The little town that I live in has always been home to me. I have lived here all my life; apart from my few years at university. I never made a resolution to stay here, it has just happened that the twists and turns of life have lead to me staying here. It is a typical small town, there isn't a huge amount of things here, but enough and that's fine with me.
Growing up, I always resented my town. It seemed boring, limiting, pointless. I think that was the teenage angst talking rather than reality though as looking back, the town was a whole lot better when I was growing up than it is now.
It was lively. People wanted to be there; to shop, to browse or even to just hang out. There was a large Woolworths which for many years was the heart of the town. The great thing about Woolworths was that it was a great shop to mooch around and it pretty much sold everything you needed. Sadly, too many people must have mooched and not bought, judging by the demise of that particular High Street store.
The other shops were a real mixture of well known shops and smaller local shops. The main shopping streets were all full and there was an occasional charity shop. My favourite shop as a kid wasn't Woolworths (in spite of the pick and mix), it was a newsagent called Central News; at least that was the last name I can remember as it definitely changed a few times. It was the place of sweets, magazines and Slush Puppies and a complete haven for the tired child at the end of a long school day faced with an even longer walk home.
Butchers, bakers, sweet shops, clothes shops and even supermarkets nestled in between the banks, pharmacies and jewellers. They even built a proper shopping precinct with a multi storey car park a few years later and it seemed as though this meant that our little town might start attracting some other exciting shops.
It did for a while. We even had an M&S for a few years which was amazing, but then the shine started to dull and our little town started to lose its life. Shops started to close; big names and local traders all fell foul of a downturn in economics, it seems that recessions don't discriminate when it comes to these matters. We would all shake our heads sadly as each month saw year another empty shop.
These days, I rarely go into town. I live on the outskirts and the children don't go to school in town, so I only go in when I have to. There really isn't any point. People say that we should support our towns and use our shops but if there aren't really many left, you can't blame people for going elsewhere. I like may others, now choose to shop in one of the bigger towns that are a half an hour drive away.
The precinct that we all loved those years ago now has more empty shops than full ones. The once bustling main streets are a combination of charity shops, Mobile Phone shops and empty windows. One or two hardy big names have weathered the storm and a small number of local traders have survived, but very few. Last week saw more companies fall and that for us will mean another empty shop or two.
As much as I was never the biggest fan of my little town, it does make me sad to see the state it's in now and I know there are lots of towns, even bigger ones that are struggling. It would be lovely to see some new smaller independent retailers in some of the empty shops, but the reality is that in the current economic climate, it isn't the most tempting time to start a business but also the cost of renting a shop is astronomical, which puts people off before they have even started.
So what is the future of the towns that we grew up in? I honestly don't know. Online shopping, the supermarket superstores and out of town shopping centres are reigning supreme and it doesn't look promising. We will venture in to town every now and then as the children like to go in and look around sometimes and there is always the library and a nice café, but when it comes to serious shopping; for now at least, I will have to go elsewhere.