The way we were

When I left home to live in London (to discover that the streets were not actually paved with gold, but actually covered in discarded chewing gum), returning home to North Wales or Chester was always an eye-opener. Not because I was now some big city kid who laughed at the little people and their provincial ways. I’ll still be a black pudding munching Northerner who reads the Chester Chronicle online when I pop my clogs. But whenever I went through my home town, even after eight weeks away, it always seemed that another city landmark had closed down, to be replaced by luxury apartments or a new restaurant.

As far as I’m concerned, time has stood still in Chester since 1992. So, when She Who Was Born To Worry tells me that the shop I need is two doors down from the Liverpool FC club shop, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Of course, if she’d told me it was near the old Athena store or Our Price, I’d have had no problem. Similarly, if I’m told that we’re going for a beer in the Slug & Lettuce, there’s not a chance in hell that I’ll be there before closing time. Tell me we’re having a drink in the old Owen-Owen’s on the other hand, and mine will be a pint thank you very much.

In New York, I’ve got none of the same historical touchpoints. I have no idea whether the current home of the Apple Store is an old hospital or a former squirrel warehouse, and I can’t join in the conversation when it turns to the eight restaurants that have been on the site of the latest here-today-gone-tomorrow hotspot. In any case, most restaurants stay open for less time than it takes to me get around to writing a new blog post. My memory is good, but I’ve got no chance of remembering that place that was open from May to September 2003, even if their French onion soup was to die for.

Of course being away from a whole country rather than just a small part of it makes the whole “what the f***?” moments all-the-more frequent. Except now it’s more like losing whole chunks of my heritage, rather than little fragments of it.

For instance, there’s not a single person under 40 who has not bought pick’n’mix sweets in Woolworths, and yet now it’s on the verge of going under. You now can’t say that you’re going to Virgin Megastores to pick up a CD or DVD, but have to resort to confessing that you’re making a trip to the patently ridiculous Zavvi. And the way things are going with the credit meltdown, it won’t be long before you have no need to say whether you’re a customer of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds or the NatWest – we’ll just all be patrons of The Bank.

But today I’ve just been pushed over the edge. I turn my back for five minutes and suddenly Carol Vorderman’s gone from Countdown. America, imagine losing (*quickly surfs to Wikipedia*) Alex Trebek from Jeopardy, and you’ll still have no idea of the country’s loss right now.

It’s time for Britain to start getting its act together, and look after the things that are important to us. Otherwise, next thing you’ll be telling me that Princess Di is dead.

9 thoughts on “The way we were

  1. Trixie Trouble

    Sweets, Woolworths has gone under. And the Vorderman issue – well that’s been on the cards for ages.
    The man who created Bagpuss died too.

    I’m taking to my bed.

  2. MikeH

    I feel your pain. Last time I went back to my home town I found a round-about where a legendary (for it’s awfulness) intersection used to be. A round-about! Talk about a WTF moment.

    And, yeah, I miss Carol.

  3. Almost American

    My small Cheshire village seems to have more charity shops and Indian restaurants every time I go home! My bank in the UK has long since been taken over by HSBC – but can I get them to link it to an HSBC account over here? Of course not!

    The nice thing about having lived in the US for 23 years, and for a good chunk of it in roughly the same area is that I do remember some of the things that have changed. There was a Woolworths here when I first arrived. It’s long gone. My father-in-law hates going downtown because it’s changed so much – if he went more often the changes wouldn’t be so noticeable. The same goes for me visiting ‘home’ in the UK – if I could go more often, I’d only see little changes at a time and it wouldn’t be so disconcerting.

    I just accept the fact that half the shops in Chester will have changed – so long as the cathedral, the walls, and the precinct are all in place I can deal with it.

  4. Esther

    Countdown without Carol? Travesty! And no Woolies? No pick ‘n mix? There’s almost no point in going home to visit. Well, there’s still sausages.

  5. Karen

    I feel the same. My parents are constantly telling me of the closing small business in out small village and even when I lived there they were always knocking down lovely places to build big apartments.
    Here in Iceland, I have come to love a few places and it always saddens me how quick they are to just get rid of the old and build a huge monstrosity. ALthough I don’t know if some of the proposed places will still go ahead now, what with the depression and all!

    I was sad to hear of Woolies demise, I spent my fair share there when I lived in the UK.

  6. Josephine

    The thing i don’t quite understand is that my relatives seem to forget how long I have lived here in the US. When talking to them about various happenings at home, they refer to street names, and landmarks as if I still live down the road, I have to try and keep up, and for some unknown reason, I DO remember all those streets, and names !
    I always feel as though I pick up, where I left off the last visit, it’s funny how we refer to places (shops, pubs, etc ) as the ones we remember as kids, maybe now long gone, but that site will always be the Woolworth’s or Marks and Spencer.
    At least you still have Chester Zoo !

  7. Expat Mum

    I think Carol might prefer a comparison to Vanna White than Alex Trebec!!! But you obviously weren’t reading the Mail online when the whole thing blew up a few months ago. What a scandal.
    And if you think Chester has changed, try going back to Newcastle on Tyne after 20 years. I got two buses in and out of town every day for god kows how many years and I swear I don’t recognise a single street now. Half of it is pedestrianized and the other half has been razed to make way for the mighty St. James’ stadium. And the quayside, which used to be like something from Oliver Twist, is a thriving little city unto itself. Amazing – if I could find my way round!

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