A good saying is ‘think global, act local’. So I start with the headline in last weeks MDA – Transforming Town’s Centre. That is after the lovely environs of Newton Abbot have been transformed and mostly by central government diktat; more houses owned by banks and the certain prospect of even less paid employment.
I read of grand schemes and see ‘socially distanced’ mannequins in the artist’s impression on the front page. “A new eating quarter, a new cinema, a remodelled entertainment and events venue, and a high quality market space.” The stimulus for this is The Future High Streets Fund, launched I see by HMG in December 2018. Although the Money Tree I spoke of is bare of fruit, ‘multi-million plans’ are being considered by our august Teignbridge District Council and decisions made later this year. I note the reassurance that when the Alexandra is bulldozed, there will be room for local theatre and congregation; the Greeks and Romans had such in plenty 2000 years ago and beyond.
I am no enthusiast for John Major, and his privatisation of our permanent way for instance. You will recall we had to separate the wheels from the track to suit EU competition law so that ridiculous ruling made sure complexity, inefficiency and constant bickering were certain. But he said ‘back to basics’.
One ‘basic’ is respect and consideration for our elders. With more poverty and the clamour around possible climate change, public transport for all, but especially for older citizens, should come well before grand and very expensive schemes. The latter have been made irrelevant by out of town shopping centres with free parking, and the continued growth of online shopping. The latter has been boosted greatly by the Covid nonsense and the sad but predictable closure of town shops. Take Ridgeway’s.
Sue and I came to these parts with its strong Devonian character in 1975. We shopped most Saturdays in Newton. There were four stalls selling local vegetables in the Butter Market and a vigorous and friendly atmosphere all about. There were many trades in the town with all sorts of skills – sheet metal, carpentry and moulding, electronics – name it. It did not require street furniture and hanging baskets to make it an enjoyable and neighbourly visit.
Many will recall the bus station. They were mostly single deckers and there was a cafe within where the crew, including conductors, could warm up with a cup of tea. And there were the wives of yeomen from the moor, having got their supplies, waiting for a ride back to Holne or Hennock. Mr Penn was a chief ‘planning’ officer - after Mr Venn I recall. We can quickly question the propriety of promotion from local ranks in this case and others. Mr Penn planned the demolition of this little art nouveau bus station in favour of the red brick monstrosity which housed the ‘Job Centre’. Mr Penn actually said through this paper - ‘it will tidy up the site nicely.’ I am pleased to have an elephantine memory.
So how do the less well off, the older citizens and the disabled wait for buses? They sit if there is space on an 18 inch deep bench, with a narrow roof well above in a cold and shady canyon between the market and the multi-storey car park. See them in winter rain with the gusting wind.
Many cannot see it but we are in apocalyptic times. The propaganda term is ‘the new normal’, and it is being globally engineered. I can enlarge but see the 17 articles after searching <david halpin> and then <covid> for a few examples. There will be less money in most peoples’ pockets and even less public service. This will include OUR NHS for which I have been fighting, eg its Community Hospitals, whilst I was in its service and in my 15 years since full retirement.
We need to reclaim our civilization, and central will be how we look after each other. As a fourth former and boarder at Shaftesbury Grammar School I remember being the seconder in our new debating society set going by J.A.Brett, the new and very good headmaster. He had lost his left eye in a tank on the Normandy Beaches. The motion was ‘law is for the lawyers’! In my nervous few minutes I quoted Bishop John Donne 16/17thC - ‘no man is an island entire of himself’. Selfishness corrodes society. To care, and especially for others, is the most important characteristic of any worthwhile society.
So how about this for transformation, and the regeneration of previous respect for others. We are very fortunate on being on Brunel’s line to Penzance where steam packets left with mail for the Americas. What do the mostly elderly do now after traipsing from the platform to either side by splendid Courtenay Park. They stand with their luggage in often hostile weather. There should be a coach and bus station alongside the railway station with creature comfort. There should be easy connection to a bus station by the market in Newton Abbot, where there is warmth when needed and equally warm Devon smiles. That way there might also be a thriving hotel trade with the most wonderful natural and historic features all about this railway town. TDC - think on this and not on more houses and occupants in hoc, and with a current national mortgage debt of £1.3 trillion at the last count.
And speaking of transport I hear the Money Tree, bare though it be, is going to provide bicycles for the obese – some 60% of the whole. There has been no response to this real pandemic until now. Why is that? As the patient heaves into sight the prescription will be ‘get on your bike’ - Tebbitt style.