A trip into Town

This morning, I had to make a trip into Dereham, the local town. I often drive through it, to get to the large supermarket on the outskirts, but I rarely have occasion to stop there. Today, I had to take a suit to the Dry Cleaners, as I will wear it next week, to a friend’s funeral. I was also going to pop into the branch of my bank there, and perhaps have a look around some shops.

I parked in the large free car park at the northern end of the High Street. As it is not one of the market days, it was easy to find a space. It was very cold in the wind, and occasional sleet made the short walk unpleasant. The shop where I left the dry cleaning is also a shoe repair and key-cutting business. The pleasant young man who runs it is always cheerful, and he must be a hard worker too, as he juggles all three sides of his business alone. It will be ready on Saturday, which is just in time for me.

Leaving his shop, I had a look around. The town was wintry and unwelcoming. Large puddles made negotiating some areas tricky, and the other shoppers were shuffling, bundled in heavy winter clothes. At that time of day, almost everyone out was either elderly, or young mums with prams and pushchairs. For the older people, it is a familiar routine, a daily walk around the individual shops. A chance to escape four walls, endless hours of television, and being able to see others; perhaps even bump into someone they know. They stop for a cup of tea and a cake, at one or other of the cafes there; a break from the norm, and a brief spell of warmth inside. For the young mums, it is not that different, and the baby gets some fresh air too.

I went into some shops, not really intending to buy anything, but open to inspiration, or clever merchandising. But it was just the same old stuff, and I found myself spending a few extra minutes in a sportswear shop, as it was nice and warm inside, and the friendly staff were happy for me to browse unmolested. I still notice how chatty the local people can be, in great contrast to London. A man of about my age, walking ahead of me, turned to warn me. ‘Watch that bit, it’s slippy there’ he said, indicating a section of path that I was nowhere near. Negotiating a narrow pavement alongside a parked lorry, another man stopped to remonstrate with me about the inconsiderate parking, seeking confirmation that I was as angry about it as he was.

I decided to go into the bank to draw cash, rather than use the ATM in the cold outside. The couple in front of me were dividing cash into different sections of the lady’s handbag, and putting other banknotes into envelopes. They were so engrossed in this task, that they didn’t even notice that I was queuing behind them for some time. If I was still in London, I might well have said something, asked them to move to a counter to complete their budgeting. But I am no longer faced with the pressures of big city living, so I just waited, smiling amiably.

Walking back to the car park, the sleet was getting insistent, but it was not halting the progress of those elderly shoppers. Most were making straight for the large ‘Poundland’ store, where everything, as the name implies, costs just £1. This is a false economy of course, as the perceived value does not take into account pack sizes, the durability of the products sold, or the quality of anything you might buy there. Still, it is nice to get five things for £5, even if you realise later that you didn’t actually need them.

Back out of the sleet, cosseted in my car, I was home in ten minutes, to a welcome from Ollie. These days, a trip to Dereham seems like an adventure in a big metropolis. My life has surely changed.

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23 thoughts on “A trip into Town

  1. Pete, I enjoyed reading about your visit to Dereham. My parents live in a small Midwestern town. Dereham has a population of about 15,700. Since my parents’ town is home to roughly 10,400 people, the towns are fairly comparable in size. My parents’ town doesn’t really have a traditional main street (although many businesses line a thoroughfare that connects the town to the state highway), but it does have a traditional town square anchored by the county courthouse. I’ve enjoyed walking around the square, but also through the surrounding neighborhoods. The people are friendly. I’ll never forget, back in 2009, during the holiday season, seeing a handwritten sign posted on the glass door of a small business that was a bit vague, in a folksy way, about when the shop would open up again. Although life in a small town is not exciting, there are some advantages, as you well know. I would very much like to live in a small town, but preferably near the mountains or the ocean.

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    1. I didn’t actually go in there Arlene, but I have been there in the past. Batteries are normally worth buying for £1 for 6, as they can be expensive elsewhere. Looks like these shops are all over the world!
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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  2. It sounds quite inviting. Definitely what we would call “small town” in the U.S. Now one thing you have to explain, as I’ve seen it on blogs and in movies, is the High Street. I gather it is a shopping area. What kind of shopping area?

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    1. Hi Corina. I am not too sure that ‘inviting’ is the word, but it has history, and some old buildings. Almost every town in the UK has a High Street. It has little do do with elevation, more about being a shopping destination. The shops tend to be individual ones, and smaller branches of major chains. There will be shops that sell newspapers, usually a few Pubs and Bars, some food outlets and cafes, a church, post office, and sometimes a street market. These days, they also have Charity Shops, selling second hand goods, and lots of Estate Agents, who sell and rent homes.
      Here are some links for you to see more.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dereham
      https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/dereham-a-norfolk-town/
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Street
      Thanks very much for your comment. Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved reading this Pete, really made me smile. Loved the bit about the pound shop. I’ve had some great bargains bit some shockers too…. Including what I thought was a paddling pool( it did say that on the label) but was actually the size of a dinner plate. Another was a pack of those punch ball balloons that you put rice in. I’d bought them for my daughter Lucy’s 3rd birthday. Within a few minutes of the party they’d all burst and all the kids in tears! That’ll teach me!

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    1. There are some things in there that are actually OK for £1. But as my Dad always used to say, ‘You get what you pay for.’ I have never forgotten that lesson.
      Thanks for the comment Helen. X

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    2. Helen, here in the United States we have “dollar stores,” but also (as an indication of price undercutting) so-called “99 cent stores.” As Pete pointed out, you generally get what you pay for. By pricing all (or most) articles of merchandise the same, you may pay a bit too much, or not as much as would otherwise be reasonable, but we all know these stores turn a nice profit. Of course, these stores buy in bulk, and most of the merchandise is manufactured overseas. Also, some of the merchandise is surplus stock that other retailers were unable to sell, and were therefore happy to pass along for pennies on the dollar rather than throw away.

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  4. Pete, it sounds like you had quite an adventure out in the fresh air..
    Feels good to get out and just window shop sometimes.. ~
    Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

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  5. Nice little trip, I was half expecting you would find something to buy that caught your eye. I wonder, is there a butcher or bakery in the town? Or has the supermarket wiped them out?

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    1. There are two butchers; one is expensive, the other the cheap ‘bulk pack’ kind. The bakers is a branch of Greggs. (I was tempted by a Belgian Bun, but resisted). The small bakery is called ‘Flour and Bean’. They do nice bread, but mainly trade as a cafe/coffee bar.
      There is a huge Tesco, Morrisons, and Lidl, all on the edge of the town. They have put paid to most of the grocery shops, but the large CO-OP in the High Street is always busy.

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  6. I’ve never been to Dereham, Pete, but I feel like have, several times. Lovely writing, always enjoyable reading coming from your Beetleypost..
    The same atmosphere is in Royston and Melbourn too, just outside Cambridge and a bit closer to London than Cley where I momentarily sip my tea and listen to the rain. For me it’s a a big and great change being in Norfolk and I love it. It slows me down so kindly.
    Warm wintery greetings from the Four of us,
    Dina

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    1. Thanks Dina, I suppose it is a little like Royston in many ways, though no London commuters living there. Just back from walking Ollie in that rain (and sleet) you were listening to!
      Best wishes to all, Pete and Ollie. X

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