Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on October 24, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Stores in their eyes?

dinosaurWe were ambling along, enjoying Lydney in the sunshine the other day, when we were accosted by a young man. He was very polite about it, mind. What he wanted us to do was to sign a document to say how much we really, really wanted a new Asda in Lydney.

Needless to say we declined the invitation, pointing out our disinclination to support a new supermarket drawing custom away from the town centre.

At present Lydney has three supermarkets, all trading reasonably well, as far as I can see. The Co-op store is the most entrenched – it’s been a part of the community since the 1880s. Tesco, of course, is a bit of a cuckoo in the nest but has now embedded itself. Indeed you can hardly miss it as you head up the High Street. And then there’s the Nisa store, which started life as a Kwiksave (trading out of what was an old bus depot), became Somerfield and then transformed itself into a Harry Tuffins.

Now if that isn’t enough, it seems that Lydney is embroiled in a new store war, with Asda and Sainsbury’s competing to build out on the new development on the edge of town.

What I’d like to know is can a town the size of Lydney sustain a fourth supermarket? Are there enough eager shoppers to go round? OK, I hear you say “that’s Lydney’s problem”. But it’s not confined solely to Lydney. Both Cinderford and Coleford now face the imminent threat of new “hyperstores”.  Thanks to a vote in the District Council, Tesco are likely to go ahead with their new development in Coleford (right next to the Co-op), whilst Cinderford’s shopping centre faces decimation if Asda goes ahead with it’s monster store on the edge of town.

There are small or medium-sized towns all over the country that are being choked by the growth of the big supermarket chains. Communities that could sustain, say, two superstores and still maintain a thriving town centre, now find that they have three or four competing supermarket chains on their doorstep – and consequently their town centres simply shrivel up and die.

But there are some towns that have, so far, managed to buck the trend. Recently I’ve visited two such communities. Llangollen, in Wales, has a couple of supermarkets, the Co-op and a Nisa store, and sustains a thriving town centre with hardly an empty shop to be seen. More recently we were in Swanage on the Dorset coast. Apart from a pier and its own steam railway, Swanage also has a Co-op and a Budgen’s store – and here again, the town centre is busy and bustling. Nearer at home, we need only go as far as Newent, which has a modest Co-op and a Budgen’s store – and a bustling town centre.

They are amongst the communities that have been spared the ravages of the likes of Tesco, Asda, et al. Let’s hope that they can continue to do so.

Family fortunes

Whilst we’re on the subject of Asda, this supermarket chain is wholly owned by the US giant, WalMart, which in recent decades has spread its tentacles across North America.

Walmart itself is owned by one family, the Waltons. And between them, members of the family made a total of 115.7 billion US dollars from the business last year. The biggest slice went to Christy Walton and family who pocketed 28.2 billion.

Of course that kind of wealth doesn’t seem to trickle down to the thousands of Walmart employees. Or the bulk of the company’s customers, come to that.

It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it!

I hope readers don’t mind if I mount one of my favourite hobby horses (and I do have a lot of them!). It’s what happens to the English language as words change their meaning or are mis-used – or indeed are phased out altogether.

I still grit my teeth when I hear what used to be called the “Union Jack” referred to as the “Union Flag”. I think it was about the time of the Falklands invasion that it happened. And to me, my radio is still a wireless set, a truck is still a lorry and an elevator remains a lift.

And I can’t abide nouns being used as verbs. For instance, the word “access” (you have “access to” – you don’t “access” anything!). And I shudder inwardly when I hear a politician declare that a “robust” response is needed.

The latest travesty seems to be the way in which suddenly we’re all pronouncing the humble word “aitch” as though it’s in fact “haitch”. Where did that come from? And why? Is there a secret grapevine that spreads such mis-pronounciation? Or a secret Ministerial department in charge of language change?

For an old dinosaur like me, it’s most unsettling!

Dinosaur

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