it's sad to see Waterstones vacate their Eastgate premises and move into the back of HMV, their sister shop -- apparently the actual area available to them there is similar to what they had before, but my feeling is that as ecommerce becomes more popular then book and record shops are likely to be hard pressed to remain profitable
i still sometimes buy books from bookshops, but it's so much easier to get them from Amazon or make an online reservation and pick them up from the mobile library -- (tho it's hard to know how much longer that service will be available -- it's already been cut back to once a fortnight
as for the large number of empty stores on East Walk, that's presumably caused mainly by the lengthy recession
street lights and cycle signs
partial success -- of the four street lights i reported as faulty in August 2010, three of them have now been repaired!
however not such good news on the Noak Bridge cycling signs put up last year -- i reported the majority of the signs being the wrong way round in May / June 2010 -- Essex County Council is still planning its campaign on how to tackle them -- i'm thinking of offering to go round and put a black bin bag over all the wrong signs to try and minimise the confusion experienced by visiting cyclists -- it should take about twenty minutes
cycle sign at the corner of Bridge Street and Eastfield Road (May 2010)
the Noak Bridge / Billericay sign points towards Wickford
the Wickford sign points towards Noak Bridge / Billericay
cycle sign at the A127 end of Coppice Lane (June 2010)
the Wickford sign points towards Billericay
the Billericay sign points towards Basildon
the Basildon sign points towards Wickford
full marks to Essex & Suffolk Water
a couple of weeks ago, water started welling up outside the front door of my block of flats -- it looked like a mains leak -- luckily it was the weekend so i was able to phone the emergency Repair Centre at St Georges Community Housing, the ALMO (housing association) set up in 2007 by Basildon Council to manage their rental properties and save the taxpayers' money, and which is now going to be scrapped to err... save the taxpayers' money -- (there was an interesting debate on the Noak Bridge web site a few years ago re the lack of an apostrophe in "St Georges", and whether there might even be two St Georges!)
a few hours later an emergency plumber came round, surveyed the spreading pool of water, and said there was nothing he could do -- but he'd report the leak and there'd probably be workmen round on the monday to fix it...
the leak got worse, and my water pressure continued to drop -- after a few days i rang up the Repair centre to see what was happening and was told it wasn't my business, and that they could only discuss it with the person who'd made the original call -- i said "That was me!", but they didn't believe me and hung up -- i phoned again, and was told that they needed access to the downstairs flat to mend the leak there and were waiting to contact its owner -- i pointed out that the leak was outside the building and had nothing to do with the downstairs flat (whose water supply was unaffected) -- i called again and they assured me that everything was in hand and it would be fixed by the end of the week -- the week ended without anything happening, and water was now spilling out on both sides of the path leading to the front door -- i phoned to tell them i had no hot water cos the mains pressure was too low to start my combi boiler -- they said that negotiations had started with the contractor, and they'd send someone round to review the problem -- i said "When?" -- they didn't know, but would find out and phone me back -- i said "When (approximately)?" -- they said in 30 minutes or an hour...
my upstairs neighbour was becoming increasingly impatient, and he suggested ringing Essex & Suffolk Water as the council seemed to be err... out of their depth on this one -- and in no time at all E&SW were at the doorstep, poking and prodding, and arranging to have someone round to fix the burst pipe within 48 hours -- strictly speaking it wasn't their responsibility, but in these situations they offered a free service, as they had a vested interested in stopping leaks and conserving water
48 hours later they were hacking up the pavement and digging their hole, and they discovered not one, but two burst pipes! within a couple of hours the pipes were mended -- unfortunately my water pressure was still low -- so someone came round early the next day to clean the filters in my water meter (which involved lots of blowing) -- it still didn't work -- later that day there was another visit and the meter was reexamined, and an arrangement made to have the meter replaced -- early the following morning the meter was replaced, and my mains pressure was at last restored! soon after another gang rolled up in a truck and proceeded to re-tarmac the dug up area (which they did very neatly -- i once worked for a short while laying tarmac, and it was some of the hardest work i've ever done)
what was really impressive was the enthusiasm and efficiency of the E&SW workers -- they enjoyed what they were doing and were happy to be working for their Company, which they felt encouraged them to put in that little bit of extra to make sure the job was done properly
as for St Georges, i'm still waiting for them to phone to let me know when they're hoping to send an inspector round!
a little plug for Rainbow Music at Barleylands Craft Village (01268 541693) -- they do tuition, instrument repair, sheet music sales etc, and give friendly personal service -- this is in fact where MJs went they closed down their East Square premises
Basildon has so few specialist shops, the loss of even one is a blow -- so i'm thankful we still have Grapevine Wholefoods (Cabin 14, Basildon Market), looked after by Alan, probably the friendliest trader in the area -- and tho i'm not a great fan of pet shops, the Aquatic and Pet Shop in Southernhay is something quite special, and it's staff are exceptionally helpful
Basildon's Westgate Park has a large Hobbycraft (the arts and craft store) and a newly built Maplins for specialist electronic components, and there's a Toys R Us in Southernhay -- for these we're duly grateful, but should they close it's unlikely they'll generate the same amount of nostalgia as proprietor run shops such as Ace Comics (which used to be at the top of the Gallery), or Sound Zone, owned by Paul, which started life in the indoor market (now long gone) before moving to bigger premises, first in East Walk and then in Southernhay
turn of the century Basildon teenage culture
it probably seems a bit old fashioned now, but for what it's worth, here's a brief extract from an animated conversation between two adolescent girls overheard on a bus between Basildon and Billericay about ten years ago -
"I can't stand domestic violence... I don't know how people put up with it."
"Me too - you know Tony, who lives up Burnt Mills? It's terrible, that woman he's with... she beats him up all the time, and he can't report it to the Social cos they'd come round and take the kids away cos she's on smack. It ain't right... not that i'm against drugs..."
"Not weed anyway; well you can't call weed a drug, can you?"
"Anyway i read that cocaine's good for you; they take it all the time in some parts of the world, and they never get colds. It was in the paper."
"Did you see that article which said most women don't have a real orgasm until they're 19? I can't wait..."