"I'm a very crafty person. I'm not very clever, but I'm clever with my hands", retired home economics teacher Esme says as the afternoon sun fills the front room of her home. We pay her a visit to chat about her busy life at Westbury Fields retirement village and leave having learned a lesson or two of our own.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your background and are you a Bristol local?
"Yes, I’m really local – I grew up in Westbury and went to Red Maids School. I got married to a lovely Welshman and we lived in Barry. I met him in baking and confectionery college in Cardiff. After he slipped a disk, lifting great bags of flour, we got a flat in Lawrence Weston and he started at teacher training college. Then he got a job in Sea Mills Junior School, I later had a baby and we moved over Blaise Castle to Coombe Dingle where I eventually had three children. When they were old enough I managed to get a mature student’s course in Home Economics. Of course my husband was very handy with the children growing up. They all went to Sea Mills and then over to Lawrence Weston because I was teaching over there by that time - Cookery and which became Domestic Science and then Home Economics and then Food Technology and Needlework which became Fashion and Textiles! I was there for 20 years.
The children grew up and, why I don’t know, I became very unwell and ended up in hospital for a while. Eventually I moved from hospital to Westbury Fields. My lovely family all live round about and it was just like coming home – all of my furniture fits, the curtains fit and my 3 piece fits. It’s just like home from home. I am so lucky"
What's life like in a retirement village such as Westbury Fields?
I’m still very fit so I join in with most of the activities. I love the gardening club which meets every other Tuesday. A professional gardener called Hilary takes the class which is held outside the John Wills House care home [on site] where there are lots of pots and high level benches for people in wheelchairs to join in. We grow all sorts of flowers and vegetables. If it's raining we just carry on indoor and afterwards we enjoy a cup of tea and cake whilst Hilary reads poems from her poetry books - lovely!
We have Oaks and Acorns, the mothers and babies group, which meets here every other week. Domenica [Westbury Fields Activities Coordinator] is brilliant and has it all set out. I know quite a bit about mother and baby groups because I worked for 20 years with Jack and Jill Nursery as a volunteer. I’ve still got lots of friends from there.
I’ve got a new neighbour who has just moved in and I visit. I’d seen her walking around looking with her family and went over to introduce myself because it makes all the difference to have people to talk to. I’ve had her in most days since she moved in and she came to Zumba the other day too. She came up for a cup of tea after which was nice because she’s good to talk to.
I’m just so lucky to be here. My home in Coombe Dingle was very close to Blaise Castle Woods and here I’m looking at Blaise Castle Woods on the horizon. The cricket pitch and the flowers here make it just lovely. I would recommend it to anyone."
In what way has living at Westbury Fields enhanced your life? "One example is that I was one of the volunteers that signed up for the ‘Soundtrack’ project with Bristol Pre-Conservatoire. I made good friends with a young girl called Aurora and her mum – they visited three times to get my life history and then she composed a piece of music about it which was lovely. She's very talented. We had a fabulous party when they came with all their instruments, large and small. It was a brilliant evening and absolutely jam packed. They choose three people from Westbury Fields and three people from Cote Lane. The other participants, Michael and Maureen, live across the way. Michael is ex Dunkirk and has lots of stories to tell. All of his family came to the event and he stood up in front of everyone, covered in medals. There was fabulous food, it was just a great evening. It’s always nice when you make unexpected friendships."
If you enjoyed Esme's story, you can find out more about Westbury Fields, watch a short video with our residents and request a free pack of information over on our dedicated retirement village page.