RECENTLY, I joined groups of friends to say farewell to three local residents, all of whom I had known for a number of years, writes Ann Tilbury

The farewells could hardly have been more dissimilar. One was at the crematorium. Two days later, it was a group of us at Brookwood Cemetery. And three days after that, it was at the Trinity Methodist Church.

At such gatherings it is natural for conversation to turn to changes in the area during the lifetime of the departed.

I mentioned I had spoken to a resident of Woking who did not know who the Bedser twins were, despite their statues on the Bedser Bridge, the Bedser Trail across Horsell Common and the Bedser Hub, to which they contributed – quite apart from the fact they were extremely good cricketers. 

That made me wonder about what people should know about this borough in which we live. Perhaps there should be a sort of Life in the UK test for incomers. And by incomers I mean those moving to the area from as far away as Aldershot, for instance.

I have often asked incomers what brought them here. The usual answer, apart from being nearer to family already in the area, is the ease of travel to and from Woking.

The convenient proximity of motorways and airports and the excellent, when normal service is resumed, rail network accessed from Woking station.

I understand some of the questions posed in the Life in the UK test would be difficult for  those born to British citizenship.

And are the questions relevant to today’s living? How important are the kings and queens of the realm? Is it not more important to teach would-be citizens how to queue?

With the Great Queue for the late Queen’s lying-in-state going global, it should make the queue as much a perceived British trait as afternoon tea and cricket on the green.

I asked around for ideas for a Woking borough test and would welcome some input from readers.

One suggestion was that great patience is required to navigate the roadworks and other traffic jams around the place and how to avoid potholes – they are unavoidable, are they not?

How important is it to know something of the history of this place? 

I suggest a glance at that video on YouTube which I mentioned a while ago, a light-hearted trot through local history. Just visit www, and search for “U3A video 2022”.

Or imagine a conversation with some of those who put ideas to me.

“We do have a museum,” one said.

“Yes, Goldsworth Road,” said another.

“No,” said I. “Perhaps that is something to tell incomers: the Surrey History Centre is in Goldsworth Road. The Lightbox is the Woking Museum – and art gallery.”

“There’s music…”

“Yes, but that’s in the past: The Jam, Rick Parfitt, The Atalanta and the famous musicians who played there…”

“There’s still live music: the Fiery Bird!”

“Is there? Where is it? It always seems to be closing down and I don’t know where to find it these days.”

“I heard it was going to be in Albion House, by the station.”

“Not now, it’s got a new home, at least for a couple of years, in Goldsworth Road. It will be opening quite soon, I’ve read.” 

“There’s theatre, some good stuff at the New Vic. And very good am-dram at the Rhoda. That’s another thing, people should know: why it is named for Rhoda McGaw. And who Ethel Smyth was.” 

“The composer? She’s another bit of past music. But she was important to women’s suffrage.” 

By the way, women getting the vote is definitely one of the British citizenship questions.

“Talking of citizenship, we are very good at community.”

“Yes, in the villages, but I don’t see much community spirit in Woking town itself. Does anyone go into the town these days? Parking is a nightmare and so expensive. If the council want to keep the town alive they should cut car parking prices, not raise them.”

“They even raised them at the leisure centre. Don’t they want us to be healthy and  ‘save the NHS’?” 

“And there’s plenty of sport. We’ve had some famous sports people, apart from the Bedsers”.

“Yes! Woking Football Club!”

“There are lots of good eating places in the town, and those street food places in Market Walk are tasty. Very cosmopolitan. And the residents are very cosmopolitan too. Perhaps that’s why I heard an incomer saying he found us very friendly.”

“We’ve lots of lovely places within the borough: the Basingstoke Canal – I wonder how many people realise it was dug in the 1700s? And all of Horsell Common with its increasingly rare heathlands.”

“Yes, HG Wells liked the place so much he had his Martians land near the sandpits and set fire to it all!”

“There’s Woking Palace, but there’s not much to see there because as soon as they dig up interesting bits they record it all and then cover it all over again. There’s a  nice exhibition of the stuff from the palace at The Lightbox.”

“The palace is in Old Woking – incomers should know this is, basically, New Woking, although some still call it Old Woking, Woking Village, just to complicate matters further.”

“I came here because I was offered a good job down south and Woking, with its connections, ticked all the boxes.”

“We came down south  because my father was living in the area and not getting any younger.” 

“I am here because I was born here.”

“But would you move away?”

“If I got a good job offer elsewhere, yes.” 

“If anything happened to father, then we would probably move west to be near our daughter and her family.” 

Me? I’ll stay put. After all these years I’ve got accustomed to the place, with all its faults.