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15 December 2017


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Bitterne Parker: Roma Barnes
Sunday, 12 October 2014 00:00


Roma Barnes is a retired academic who was born Bristol in 1948 and who moved to Bitterne Park with her family in the 80s. Her two children attended local schools and colleges and Roma still lives in the same house. Now divorced and living alone, she says she hopes not to move unless her disability (MS) deteriorates. She enjoys history, current affairs, people watching, the art gallery, the waterfront, the city’s parks and the diversity and vitality of the city. She set up and helps run the ‘Triangle Readers’ book group, and says she particularly enjoys “buzzing about on her pavement scooter, a coffee at The Triangle, and a scoot along Riverside Park”.

The Qs & the As

What’s your link with Bitterne Park?  

I came here with my husband. I was working part-time at Bristol Poly at the time, but we’d decided to go wherever the first one of us was able to get a full-time job. And he did, in Southampton, so I followed him on.

What’s your earliest memory of the area?

Arriving here, very tired out from travelling from Bristol, but I thought to myself, “What a lovely area,” and I was very pleased to be here.

How could the area be better?

I think the most important thing is to protect the existing place because I think it’s fantastic – close to the park, nice and diverse, and friendly. And I like the variety of different architecture here: not all modern stuff but a mixture of different buildings and designs. I think that’s valuable to keep and protect for as long as possible.

Tell us something we probably didn’t know already about Bitterne Park

The only thing I can say is that I like to discover new roads to go down, which I explore because I want to find out what the place is like. I’m sure you know all these places already, so I can’t really tell you anything new. But they’re my discoveries!

You’ve got to be persistent. You’ve got to be conscientious. And you’ve got to be open to change.’

What’s good – or not so good – about the wider city?

The city is a safe place to visit, and there’s a good variety of things to do and see, including different types of art venues, cafes, shops, the waterfront and well-maintained gardens and parkland. There are dropped pavements, safe road crossings and there’s an awareness of access provision.

What’s not so good is the maintenance of roads and pavements – and cars, lorries and wheelie bins parking and blocking the pavements!

What’s your passion in life?

My passion in life has always been history. I also like to read, to mix with people, to be sociable, but I can’t do as much as I used to be able to do. Everything I like to do involves the arts, reading, meeting people, and enjoying the countryside.

How do you put bread on your table?

I’m now retired so I don’t have any work coming in, but I am rather sad not to be back at work: I did enjoy my work as a history lecturer.

What has your career taught you?

I think the thing I’ve learnt is that you’ve got to be persistent. You’ve got to be conscientious. And you’ve got to be open to change.

What really gets your goat?

I get really annoyed by people who are arrogant, supercilious or discriminatory. But I try not to get too annoyed because it isn’t good for me!

How do you relax?

I relax by coming out. If I can get out on my scooter that’s my form of relaxation. I can leave the house – the four walls – behind me, and to get down to the Triangle for a cup of coffee, or down to the park for a bit of fresh air. And also I like to go out for a pub lunch or something like that. And then there’s my book club meetings, and meeting up with my friends.

View from White SwanWhich is your favourite pub?

I don’t go to the pub very often, but I do like going to the White Swan at Mansbridge. I don’t have any transport apart from my scooter: it has a range of about 25 miles so I have to not go too far or I can’t get back again. But it gets me to the White Swan and back.

What are you drinking?

I don’t drink much alcohol. I like coffee and water.

What do you listen to?

I generally like quiet. That may seem like a strange thing for someone to say nowadays. If I listen to anything I like to hear classical music. But I’d rather have quiet than music.

Can you recommend a really good read?

Well every month we have a different book and discuss it at one of the book group’s houses; this time we’re going for The Lollipop Shoes. But every time we choose a new book we discuss what we’d like to share, and we get our books through the local library, if they have it in stock. Our interest tends to vary an awful lot from modern books to period literature – perhaps different countries we’d like to explore, and different genres, so we’re very varied: we like to keep our minds open to new things.

What’s a great day out?

I’d like to go to the New Forest, to one of the special places there – a beauty spot, or, if I can get there, one of the places where I can see the deer. Somewhere that’s pretty, and calm and peaceful. That would suit me!

What scares you?

Nothing scares me. I think the time has come where you have to say, “I’m not scared” and not be put off by things. Just be sensible, be cautious, and not take too many risks. But not be put off by things outside.

What would you most like to change - in the world and in yourself?

I’d like a nuclear-free world. In myself I’d like to retain a sense of calm, and not get too uptight by things – try to find ways around them, and not feel overwhelmed by problems if they do occur. It’s about finding a way out ­­– a new way to go, and not being stymied by problems.

What’s on your ‘bucket list’?

I think I’d like to go abroad again. I find travelling is quite hard to do – it takes a lot of organisation. But I would like to think I could go abroad again, perhaps into Europe. I even like the idea of going to China, but I think that might be beyond the realms of possibility. So these are long-term, ‘bucket list’ ideas and not accessible at the moment.

Tell us a joke

No. I’m dreadful at jokes. I can’t remember jokes and I can never get the punchline right. And I don’t like long-winded jokes: some people go on and on making a joke and I really can’t stand waiting for the punchline! I like short, snappy jokes, but I can’t do them myself.

Thanks so much for taking part!

As told to Guy Phillips.

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions. But before then, do you know a Bitterne Parker we really should feature? If so, please nominate them by emailing us using the contact form, and we'll do our best. No promises, mind. 

Read about other Bitterne Parkers

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