For the love of Hopscotch Written by Sarah Slater, Surrey Exile

Published on October 20, 2023

For the love of Hopscotch -

Dear Ipswich, I hope you are having a great week.

I haven’t been a resident for 30 years now but you will always be my first home.

We’ve been through a lot together; born in a house on the Broke Hall estate and then lived in two other houses there, the noise of the speedway was always a familiar sound on Thursday evenings.

You are where I learned to ride my bike, with my dad holding onto the back of my little red wheels chasing me up and down Penshurst Road. I was the youngest member of the committee for the 1977 Silver Jubilee street party and that bike was proudly decorated for the occasion.

It was in the days when you didn’t connect with your friends via a screen but went up and down the road, knocking on doors to see who wanted to play out on the verge. Many a hopscotch grid was drawn in the streets of Broke Hall with a piece of chalk.

You were there when I learnt to read, write and swim, at St John’s school and Fore Street baths. The highlight of swimming galas at St Matthew’s was the beef soup from the vending machine.

I met my (still) best friend at Brownies who impressed me with her ability to spell your name at age 6, proudly saying “I put some water in Charlie’s hat”!

I learned the violin, dabbled in hockey, netball, drama and (bad) hair dying at Copleston High. I got some qualifications, thanks to great teachers like Mr Whinney, Miss Ketcher and who could forget Mr Pegnall. I also dabbled in dating (with varied success) and had a few adventures too thanks to your well-established scouting movement.

And you taught me the importance of working hard to earn some cash, spending weekday mornings before school and Saturdays stacking shelves in Tavern Street Boots and serving customers on the chemist counter.

You were where I learned to drive, conquering the hill-start at the top of Warwick Road and the delights of the Woodbridge Road East roundabout. I received excellent care at the Ipswich Hospital when I broke my wrist (but we won’t go into that).

And when I went away to Uni, you welcomed me back every time with a drink with friends at the Golf or the White Horse. And I found faith too, forever thankful for the welcoming and nurturing community at St Augustine’s, where I also got married.

When my own children came along, you provided as much adventure and opportunity for them as you did for me, with weekend visits to Nacton shores, the Suffolk Food Hall giant pillow, Ipswich museum, transport museum, go-karting and the trampoline park. There even used to be an open-top bus to take in the sights of Ipswich, including a very blustery ride over the Orwell Bridge.

Ipswich is where my family remain and there’s always a warm feeling when I reach the “Toys R Us” roundabout at the end of the A12 and know I am home once again.

Thank you, Ipswich, for being you, and shaping me.

Sarah Slater
Surrey Exile

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