round the town (Judy Chandler was our guide).
Ken and Gill Bocock, the retiring resident wardens, showed us round the warden’s house and talked to us about the job from their perspective. We began to dream. We knew we could do the job and coming from a small two bedroomed flat in Hartshill Meeting House in Warwickshire we knew we could bring up our two children in this amazing 4 bedroomed house.
We were interviewed by Cyril Poster, Jennifer Clapham and David Nash and then returned home to await the phone call that would tell us if we had been chosen or not.
The phone call came and in August 1987 we moved into 128.
The warmth of the welcome we had received at our interview weekend continued through the following 15 years. Clerks came and went, committee members changed, several treasurers supported us during our years with you, but we remained, through so many ups and downs of the job and meeting house improvements.
In 2002 we decided it was time for us to move on. It had taken us a very long time to reach this decision and that is a tribute to the whole of Redland Friends Meeting where we felt we belonged.
When we left we took with us a significant part of 128 Hampton Road. Jean-Noël had spent 15 years making scores of sketches and paintings from the windows of the house. Intimate views from the back windows, views that only the residents of the house would ever see, expansive views from the front of the house and from the flat roof, views of Redland rooftops and the sunlight hitting the walls of old victorian houses.
Original painting of these views are on walls of homes in England, France, Germany, The Netherlands, USA, So many people benefitting from this house!
As I sit in these Zoom Meeting for Worship, I have opposite me a painting through the open kitchen window of 128. Yellow forsythia in flower and the old pear tree in leaf.
I am blessed by what we had and what I still have.
When I heard this year that there was an on-going discussion about the possible sale of the house now that Bill and Louise Thatcher had retired I was full of emotion. Emotion may not have its place in decisions such as these but it was all I had to offer – preferably in silence!
As I listened at the Threshing Meeting on August 24th my thoughts wandered to the moment of our departure on August 25th 2002.
All our belongings had already gone by removal van to France. Jean-Noël and our daughter, Noémie were already in our camper van in front of the meeting house waiting for me to come out.
“Why was I taking so long to lock the door:” they wondered. I was finding this moment difficult. This house had been my home and my safety and now our future was uncertain. I wanted to check that everthing was perfect for Bill and Louise to move in with their family.
The whole place was empty and as clean as I could make it. Then I noticed the telephone cord. Those spiral, coiled cords on the old fashioned phones catch all the grime. I hadn’t noticed just how dirty it was until the moment of parting. I wasn’t going to leave it like that. I started to clean!
We know that the umbilical cord which attaches us all to the source of life must be cut for us to find our own way forward. It is a new beginning, an adventure which leads us into an unknown future. The cord is cut in the faith that new life will flourish.