Fiction: the Undesirables Are Back

When I first moved to the town it was pleasantly old fashioned. Rooted in the past, even the town wasn’t sure which era it was stuck in. Some time when all was well, good, rosy, peachy, and totally conservative.

There wasn’t much for the children to do, in fact we often got in the car and headed out of town – a lake, a farm, a wood – but in town there was swimming, bowling, the cinema. Well, less in town, more on the edges of. So we got in a car for those too. There were a couple of lovely parks, part of the vintage attraction. We watched one go through a Heritage Lottery Funded transformation, and once the play-area was opened, we were really too old for it. Our quiet times in the park were passed.

It became apparent that as they were now teenagers they were hanging around in the other park. Buying tubs of ice-cream and giant bottles of fizzy drinks in the supermarket, they spent hours hiding in the densely shrub-ed areas of the park where they thought no-one could see them.

Then the council marched on with their improvement plan, trying to pull the town into the 21st century, trying to be all things to all people. They invested some money into some new buildings and a new town square, by the west entrance to the other park. Now, it could be said, for all it’s charm, the town had no town square, just four attempts at creating one. Each time the council thought it had made an attractive area, it failed, as the seating was always use by drunks, homeless and skateboarders (none of these people having anywhere else to go).

It was the same in my home town, where the first modern pedestrianised post-WW2 street got over taken by 1970s punks, who just sat outside the record shop ALL DAY. That became a no go zone for all the distinguished OAPs who used to visit the outfitters opposite. They went out of business, and a health food shop took over.

So our town built this new town square, the saviour of all things. They demolished some old buildings, cut down lots of trees in the park, build new offices, and this square, where the taxis used to wait. The first thing that happened was the taxi drivers got upset and blockaded the town. That took a few weeks to sort out. Naively I thought our teenagers were  still using the park, then it turned out the new benches and steps were ideal for skateboarding. So they sat in the town square all day, now old enough to drink beer, smoke cigarettes, although they pretended they didn’t. Some days the homeless guys were there first. No longer able to camp under the trees in the park, they pulled mattresses and sleeping bags up onto the office steps in the evening, usually still there in the morning, using a quiet place around the corner for a toilet.

All the people who were supposed to love the new town square never went there. They used the other park entrances to reach the cafe and the playground. The office workers had to keep their windows shut against the noise of the teenagers, and their blinds down to stop the stares of the angry residents who liked the old park entrance. No one in the offices gets to look at the park, and they avoid it in their lunch-hours.

It’s still an old fashioned town, but I’m not sure how Conservative it now is.

(yes small c big C).


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