The house move has been completed.
We sit, semi-surrounded by boxes (there are more upstairs), in our new Oxfordshire home.
Home to us now is this small town with its busy little high street, its tiny shops and many cafes.
It feels different down here, not just the weather, but the atmosphere has a slightly different flavour to it.
Even the centre of the town – for we live on the edge of it – feels different to Bromsgrove. It looks different too. Not just in a “it’s a different place” kind of way. It took me some time to recognise what the difference was.
Decay – in the case of where we’ve just moved from; or in the case of our new home – lack of decay.
Bromsgrove – a small Worcestershire town – is blighted with an air of decay. A place where every third occupied shop is a charity shop, and where every fifth shop has a for sale or to let notice (or just stares, emptily back at you with whited-out windows), a place like this has something wrong with it.
Sadly this air of seediness isn’t confined to Bromsgrove.
Droitwich suffers from the same malaise; the general air of hopelessness is somehow thicker there, the culture of Chavdom hangs so thickly in the air you could cut it with a knife. I challenge anyone to walk through the centre of Droitwich and tell me at the end of their journey that the place displays significant quality of life! Emphasis on the word ‘quality’.
The county town of Worcestershire, a very short trip down the A38, is not an unattractive place. But it too has an air of being wounded. perhaps mortally so. The rising trend of joblessness across all age-groups, the stagnating numbers of residents (when viewed as a whole), the inevitably increasing demographic and the undeniable rise of the culture of chavdom does not make Worcester a happy or healthy place to be.
That the local economy in this small provincial city is in trouble is undeniable; the occupancy turnover of shops in the centre of the city takes place at a frighteningly fast pace.
Solid, dependable mass employers (outside of the public sector) are countable on the fingers of one hand.
These are significant contributors to the general air of stagnation in the town.
Ironically the only major development in the area is the building of the new stands at Worcester Rugby Club which, if we’re being honest here, isn’t even in Worcester. The location is one level of irony. The other is that the new stand = though it looks very impressive – will actually do nothing for the local economy. It’s just a big thing miles outside the city. Architecturally striking though.
But there’s more to the lifeblood of a small provincial city than planning regulations and architecture, ancient and modern.
And that’s the thing that a frighteningly large amount of people just don’t get.