Thursday, July 07, 2011

Visit To Bedford- Part 2

Having parked the car and paid the extortionate parking fee, I walked to Nick's flat.  I didn't get any change out of that confounded machine, I realise. Bedford Borough Council owes me 10p.

It was a relatively short walk down Chaucer Road and across Bromham Road and then down Ashburnham Road. I got to Nick's flat and he let me in and we spent some time chatting and had a cup of tea together. We then went into the centre of Bedford, where I haven't been for a good four years. I have been over to Bedford briefly on several occasions, one of which was to go to the funeral of Louis Fussell, my former landlord in Rutland Road, but I didn't spend much time wandering around the town centre. So we was interesting to see what had happened to Bedford in the intervening years. I had lived at Beauchamp Court, a block of flats within a stone's throw of the bus station, and was interested to see what had happened as regards the redevelopment of that area. I noticed that two of the blocks of flats had been demolished (over the road from Beauchamp Court.) and that was about all. I can't see how it can take that long to get this work underway and still only have the blocks of flats demolished. Oh dear, things take an exceptionally long time to get done in Bedford, for some weird reason. It took over sixty years for the by-pass to get built, and most of that was because there was endless wrangles over the proposed route.

We ended up in Costa's coffee, which wasn't there when I lived in Bedford (in what used to be Clayton's menswear.) and then we walked through the town centre to Silver Street. What posessed the local authority to put that weird sculpture in there, I can't imagine. It's near Debenhams's and facing the High Street. It's of two enormous faces, made of shiny metal, facing each other. It would look fine on the side of a hill somewhere, and seen from a distance (perhaps behind a few hedges and a tree, to hide it completely, perchance.) But stuck in the centre of Bedford town centre, it looks really out of place. There is another sculpture on the roundabout near the bus station (not far from Beauchamp Court) which I saw as we walked past, and that looks a little better (I think there was a fountain there once upon a time, but that went long ago, sadly.)A little more in keeping with the surroundings than the awful monstrosity in Silver Street. I bet there was an outcry from the Council Tax payers of Bedford over these items, as I bet they cost quite a bit.

I was somewhat shocked at the shabby state of everything. Bedford has been totally neglected over the years, what with empty shops everywhere as a result of the recession (the one in the 1980's and not necessarily the last one, or the current one) as well as the result of the Credit Crunch. There are many new cafes and eating places, which I don't understand. If there's really no reason to visit the place (nothing much in the way of attractions, such as in Oxford, Cambridge, York, Harrogate or similar-sized towns.) why would anyone want to eat there? No theatre, concert hall or anything of much artistic or cultural interest (apart from, perhaps, concerts in the Corn Exchange or  exhibitions at the Cecil Higgins art gallery.) There is the Civic Theatre, which seems to remain steadfastly open, but I can't think why, as it's the most moth eaten place to see a show you could wish to find. I have discovered that the Bowen West Theatre, which was part of DeMontfort University and in Lansdown Road, is empty and awaiting, I presume, the demolition ball, as a result of what is now Bedfordshire University selling all their propeties around there to fund the new buildings in Polhill Avenue. But what a waste of a perfectly good theatre. Why didn't the local authority take it over and keep it as a venue, as it's of a good size, with reasonable site-lines etc, and would be far better than the tatty Civic Theatre which has all the appeal of a village hall with cramped seating, awful backstage facilities and has to contend with the sound of traffic thundering past.

Apart from all of this, you have to contend with traffic thundering through the town. I know there is the newly opened by-pass, but why does traffic still have to come down the High Street and round that idiotic one-way traffic system, which must try the patience of many a passing motorist?

I knew the parking ticket on the car was due to run out at 12.50, so we walked back to my car and I bade farewell to Nick. I had one or two items to buy in Sainsbury's at Clapham Road, which was a short drive from where I'd parked. I got the things I needed and then drove out of Bedford along Shakespeare Road and went out of town via Bromham Road. I then realised that I could get to Milton Keynes by using the relatively new link road from Bromham to Kempston and then to the M1 at Brogborough (the way I'd come into Bedford.) I drove with one of Beethoven's piano concertos playing on Classic Fm, which I tend to have on when I'm driving, and could see some spectacular cloud formations and rain moving across the landscape as I drove back to Milton Keynes.
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