The last independent shop, not part of any chain, in the town centre, has closed. When we moved to this town, 29 years ago, the centre was full of small family businesses, all of which fell victim to extortionate rents and council tax, and the pressure of huge mulit-million dollar international businesses, which could afford to take a hit here because they would make it up in some other city centre.
I really, really wanted to cry when I (ironically) cycled past the bike shop. Here we bought our children's first bikes, here we took their bikes to be repaired, here our children, now independent teenagers, went for advice on lights, helmets, cycle locks. And were always received by the proprietor with time, courtesy and a range of products to choose from, backed by expert advice. Only two months ago, I took my bike to be serviced, and it came back like new, with a new front light already fitted, and a free straightening of the front handle-bar which we only noticed was crooked as I was wheeling it out of the shop.
Now the window shows a pile of old second-hand televisions (overspill from the semi-pawn shop next door) and a sign reading "For Sale".
I really wanted to cry, but I found that my policy, developed over the last ten years or so, of never letting any person hurt to me that deeply, has had an unexpected side effect. My tears have dried up for others, as well as for myself. I wanted to be tougher, and now I am so tough, I can't express my sorrow for others.
This is perhaps not the result I wanted. Is there a way back for me from this place, I wonder?