I gather from reading the local newspaper's Facebook Page, (The Helensburgh Advertiser) that Helensburgh has been nominated for a Carbuncle Award. Specifically, a Plook On The Plinth Award. I can't really disagree with the sentiments voiced in the nominations - there ARE too many charity shops, the town's infrastructure is crumbling, it's hard to see what is being done specifically to address the issue and it is pretty much criminal that a place with so much potential has been allowed to get into such a state.
However, I promised that as well as documenting the decay I would also be looking out for signs of hope and regeneration and celebrating the good things about Helensburgh. To that end, I'd like to introduce you to my tea. Yes, I know, I was doing a Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner project that rather ground to a halt. It was ambitious to think I could keep that up for very long, but I haven't given up on it entirely. I just thought I'd add the more interesting things that we eat to the project. And I was fascinated by the sight of these Romanesco Broccolis on sale at Nature's Harvest in Helensburgh today.
I had nipped into town to buy some foreign currency for an upcoming trip and some loo roll. (You know how you hear of people peering at folk's shopping baskets and making assumptions about them based on what they find...I wonder what they'd make of that!) Anyway, having inadvertently told the postmistress that I loved her, I was heading to the supermarket for loo roll, feeling a little downcast as I noticed that Stewarts of Helensburgh is now ANOTHER charity shop when I saw these veg on the stand outside Nature's Harvest. Instantly drawn I selected the one I wanted and went in to pay. Of course, as is pretty much par for the course, I realised I didn't have any money on me (or at least, none that I could use here) but the very nice gent behind the counter was happy to hang onto my beautiful broccoli while I went to get some from the cash machine, virtually next door. The very nice gent informed me on my return that the price had gone up now and it occurred to me as I mock-walked out that this kind of banter isn't something you get in the big supermarkets either. Thus far I'd acquired US Dollars and an exotic brassica and genuinely "LOL"ed twice in the space of ten minutes. Pretty positive stuff, I reckon! Nature's Harvest, is, like many independent shops in Helensburgh, part of the Totally Locally scheme a really keen initiative to support local independent businesses. Of course, the people who really need to do the supporting are people like me. I need to come into Helensburgh and do more of my shopping here, instead of scooting off in the opposite direction to Asda in Dumbarton.
Why don't I then? Or at least, why don't I as often as I should? I had a lovely time in Helensburgh today. I got everything I came in for and more, I had a giggle, some fresh air and it isn't any further for me to drive from my village to Helensburgh than it is to drive to Dumbarton.
It's partly because I'm lazy. I have a family of five to feed and the ability to park in one place and walk to one shop where I can buy socks, an iron, lightbulbs, the paper, fish, meat, veg, frozen goods and a chart album without having to schlep back to the car when my arms ache, without having to dodge broken paving stones, puddles and the town drunk is appealing. You can't really get away from the fact that parking in Helensburgh is inadequate.
It's partly to do with price. My exotic brassica was lovely but twice the price of an ordinary cauliflower in Asda. The loaf of bread and the loo roll I bought in Helensburgh's currently larger supermarket were 50% more than their Asda equivalent too. But on the other hand, the bales of hay and sawdust I buy from the pet shop in Helensburgh are FAR cheaper than the small packs available in the supermarket. Perhaps there are other areas where I'd save and the whole would balance out? Perhaps I need to not apply blanket assumptions?
All in all, I think I just need to make more effort and vow to shop in Helensburgh first, and then go to Asda et al if I can't get what I want at a price I want. Not the other way round.
This wasn't my only trip to Helensburgh this week. I went over earlier in the week with the camera, specifically looking for shots for my Home project. I visited the first house I ever lived in, and the first house we ever bought - both places full of memories for me!
This tree sits on an oval of grass at the end of the cul-de-sac where I first lived. It was where I an my friends used to play, making daisy chains in the summer and snowmen in the winter. I remember using a blue and black checked woollen blanket to sit on and have picnics. Sometimes, if I were alone, I'd wrap myself up in that blanket to shut out the rest of the world. I remember the smell of the wool as it warmed in the sun and how the smell was more obvious in the patches where my breath had dampened it. And I remember, very, very vividly, noticing for the first time that the weft and warp of the threads of wool made myriad holes through which it was possible to have an entirely new view of my surroundings. Once I'd noticed it, I couldn't leave it alone and I'd spend hours squinting through the holes, noticing the effect it had on what I could see out there. I don't have that blanket any longer but the memory lingers on.
The first house we bought was on Prince Albert Terrace, just off Sinclair Street in Helensburgh. Where I'd been lucky enough to catch a quick chat with the owner of my first ever home, there was nobody in when I called here. However, I took a quick trip to the swing part at Hermitage Park, virtually next door. I took my son here when he was little and I'm pretty much convinced that the big metal rocking horse is the same one I rode on as a child. I had fond memories of that horse, but when I stooped down to something approaching child height to get my shot, I was astonished. He's bloody terrifying! Look!
I'll be back in Helensburgh over the next week or so - looking for fond memories, documenting the state of the place and seeking out the good and beautiful too. It's home. It deserves to be more than a plook on a plinth.