Tag Archives: town

Ilfracombe: the talking town

I’ve had a weekend off. Unusual. I’ve been walking around the town where I live: Ilfracombe. And over two days, I’ve stopped and talked to so many friendly people. It’s been marvellous.

Ilfracombe: the talking townNow, I’m really a city boy, brought up to sit, or stand, on Tube trains, po-faced, not uttering a word.

For years, when I commuted, the Evening Standard quick crossword was my only travelling companion.

But here in remote North Devon, a quick walk down the High Street takes an hour. There are so many people to wave to, to stop and talk to, to joke with.

Many people say there’s no shops here, nothing to buy, that you can’t shop here. I shop here all the time, buy much of what we consume in the High Street and enjoy shopping because there’s none of the hassle of supermarkets or online shopping. It’s the same as meeting and talking to friends.

It started on Saturday morning when a chat with a fellow dog walker turned into an impromptu business networking session. Then a stroll into the harbour and along the seafront in the afternoon led me to talk with café and shop owners, to thank another shop owner for helping out at an event and to meet the owner of a new shop.

On Sunday morning we caught up with a dog walker whose young relative is recovering in hospital after an accident, while in the afternoon we walked to the harbour and seafront again as it was such a beautiful day and a cream tea was required. We chatted to more shop owners we bumped into along with more dog owners and friends.

The whole weekend has been one long social event, just through walking round our town.

Being part of such a friendly community is one of the best gifts in my life.

Posted in Ilfracombe. Tagged with , , , , , , .

Is it dangerous to walk down memory lane?

My carefully planned trip to London last Saturday went a little awry. I had planned the train so that I had just enough time to reach my meeting. Then we decided it would be good to drop in at the Algerian Coffee Shop to buy coffee beans. It promised to be hot so, to avoid rushing in the heat, I thought I would get the next earlier train – that was, an hour earlier. On the morning I was up early and ready to leave so drove to the station. Being Saturday, the roads were empty and the station car park empty too: I was on the platform early enough to catch the next earlier train.

I arrived at Waterloo 1.5 hours earlier I had originally planned, so after purchasing my coffee beans, proceeded to Oxford Street – Ilfracombe High Street is far preferable – then on to New Oxford Street. I wandered along to Holborn Underground Station and realised that it was more than 22 years since I had last walked the route of my daily commute from this station down Kingsway to the Aldwych. I was determined to retrace my steps.

It brought back memories of walking along that rather grim, grey road every morning. I recalled seeing the regular throng of homeless people, often swigging from cans of Tennent’s Lager: not a comfortable thought at 8.30am in any way. And I looked out for the little temple – as I used to think of it – on the corner of one of the buildings on the west side of Kingsway. High above the grime of the traffic and commuters, I used to imagine being able to see across London and up into the sky: I’ve always been a dreamer and it’s probably why I departed the corporate world.

What I also remembered is how unhappy I was working in this environment and how, from a lot of the rudeness I observed, the seeds of pleaseandthanks.co.uk were sown.

This brought me back to the present as if someone had snapped their fingers. I was on my way to the annual general meeting of the National Campaign for Courtesy where I was to give a report on the courteous town pilot initiative we have been running in Ilfracombe.

It reminded me that you can always extract some positive value from bad experiences.

What had led me to retrace the route of my former commute and realise that something that germinated 22 years ago was now reaching fruition?

I felt that a circle had been closed and that this marked an achievement, especially as our courteous town pilot will be marked officially in a week or so.

I wonder how I really came to take that earlier train?

Posted in a musing. Tagged with , , , , , .
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