Tonight, I went for my first cycle ride through a Tier 4 Newbury.
It wasn’t the longest ride – about 30 minutes – and I decided to go through the town centre.
I suppose I don’t really know what Newbury town centre is like early on a Sunday evening anyway but there’s only one word for it tonight: tumbleweed.
I think I went all the way from the clock tower at the top, to the other side of the railway line at the bottom, without seeing more than three people.
From a cycling point of view, it was great (although I do need to adjust my saddle a bit, as it has slipped backwards). But what does it mean for Newbury?
I do wonder what Newbury, and perhaps other similar small towns, are going to be like, once the pandemic is over.
It used to be a lovely High Street, although in recent years, it has become replete with the usual stores, charity shops, and generic coffee chains. With one or two notable exceptions, you could be in almost any town without realising it.
I suppose that I am part of the problem (if the decline of the traditional High Street is indeed a problem), as the bicycle I was riding, the accessories on it, and every stitch of clothing I was wearing except my shoes, were bought online.
Not a new trend, but the pandemic obviously is not helping either. Debenhams is closing down, and quite a few other shops are now vacant, adding to those which already lay empty.
Places of leisure?
Perhaps High Streets will become places of leisure rather than for shopping?
But then I’m in no rush to head back to a restaurant either.
There are some lovely independent, or at least small chain, places to eat in Newbury, but the many offer delivery, and all offer takeaway. Which suits me just fine.
So we really are down to the situation which I wish to meet someone somewhere other than at home, and that happens very, very rarely.
If not food and drink, then what?
My occasional, usually regretted, trip to the cinema (more hassle, more expensive, more people, and less pleasant than waiting and watching the film at home) isn’t going to prop up that. And I love the Corn Exchange in theory, but I last went perhaps seven years ago? Life gets in the way, and I often can’t be bothered to leave the house, especially if it involves mingling with other people.
So, for now, I guess that just leaves the town centre as a place through which I can pass on my bike on a quiet evening.