Ever ready to jump on a bandwagon, lets have a look at the, ahem, economic downturn. I personally have had little problem with the whole thing: I was poor, am still poor, and will no doubt remain poor unless a revolution does kick off and I am instated as Lord Beeston, and tax stuff to fund my lavish lifestyle befitting a Benign Dictator. This will possibly involve a zoo, cos Twycross is just a bit to far to drive to. However, thats not quite happened yet, so I digress.
We didn’t have a Woolies, so its collapse didn’t hit us hard, but the High Street has shown some fraying. First, the pie shop that wasn’t Greggs collapsed, possibly cos its name, Horsepools, was far to close to Horsepoo in the minds of scatalogical residents. Greenlees closed, which was a shame, as me gran loved a breakfast fry-up there, but its been swiftly replaced by Belle and Jerome, an upmarket wine bar that does smell of paint but is knocking out its wines at nothing cheaper than £3.95 a glass. And thats Merlot. If you like Shiraz, you’re leaving with less limbs. This goes rather against the idea for this article.
There have been redundancies at Boots and Siemens, but both companies have been in the process of slimming down workforces over the last few years. Boots, cos it can find cheaper workers elsewhere, and Siemens due to some long term. top-level managerial idiocy over the last few years. Ok, so a surf shop closed and was replaced by Cash Converters, but even I have a greater desire to purchase tatty gold than garish shorts designed for a beach absent in a land-locked county.
So where are these signs of a return to the dark days of the seventies? Well, my haircut and fashion sense…but where else?
I strap on my reporters pith-helmet and have a look round Beeston.
I’m down Queens Road, a place Beestonians dont really go to unless they’re in a car and speeding towards town or Long Eaton, and heavens! A pound shop! Decay has hit! Apocalypse NOW! I decide on this evidence alone Western Civilization has collapsed, decide to buy one thousand cheap tins to hole up with then realise its actually been developed where previously there was a toilet block. Ah. Well, that’s a step up, surely?
Middle street, and the greatest loss is the pubs that once stood proud. One razed, one a mere boarded up shell. One due to the Tesco development, one due to…well, it wasn’t very good. I once bought a PS2 off a bloke in the car park of The Cow, and once I sobered up I realised it was, err, a PS1, and a broken one at that. That experience obviously has made me biased, but still, no great loss.
Other pubs in Beeston seem OK. I go into Wetherspooons , to see how the chilly economic conditions have hit his business. After fighting my way to the bar, I ask the barman if I could speak to the manager
“Errr, nothing, I was just wondering..”
“If its the Abbot we’ve changed the barell, so its alright now”
“No, I was just wondering if buisness in Beeston’s biggest pub has taken a hit of late”
A vein pops up in his forehead, and he extravagantly waves his arms around at the amassed crowds fighting to throw twenty pound notes at the harassed staff. ‘What do you think?” I order a lime and soda and don’t bother badgering his superior further.
So onwards. The demographic of Beeston from street level is pleasingly mixed; little old ladies pottering shop to shop, families with Sainsburys ubiquitous orange bags swinging from pushchair-handles, little groups of students, indigenous and from much far off lands, idly laughing at jokes I’m far too uncool to understand. I decide to Vox Pop.
Vox Pop, how I despise thee. I spent an inglorious year at Media College (and was thrown out before I swore allegiance to the Evening Post/ Radio Trent), and frequently vox-popped (sorry, verb creation is an insidious beast) the residents of Clifton via camera, notepad or tape recorder, and had to keep a straight face as I listened to the torrent of ill-informed opinion shite that would issue forth from those who chose to stop. Those who didn’t choose to stop were the people who possibly were not show-offs, or opinionated, or desperate to foist their voice/face/words onto me, and therefore represented a fair minded, truly representative chunk of society. By the time I worked at the BBC, I saw how the radio journalists pragmatically realised this, and would frequently get me to provide a ‘balanced’ opinion against the gobshites of Tunbridge Wells had exclusively proffered their rabid opinions on matters. Ther frequent call of ‘Matt, say something nice about the council/young people/immigrants’ was answered with a freshly coined accent to rectify the imbalance of this hideous media conceit.
So I stand outside WHSmiths, and seek the Vox of the Pop. First up, an elderly couple wearing matching shades of beige, a recessionary colour if I ever saw one. I introduce myself, and ask if they have noticed the recession in Beeston.
“Well, nothings getting cheaper, is it?’
I point out this is a truism of modern economies, that until inflation slips into deflation nothing is ever cheaper, and the indicator of recession on a base level is when the cost of living spirals from the income of an individual thus leading to a reduced quality of life, a depression that is compounded by the general societal austerity foisted upon us, a consequence of the greed of bankers who created a false dream of boom that relied on the increasing strained confidence of lenders, that once punctured, led to the domino effect, except the first domino in the rally was ten foot high and kicked down at Mach 8, of rapid collapse, a collapse that sent a Tsunami (I am liking how that has, since the tragedies of December 2004, this is the media buzzword that has usurped ‘shockwaves’) through theworlds economies, leading to a new realisation in states that we have, quite literally, ran out of money, and now have to realise that the bubble has popped, the dream is over, we cannot live in a hyper-credit, hyper-expansive life anymore, and as there are far too many who are unwilling to submit to this new austerity we are DOOMED, DOOMED, ITS YOU ALONE, TAKE SHELTER OR DIE, TAKE SHELTER OR DIE’
I look at them, imploringly, and desperate for a better answer. The little old lady looks at me, pats my arm, and says ‘Good luck with the article dear’
Still, one must find recession here. I’ve just set up this blog, and amongst the many post-it notes I’ve attached to my monitor ( which is a laptop so they keep dropping off when I relocate, bah) is one which says ‘ BEESTON: ITS REALATIONSHIP TO THE REST OF EXISTENCE’.
Onto the window of a post office. Not the main one next to ‘Spoons, but the one opposite Broadgate Park. Its rife with cards advertising surfaces. Here, surely, I will find desperate calls for work for food, loan sharks, people selling kidneys…ouch. Nothing. Theres a room for rent for the a staggering £25 a week, thats it. The rest shows a healthy populace selling unwanted Christmas gifts, students looking for housemates, and thriving local businesses looking for trade. Nothing. No meat for me to sink my jaws into and shout that we should be building bunkers and buying shotguns.
I go for a coffee, defeated in my mission. The barista listens sympathetically to my woes, and throws some new leads to chase
‘Theres a Mecca Bingo opening, surely thats a sign of decay, when a town is desperate, a town gambles’. I nod with thanks, but no, a Mecca Bingo is not a sign of collapse, its a sign of hope. Previously there stood a Tradex, hardly an aspirational venue of riches, now stands a shining beacon of disposable income frittered not out of desperation, but an example of the realisation that here was a town that had money to fritter, money that is not spent with the fevered grimness of a lottery scratchcard dispensing unit, rather a social club for people who like to chuck a few quid in for a laugh.
So, my conclusions. Either my journalistic instincts are blunted or Beeston, with its optimism, autonomy, and natural University-flowing cash is remarkably robust in these times of national collapse. I choose, out of ego more than anything, the latter.
Do comment, oh flush Beestonians. And if you have a few quid kicking around, which you evidentally do, theres a future Leader of your new Republic that is a little short on shoe leather, ok?