I have been indulging in a pretty steady moan about the real unfriendliness in my small area since lock-down. Nobody here has spoken to me since before Christmas. Then I berated myself: I am a social historian, writer, nosey parker, am I biased? No, but need the truth: they did not communicate before Covid, either.
I’ve looked at my history of commerce, and been for a walk. We have been here 30 years, last two grandchildren born after we moved here, great-grand-son born 2020. So I am talking about a generation of change, commercially a virtual earthquake; demise of the high street, people moving on to modern housing estates, and shopping going out of town completely. Look in the rear mirror 30 years, and my street was a magnet for people, due to the huge variety of commerce.
TWO excellent charcuteries, one did big functions, and I ‘bagged’ the lady who organised the staff for my parties ever since. The headmaster, wife and children lived over the school, took part in everything. Ditto notary, practice, wife and children next door to us. There was a launderette and cobbler, non-stop customers. Wool shop, barbers, hairdresser, huge plumber/electrician with up-market china shop. Hotel. Bar with terrace. Small Spar shop, tenanted, appalling living accommodation, but they lived there. Ditto drug store, toy shop. The funeral director was excellent – all deaths posted in window, so you knew immediately if you ought to attend the funeral, whether there were visits, condolences, flowers. A noted restaurant closed, guy never wanted to be a cook – reverted to his original wish, an artist – he held court in the covered terrace of the ex-restaurant. The convent, more nuns, who were community nurses and ran a clinic. My current shop was one of two ‘elegant’ (boring) dress shops. My historic house was flowered, garden open to public every market morning. All non commercial property had people living in them.
So, time and tide have carried most away. The great difference between this town and its twin in UK was parking. France wanted people in its towns. Big notice ‘Free Parking’. Where there were parking meters, they were turned off between noon and 2 p.m so people would come and eat at the many restaurants. Now property values are very low. Six of the bigger houses have been bought by people who have never lived here, and converted to B & B, so the proprietors have no interest in the town, visitors birds of passage to visit the Mont St Michel. Restaurants still thrive (not at the moment, with Covid) to feed the guests. The other effect of cheap property is that none of my current neighbours wanted to live in this town – all have had economic problems through split-ups, does not make them good company. But I really must ‘count my blessings’ (could not move anyway). Car outside, doctor, chemist, bread shop, computer wizards, affordable restaurants, excellent hospitals (and care homes).
Are you happy where you live? Or is it by default.
A Moodscope member.
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