Wednesday, 5 June 2013

On the Soapbox

I’m not one for making social commentaries on the blog as it’s not really in keeping with the theme, however once in a while you have to make an exception. We have moved over the last two weekends, from Tilbury to Southend on Sea, it is as noted elsewhere just a stop gap between our old home and the road.
Southend on Sea was where we went as children for days out and even whole holidays. Southend was a nice place with a small kiddies fun fare called Peter Pans Playground and, the longest pier in the world. Through the rose tinted spectacles of hindsight it was a bijou and traditional, the houses were seaside town clean and the shops were all novel and interesting and mostly independent.
In all fairness I was not overly bothered by the South end on Sea bit as a child, except for Peter Pans, and the amusements on the sea front, I always preferred Leigh on Sea, because of the mud flats.  However I do remember the high street as a street with traffic. I remember my mother going into shops, and I remember proper restaurants. 
So how is it that a high street now devoid of cars and buses, pedestrianised is suddenly from this viewers perspective … so dreary and down at heel?
I have a theory, it’s one of those to my eyes fairly self evident theories, and I haven’t really dug around, so I may be wildly wrong, but, I think I can see the cause. Foreign holidays started the rot and the British seaside fell out of favour (this is well documented and a problem nationally).
Moving on a few years, the seaside industry is in decline due to relatively cheap foreign packages and the promise of guaranteed sun. So what to do if you’re a hotel owner with empty rooms trying to make ends meet in England? Easy rent them to the homeless? Sounds perfect, hotel stays in business, with a regular turnover of guaranteed income from itinerants moving through. Problem, the money is for accommodation only, the homeless person is probably not going to have a spare bean to spend in your local economy, and may possibly never work.
What do you do if you’re a council who has decided to take on lots of dispossessed individuals and get grants to house the homeless in hotels? Raise business rates to meet the shortfall because the citizens you’ve shipped in are potless and aren’t spending any money.
Then what happens is, the businesses that were suffering from a lack of custom, have to dig deeper to pay the council business rates. Those business's have less money to spend inwardly or outwardly and in so many cases eventually go out of business as the chains move in and the stack em high sell em cheap modus operandi reigns. It’s a vicious circle of decline.
What you’re left with is charity shops, cheap shit burger joints, and tuppenny ha'penny high street stores selling cheap as chips disposable crap to people who only care about the now, the looking good until the fashions turn over and their entire wardrobe is out of date. And out they go again buying piss poor quality knock off tut, in the vain hope of some validation in a society that has been telling them for two decades or more how to look good, and anyone can get credit even if they haven’t got a pot to piss in.
On the back of this low rent clientele, comes boozers, losers, druggies and the scum that feed them or feed off them … too whit dealers various, and shister Landlords who swept in at the end of the last property boom then crash, and bought all quality property at knock down prices and turned it into an over populated cheek by jowl sink estate, that the council (who by which time were also caught in their own spiral of decline) had no choice but to turn a bit of a blind eye and allow it to continue to eat itself alive.
Caveat: this doesn’t apply everywhere in Southend ... just where you want your legitimate passing trade and central hub.
Now the bust without the boom is with us, and “times is ard” for everyone. Southend on Sea is left with this legacy; fantastic homes carved up and turned into slumy looking bedsits, itinerants, dossers and the genuinely disenfranchised all huddled together, stuck in an environment where work is often seasonal, and transport into the metropolis is relatively expensive.
People are now looking to stay home for holidays, because all of a sudden going abroad is too expensive, or people are making do with multiple short breaks and day trips. But of course they are now put off of visiting their childhood seaside resorts, because seafront benches are occupied by pie eyed layabouts, the streets where once they could get an ice cream, or sit down for a family meal are gone. What they have instead is “cheap shit burger joints, charity shops, and low rent corporate tut shops”.

The once half decent pubs of the town have become that wretched half club half pub that attracts only those looking to get totally annihilated on a Saturday night and piss and puke in shop doorways thus ensuring the sound of the siren (ambulance or police) is the street sound of choice, in a raucous accord with the screaming swearing OI OIing moron that is the binge drinking 18 to 30 year old of Britain today.
There are of course pockets of the old seaside town here and there, and move either side of the centre of Southend itself and you find things much as they were when I was a kid, but that isn’t what this post is about. It’s about having your rose tinted glasses head butted full on into your brow and seeing your holiday town and your memories mis-managed by bleeding hearts with no common sense, and greedy councillors from both sides of the house, hand in glove with greedy developers for twenty or more years turning a gold mine into landfill.
If there is a consolation then it’s the fact that Leigh on Sea has its own council and they have maintained their standards, and it’s only a short bike ride away.

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