Not impressed, Vale

From the official Vale of the White Horse literature on Abingdon’s new bin system:
Live in a flat or communal property?
You will still be able to recycle more and have your food waste collected although your new service may not start in October. We will be in touch with you to let you know when the new service will start.”
Oh good, I thought, because I live in a flat and the thought of one grey + one green wheelie for each flat all stacked up in a row is just too silly. It will take up too much room. Still, October is getting close and no squeak from them yet; maybe I should drop them a line to ask what service we will be getting instead. A nice automated reply tells me that I will get an answer from the appropriate authority. Oh good, I think, anything but a row of bins, one per flat.
So guess what we come home to today:
Well, that avoids confusion.

More than MGs and Morlands

Today was Abingdon Heritage Open Day, when the nooks and crannies of our own little hometown are opened up to the public gaze. It’s the kind of thing a future Neil Gaiman could write a story about to flex his muscles before going on to write something like Neverwhere.

Descend into the very bowels of the earth beneath the town hall …

… and encounter a Mamod enthusiast’s wildest dream, the gas-powered engine that used to pump water to north Abingdon. “North” being, of course, a relative term that nowadays could more accurately be described as “central” – the Vineyard, St John’s Road, Swinburne Road, that sort of area.

Sadly not working or even moving, though apparently that will change after the forthcoming museum restoration. This was one of the few solid facts to pass the lips of the lady guide down there, who must have said variations on “I don’t know how / why / if …” more times per minute than any other guide I have ever met.

Onwards, and a more mobile relative of the water pump lurks beneath the Abbey archway. Anyone who knows me more than passingly well will detect another reason for photographing it. Anyone who doesn’t will be left dangling in tantalising speculation.

The Abbey Baptist church is Tardis-like, much bigger inside than the exterior would suggest. The main doors rather appropriately follow the Tardis motif.

(Unfortunately, this visit meant I had a variant on a classic hymn going through my head for the rest of the day:

“On Jordan’s bank the Baptists cry;
If I were Baptist so would I.
They do not drink, they have no fun,
I’d rather be an Anglican.”)
Behind the Abbey buildings and on the other side of the Long Gallery lurks this secluded little garden, backing onto the millstream which is far too dirty and obscured by overgrowth to be worth photographing.

An exhibition in the undercroft includes a vital reference map for any (alternative) historian of what the old Abbey layout might actually have looked like. I can see myself coming back to this.

Lunchtime beckoned and so we thought we would leave the attractions of East St Helens Street and the Long Alley Almshouse for the afternoon, which as it turns out with one thing and another will have to be another day in another year. Instead we wondered home via the Abingdon School chapel. Some quite attractive modern stained glass …

… and an eagle lectern apparently modelled on Sam the American Eagle.

Don’t say you can’t see it.

More of the same, please

Abingdon is getting a WH Smith and feelings are mixed, mostly inclining towards the “no, thanks” end of the argument. I’m torn myself. The part of me conditioned by childhood says that having a Smiths in town is a Good Thing because … well, because it is. Anyway, a Smiths would be a sign of confidence in the town’s reviving economy which we could well do with. There’s still the gaping abscess where Woolies once stood.

A more realistic part of me observes that everything you’re likely to want from a Smiths,* you can already get anyway – we have a very good stationers, we have two very book shops and, right opposite where it’s going to be, a very good newsagents. They are all privately owned, run by people who know exactly what they are doing and who can help out with your stationery / literary / newsagently needs, and I would hate to see any of them lose business to a national chain.

[*Exception: music. Since the fall of Modern Music and Woolies we have no decent music sellers: Woolies also took with it the DVD market.]

So, by and large I too incline towards the no, thanks brigade. We could maybe do with limited colonisation by some of the national chains. A Woolies replacement would be something else, or a decent clothes shop. Maybe an M&S where Woolies once stood. But we really don’t need a WH Smiths, unless it’s a Smiths that tones down on the books and papers and stationery and really pushes the digital media items.

We could well do with more like this, however.

On a sunny September morning he was sitting in the middle of the precinct and delighting passers by with gentle Spanish-style guitar pieces. That’s the kind of thing that makes it worth going into the precinct and, while you’re there, spending money in the shops. And I dropped a quid in his guitar case.