I passed through Royal Leamington Spa today, the town my Grandmother grew up in. The last time I was there I must have been 12 or 13, my Dad was driving me around, and we were on the hunt for a guitar that would, when I finally found it, last me most of my teenage years.
We wandered around the streets looking for the where she lived, eventually finding the right road and house number. There was a statue in the front garden, covered in the lichen of many decades, of a young woman on horseback – my Dad wondered aloud “Is that her…?”
We never found out, but the lady who answered the door was the partner of the late sculptor who, as it turned out, my Gran used to model for.
I took a picture of the station this morning as the train left, to send to her, and she sent a response pretty quickly:
“My old stamping ground. I remember seeeing famous pianists on Leamington Station platform including Artur Rubinstein and Myra Hess. They had been playing at Leamington Spa Town Hall. Both looked tired after their concerts. Must have been about 1947 or 1948”
The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon has so much to ponder inside, kitsch mugs shaped like The Bard among old posters with famous names, but I couldn’t help but think of other things. Rubinstein and Hess standing on the platform and the life my Gran led there, 15 kilometres away and 70 years ago.