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.