A WELSH STORY – MR AND MRS WATKINS

I say it is a Welsh story but it is actually a story about Mr and Mrs Watkins who were a wonderful old couple who lived in the maisonette tenant block where I lived and grew up in the 1960s in Lillington, a working class suburb of Leamington Spa.

Why I should want to tell their story today of all days, I am not completely sure.

Wales have just been knocked out of the European Football Championships in France and Mr. and Mrs. Watkins were as die-hard Welsh patriots as anybody I have ever known from the principality.

Mrs. Watkins was the lady I featured in my English lesson describing a shopping centre.

She was the lady who rode the bicycle to the nearby shopping precinct every single days but especially on Saturdays to place her husband’s each way at the bookies.

In truth, the shopping precinct was no more than a hop skip and a jump away from our residential area and she could have walked but she always went by bicycle.

Mr. and Mrs. Watkins never had any children but they had a dog and cat, prizely kept in their ground floor mid-terraced maisonette and the children of the maisonette community were much befriended by them.

That is how I came to know Mr. and Mrs. Watkins as a young child.

If my parents did not take care of me, there was always someone in this community who could and would and I was always a welcomed visitor to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Watkins where tea, biscuits and cakes were forever at the ready.

Mr. Watkins, he said, once played rugby for Swansea and Wales but I was never sure.

He looked more like Eddie Waring than Bill McClaren but his passion for Welsh rugby was unwavering and Bill McClaren was the voice of rugby union at the time and for very many years afterwards in fact.

Oddly, the day I remember most from being in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Watkins was to do with football and not rugby.

On 29th July 1966, as a splightly eight year old, I joined in their cheers and rejoicing from the armchair of their living room as England beat West Germany 4-2 in the football World Cup.

Mr. Watkins introduced me to encyclopaedias about sports and Mrs. Watkins would tell me stories which I have recorded from memory to tell my own children.

There was a humbleness and humility about this devoted couple which is hard to put into words.

My family moved out of the maisonette block in the late 1960s but only a short distance away, so I was still able to keep in contact with Mr. and Mrs. Watkins.

Mr. Watkins sadly died of cancer in the late 1970s and the widowed Mrs. Watkins continued on her sense of community devotion until alzheimers took a hold in the 1980s and she was taken into social care.

This story is about remembering people who were special in my childhood and who had an influence on my life.  It is about reminiscing and keeping the past in line with the present and the future.

It is a long time now since I have been back to Lillington and to that maisonette block where these memories were groomed but I continue to remember Mr. and Mrs. Watkins most fondly.

That is the story.

This is the end of the lesson.

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