Across the past few weeks I have been out and about to various places, some afar some not so, but Wednesday my Big Sis and I ventured into our local town. We tried to remember the last time we went in but could not think back beyond July, so months it would seem.
Parking in our usual car park that always seems to be 3/4 full we took a walk through the Victoria Arcade, which has long been suffering from lack of shops, with at least 2/3rds empty, even with the incentive of months of free rent and months of half rent by twelve months they are gone and the austere dark windows return. The bright light is the awesome breakfast at the tiny Pop-In Cafe which fortifies us for the remainder of the day.
Leaving the Arcade we turn towards the Market Place and immediately there are four double fronted shops in a row, now empty and boarded up, across the road is another double fronted shop that has been empty for at least three if not more years. It stands next to the two-storey Marks & Spencer store which will be shutting soon, the food outlet is moving to an out-of-town retail park and the clothing/gifts etc is just closing altogether. Such a sense of forlornness.
Around the pedestrianised Market Place the quay side banks have recently relocated into empty stores, Barclays, HSBC have joined Nationwide, Halifax, Santander, N&P, and Lloyds has double its size expanding into what once was Burtons. No doubt before too long Nat West might consider relocating their forgotten branch more where the action is. Across the other side the four storey building that was once a thriving Co-Op store is empty, rumours of it becoming an academy, rumours of it becoming flats. Like other buildings in town, it will be bought by a developer who will do nothing until the building is condemned to be torn down and prime land is either sold or built upon.
Further along the Market Place there are shops with windows caked in dust, the paint flaking from weathered doors, and everywhere the detritus of leaves and litter whirl along as tumbleweeds.
The people look tired, worn down and grey, so many with walking sticks, frames and scooters, so many with prams and pushchairs. The occasionally suited individual stride towards a cash machine or heads towards the shopping centre for Starbucks or Costa lunches.
The whole town is economically deprived and severely suffering for it, there is a huge heavy sense of depression, hardship and poverty.