Friday 21 May 2021

Another blow to Hanley

Sad to hear that the Hanley Marks & Spencers is closing soon. Seemingly another casuality of the lockdown, along with the other big Hanley department store Debenhams.

Personally I won't miss either. But Debenhams and M&S closing will no doubt be a huge blow to the centre. Especially in terms of attracting "Mrs. Spends £100 per-week on clothes and cakes" and her kids, with the kids being dropped off in somewhere like Games Workshop / the comic shop / the Library. Webberley's big bookshop and the art supplies shop have long gone, and the Library is no draw for me — books now come to me from Amazon and eBay and go to lockers for pickup. Nice to see the arcade record shop and Brassington's shoe-shop are hanging on in Hanley, and that Brassington's website is offering prices that undercut Amazon on brands such as Dr. Marten's. But for me footwear is only a once-in-ten-years purchase, and all my music is now digital.

Thus Rymans is now the only real draw for me in Hanley, and even then only occasionally and only because the big-shed version of Staples on Festival Park closed down. Difficult to think of any other reason to go up to Hanley, and plenty not to — in the form of the druggies and crazy people who are allowed to roam it and yell at the public while the police sit idly by in their car. Which I saw with my own eyes when I visited Rymans last autumn.

My last M&S "new trousers" visit, some years ago now, was actually to the huge out-of-town M&S at nearby Wolstanton. It has to be M&S because only there can you get exact trouser lengths + quality + price + a selection. And they still take seriously menswear for those who are not pencil-slim 19 year-olds, and give it lots of display space. It's a good store, huge and browsable, and with a big B&M next door. Once the big Wolstanton flyover finally opens you might even have some people walking up there from Festival Park, provided the long pedestrian bridge-crossing experience is made pleasant. When I last went it was a bit of a dog's leg to walk there, and the toy-town bus back was late and meh.

So really, Hanley's become a bit pointless for me now. Especially as many things can now be sent to an Amazon pickup on Festival Park. Or had via eBay if they can fit through a letterbox. There's also the B&Q on Festival Park, for the sort of larger or more specialist DIY items that can't be had from Morrisons. But that's the western part of Festival Park, which can hardly be considered to be Hanley. Nor can Ableworld which is far down on the southern edge of Hanley by the canal, and which I may eventually need when the time comes for the zimmer-frame and the ear-trumpet. Now there's a thought. The city centre bosses might find a way to get the big Ableworld up into Hanley, with good parking, and at no extra cost to the chain. That would be a draw for many older people. It might even fit nicely inside the current M&S space. That's if, by then, Ableworld hasn't already found a new space at Wolstanton next to the new flyover and M&S.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Pong along

There were definite slight traces of the bad-eggs "pong", down in the Stoke valley, during yesterday afternoon, then fading. Then it became quite noticable at about 8pm-9pm yesterday, before fading away again. The wind is in the right direction this morning, but brisk and no smell here.

Friday 14 May 2021

10 days without the pong

Touch-wood... the "bad eggs smell" has not returned to the Stoke valley in the last ten days, even after all the heavy rains of the last week and now lighter winds. Has the ongoing 'capping' of part of the waste-tipping site, reported in the papers, cured the problem? Let's hope so.

Saturday 8 May 2021

The writing is on the wall(paper)

Well, that's that, all bar the shouting and some predicatable Staffordshire county results. It was a great set of election results for the Conservatives, bar the likely result in London.

Taking it on a timeline:

First up was Labour being crushed in the big Hartlepool by-election, as we all now know. The Conservatives reportedly won the seat by a landslide 7,000 majority.

Then on Friday came the laugh-out-loud news that Conservatives 'make history' with Stoke-on-Trent by-election win, taking the 'safe' seat of the city's former Labour leader Mohammed Pervez.

Later on Friday evening came the more predictable Police & Fire Commissioner result. Conservative Ben Adams romps home as new Staffordshire Commissioner. Reform UK (former Brexit Party) were also on the ballot there, but very few had a clue who they were among the various micro-parties and tendencies of similar name. Reform, Reclaim, Realise, Reboot, Resist, Revive... who has a clue which is which? They might as well be ReRe and her Performing Rabbits, as far as most voters are concerned.

On later prodding the news engines, good news then popped out from across the Midlands. Local councils in Bromsgrove, Nuneaton, Walsall, Cannock — and even the Black Country 'key town' of Dudley — had come over to the Conservatives. Five seats in Wolverhampton were also quietly voted to the Conservatives. Parts of Tipton such as Great Bridge have gone Conservative, which would have been utterly unthinkable 20 years ago. The Conservative mayor of Birmingham is also fairly certain to be re-elected. Cheshire also seems certain to elect a Conservative Police & Fire Commissioner.

Predictably, no media outlet outside Stoke bothered to mention Stoke. Which, in a way, is good. When Stoke votes Conservative, it's now just 'to be expected' and is no longer national or even regional news.

Where does Labour go now? Frankly, who cares? Outside London they're now about as important as Boris's choice of wallpaper.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Return of the pong

I spoke to soon, on 'the pong'. It's back in central Stoke tonight, and it's 'a super-strong pong' now the high wind has moderated. A low NW wind is dragging it down the valley. It used to be a bit sickly, but now it's very slightly acrid. There's obviously some connection with heavy rains.