Sunday, 17 April 2011

Well, you can get a snack

I thought that Manchester had been invaded by them, but it’s positively spartan compared to Bristol.

I’m talking of the rise of the supermarket convenience store, personified in Sainsbury Local’s (and Centrals) and Tesco Express’s (and Metro’s)

In the time it takes to walk from the centre back to Temple Meads I actually managed to loose count of the number of stores there were.

Not though, that I’m complaining.

I remember a time not that long ago when if you wanted to grab something after about 6pm there was nothing, other than a couple of massively overpriced corner shops, and even most of them closed by 8pm

Whilst it would be nice if there were more independent stores or small chains, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have obviously spotted the massive gap in the market and are in the process of filling it (possibly using the Noah method of just flooding the place.)

There is a very funny episode of the Simpsons where Bart gets his ear pierced. In the time it takes him to get it done all the stores in the mall have been converted to Starbucks.

At the time (early 2000’s) it did appear that Starbucks were going to take over the world, but then the fight back started from the UK chains and now in some places you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Nero’s or Costa’s.

Perhaps now is the time for smaller chains to get in on the act and mount a similar fight back, after all, being able to buy shampoo at 10pm at night in the city centre when you’ve realised you’ve just run out is a bit bourgeois, but it is awfully convenient.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Getting round just got that little bit harder

Over the last couple of years I’ve done quite a bit of travelling around England, from the Northumbrian borders with Scotland down to the English Riviera, and the thing that has kept striking me is actually how easy it is, usually, to get around, even without a car.

There’s been a few places that I haven’t been able to get to either because I’ve left it too late in the day, tried to go on a Sunday or in a couple of very rare examples there just isn’t any public transport to get you there.

I’ve taken the bus from Berwick to Alnwick on a Sunday morning, full sized double deck with just me on it the whole way, but I’ve also been wedged into a bus from Torquay that was so full I had to give up any chance of visiting the castle I was aiming for as I would never have been able to get off.

But now, it appears, things are about to change.

Standing in Wells waiting for the bus to Cheddar I noted, with some disquiet, the signs on the back of the bus shelters informing customers of the “amendments” to bus times that were due to come in force from tomorrow.

I think Amendment is a bit of a weak word to use when you actually mean whole scale slash and burn.

The most obvious example was the buses to Cheddar itself.

Today there are 15 buses, with the last one leaving Wells around 22:15, from tomorrow everything after 17:00 has been cut.

It means that in the height of summer, even if the weather is lovely and you were really looking forward to having an evening meal in Cheddar before heading back to Wells, Bristol, Bath or Weston you’ve got to be on the bus by 18:00 otherwise it’s going to be an expensive taxi ride.

Whilst I know there is a massive black hole in the public finances, and cuts do have to be made, it does appear that some of these are being made purely out of spite rather than any logical reason. Given how many people got off the bus at Cheddar this morning cutting the service will have an effect on the numbers visiting. At a time when we are supposed to be trying to encourage people to spend (and the tourist Pound, Dollar, Euro and Renminbi are now significant parts of the economy), it does appear a little illogical to make spending it more difficult (though some taxi drivers may disagree with me on that one!)

Perhaps it is just North Somerset council that are carrying out such large scale mutilations to their public transport infrastructure, but somehow I don’t think they are alone, and in future it’s going to take that bit longer, and be that bit more complicated to visit places that aren’t slap bang in the middle of a large urban space.

Given they don’t appear to be cutting, perhaps it’s time to focus on travelling Wales and Scotland instead.

It’s probably far too early to say public transport in England is dying, but it’s certainly suffering from a number of serious knife wounds and at present is stable in hospital, unfortunately we’ve also just cut funding to hospitals…

Friday, 15 April 2011

Paddington is a dangerous place

Walking across the concourse I was concerned about what I could see. Everywhere there were small people carry what where quite clearly concealed machine guns.

It was like something from 1920’s Chicago.

Everywhere I looked there were more of them, all casually walking along, police ignoring them, swinging their cases of death.

Of course it could have been that they were all kids off to violin practice, but that would sound far less dramatic.

It’s still a little odd, the sheer number of them.