Tescoville (2)

July 22, 2013

I had been so astonished by the site of the oh-so-familiar blue painted barriers around the car showroom, which I reported for the first time yesterday, I didn’t record that it was next-shop-but-one from an independant of the ‘Costcutter’ chain, and a couple of minutes walk from a Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food. (There is also a food hall in the centre of town M&S).

The ‘Costcutter’ is going to struggle, but I’d suspect that most of the business at the M&S Simply Food will remain there.

The motivation behind these two recent blogs is that it always seems to be Tesco. I’ve just remembered a third already existing ‘local’ Tesco in the town, cannot imagine how I could have forgotten it until now.

So this town has two major Tesco stores, three (at least) existing ‘local’ or ‘Metro’ Tesco stores, and at least two under construction. Rather a lot for one town. I’m surprised Sainsbury’s haven’t put one in.

Now OK, the total floor space of all the Tescos probably don’t add up to the hypermarket sized glass-sided warehouse branch on the A4 in Slough, but then this town is no-where near the size of Slough, either.

I must vary my route from now on, keeping my eye open for all the closed down pubs and other shops in the area, to see if this town really is becoming Tescoville.

It is interesting to note that some of the satellite towns in the area house a Sainsburys, and/or a Waitrose, plus M&S, but I’m unaware of even a converted telephone kiosk into a micro-Tescos in those towns.

I was in one of the Tescos – for research purposes – and I saw some goods branded ‘Fresh & Easy’, that is the Tesco-owned brand in the western US that hasn’t done well. Since it was fresh produce, it did seem hard to imagine why they were using the US brand on the goods.

Yet more pub closures

May 11, 2013

I know it’s been a long time since I last reported. A horrible winter that affected me badly. However, I can report more on pubs mentioned before.

To start with one that I have mentioned a few times before. The Golden Fleece still claims to be “To Let”, but it has been gutted, and all the signs have been removed. Strong rumour, reported in the local press is that it will become a Tesco Local, despite national press claims that they will not be developing many sites due to current trading conditions. Personally, I think Tescos already dominate in the town, why not, say, Sainsburys?

But for a re-use of this building, it is a good idea to become a Supermarket-lite. It’s a large building, with large car-park and good access to the car park. More importantly, it’s surrounded by houses and housing estates, yet no other shop for a least a mile, so if ever there was a good place for such a supermarket-lite, this would be one. All to many other times – the ex-Green Man, for example – they are established within a short walking distance of an existing supermarket, be it of the smaller national chains such as Spar, Budgens or Co-op, or indeed one-off locally owned.

Next, I mentioned in the case of the Golden Fleece, a nearby pub, the Terriers. Well, after that relatively recent refit, and another pparent change of ownership, this has now closed. I’m told it will become a Vet’s practice.

Also mentioned at that time were The Dolphin and The Wanderer. These two are well separated, and apparently are still surviving, even if only open some of the time.

I mentioned some time ago that the George V was looking for a new tenant. Well, the signs for yet another new tenant are up again. Promising a refit as part of the deal, I note, and apparently a different pubco (or at least, a different trading name).

There are others that I notice as I drive around, but often I’ve not noticed their “decline”, so I won’t mention here today.

Although I updated the previous blog on this subject on the 5th March, there has been a lot more to note, even in the few examples that I discussed.

The ‘Duke of Wellington’ is boarded up, and is already looking very sad for itself. Meanwhile, the pub at the other end of the road, which I had a photo of (I didn’t name – ‘The Warren’) has now been surrounded by barriers and has the general air of about to be demolished.

The ‘Green Man’ had been demolished, and building work started – at least some ironwork has been put up on the site, but progress is surprisingly slow. I have no inside knowledge on this (rather late to try and save the pub) but I noticed a banner one morning: “The Green Man 1755 – 2012. R.I.P.”. [Rest in Peace].

While pubs such as ‘George V’ and ‘Golden Fleece’ still have signs out trying to lull the gullible to take them on, some pubs seem to have got new tenants in – at least, they are still trading, and the signs have gone. Although I noticed the latest attempt of Mine Host of the Golden Fleece has scrapped his latest attempt to keep the place afloat, if scratching out the (remarkably cheap) breakfast offer on the outside noticeboard is anything to go by.

I had a long chat with a woman I know who ran a pub for years. It seems that those who are managers, paid by the pubco, do fairly well, as they are, well, just paid employees. Pubs with a manager in are likely to survive, as the pubco is forking out cash in the form of the manager’s wages, so must think it is worth keeping them going. Pubs with a tied tenant (aka The Landlord, but I don’t use the term here because of the confusion) are the ones that cause grief.

Maybe some of the pubs where the signs have gone are now run by managers (for now, at least).

The ‘Today’ programme has ‘Thought for the day’ at about 07:45 every day. This God-slot is rather contraversial, just for being there, let alone the subject matters.

This morning, the woman (denomination forgotten) was going on about Public House (pub) closures, and how, instead of giving up alcohol for Lent (next week), people should start visiting the pub again, generally increasing social contact, and incidentally helping the struggling pub trade.

What rubbish. Pubs are not closing down due to lack of social contract, but as an unintended consequence of government meddling. Huge estates of pubs are now owned by so-called ‘Pubco’s (as opposed to the Brewers themselves). Pubcos get the gullible in as new landlords, and ruin them over the ‘tie’ – they have to purchase all their drink from the same Pubco they rent the Public House (their business and indeed home) from, at prices that are hugely inflated over supermarket prices for the same items.

As a result, the pubs are not profitable concerns, and the current ‘Mine Host’ goes bust.

Not surprisingly, the high prices in a pub means people buy beer or wine in the supermarket and stay at home.

When I was a student, I would regularly go into a pub as part of an evening out. I cannot remember the last time I was in a pub. I spent five minutes after I wrote that, and still cannot remember when – it has become so infrequent and so rare. Probably, it was with the choir I sing in, and the reason I stopped going there was due to the barn of a place they choose to go, empty of atmosphere, as well as the pressure of work. Oh, I’ve just remembered, I even put it in this blog – the day of Aunt’s funeral, we went to the pub she frequented (for food) for our lunch after the service. More than two years ago, and not for alcohol.

The consequence of this is that pubs are closing down, there are not so many gullible people left, so they remain empty. Then, sadly, they are demolished, or converted into housing or other commerical property. I say sadly, but a Pubco is in fact a huge estate management company, and a pub a loss-making enterprise, whereas developing the building (or the site) for housing or supermarkets or whatever is far more profitable short and long term. There is just the small difficulty of change of use to get around, and if the building can no longer function as a pub, who will complain about a change of use?

Or am I just a cynic?

Let’s look at some evidence. I do not mention the town for these pubs, but most are within a five mile radius of one point, the first is beyond that point, but relivent.

The ‘Duke of Wellington’, is having a week-end closing party, this weekend. I know this because I drove past it this afternoon. And the signs don’t suggest the end of tenure of Mine Host (what is normally considered the Landlord, but I have not used that term due to confusion over leases, freehold, etc), but the ‘last ever’ party. As if the fate of the building is already sealed (but I have no information on this).

(added later) The now closed and boarded-up 'Duke of Wellington'. Who knows what will happen to this building now.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the road to the 'Duke', this pub has been closed and boarded up for some time - perhaps over a year now?

The ‘Green Man’. Recently demolished in favour of a Supermarket ‘Tiny’ branch, after a couple of failed attempts to keep it going. To modern eyes, there are still far too many pubs in this ‘village’, often within a stone’s throw of each-other (the Cherry Tree, within a stone’s throw, currently survives). There is also ‘Green Dragon’, ‘Stag’, and perhaps one other still in that village.

‘The Bell’, is up for lease; meanwhile there is a plethera of pubs around the eponimus Green of the nearby village may survive on townies going out for an evening.

The ‘George V’, the ‘Golden Fleece’, and countless others – signs up looking for people wanting to run a pub (aka ‘Mugs’), now being the time, the signs suggest to sink [your] redundancy pay into this sucessful enterprise (sic).

'George V' is still trading, but Mine Host clearly wants out...

The ‘Halfway House’, within a stone’s throw of ‘George V’, now demolished and redeveloped as a block of flats. In a last ditch attempt to survive, they had ‘exotic’ dancers all day. It gets as desperate as that.

I could go on, it gets so depressing. But what am I doing, writing this on a Saturday Night. Well, of course, no attraction to go to any of the surviving local pubs (awful places), which, in any case are quite a walk away (not sure why the nearest is so far away, I’m not aware of this being Quaker land, or other reason for a conventant that prevented pubs in this area).

(Mote added March 5th). Photos taken in the past few days as I have passed the buildings. There are plenty of other examples, it may be that it was not convenient to take a photo, or…

Some Public Houses survive by becoming restaurants, only open weekends, high days and holidays. Generally these are in the country, with no local population around them, so must survive on either the ‘passing trade’ or those who drive out specifially for such a visit.

It is already happening, but I forsee far fewer ‘Public Houses’ in future, and those that do survive will be unrecognisable to anyone sprited from (say) the 1970s to now. One change I am grateful for, though, is the smoking ban.

More early mornings

September 17, 2009

I know, I know. Poor blogger or what..

The earliest I’ve walked by the Thames is 04:00. In August I discovered where Bats would fool around (a dark spot), and even tried taking flash photos, to no effect. Some days I manage to sleep through, more or less, but the majority of the days have had me walking by the Thames pre dawn (since the last entry). There was also a high tide that left me trapped on a bench surrounded by 4 inches of water over the footpath for perhaps an hour. Photos to be posted. Only once have I come across a homeless person, but during the warmest period, I admit I had considered the idea of taking a sleeping bag and sleeping out for the night in some quiet nook (I did not find one quiet enough).

This morning, by Richmond Riverside, there was a young fox (I guess this year’s cub), who often got to within 6′ of me, only to be put off by my scent. I’d never seen a fox there before (I guess normally the Canada Geese keep them away), although foxes can be seen even in the middle of the afternoon in the garden of the garden flat of this block.

The last two rehersals had me almost falling asleep while singing. I’ve never had this type of problem before, and reminds me of Arthur Lowe (most famous from Dad’s Army) who suffered from narcoleptsy – i.e. would fall asleep with no warning.

More notes on a depression

January 21, 2009

For the first time in weeks I attended the choir I sing in. Many gave me sympathy for my current plight re mother and work.

Driving back (and looking for a bank machine to top up my mobile phone, as it became empty this evening), I became aware of more places closed down in Richmond; restaurants and pubs/bars. As I was travelling further, there was, of course, Woolworth’s in Twickenham, plus more bars, and some others.

I note that as M&S’s close down of 27 of their “Simply food” chain , various suppliers also collapse. Sir S Rose, the now CEO and chairman of M&S, made a bad call by not putting it in the hands of the John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose brand. He had the chance. JL could cope because in many cases they did not intersect branches, and with little extra overheads could manage the extra turn-over in premium ranges.

Finally, an odd note on a depression.

I purchased Seville oranges (from Waitrose, Beaconsfield, my usual store) about a week ago. Yet an on-line forum (I was looking for alternative recipies) suggested these were as rare as hen’s teeth, and that Waitrose was the only supplier, other than specialist greengrocers. I had wondered if even Waitrose supplied every store, but last weekend proved wrong on that point, when I found them in Richmond.

So how come Marmalade making is such a topic this year, (e.g. “The Archers”) when none of the *major* supermarkets appear to be stocking Sevilles?

I’ve mentioned in passing that I sing in a choir. Well, it looks like the choir is finally in serious trouble.

Ticket sales have been poor for over a year now, and the choir has also lost sponsorship and advertising deals – more probably due to the economic times rather than anything the choir has done itself. In part I think we’re all sold out when it comes to flogging tickets, and just cannot be arsed any more, and the same applies for trying to find sponsors, or sell advertising space, especially as times turn hard.

I now learn that the management is in serious trouble. The choir has not had a chairman for the last year, but now the secretary – really the lynchpin – is also resigning after many years in the job. The vice chair is also resigning, as well as some regular committee members. The choir surely cannot continue without anyone to do the organisation.

As of today, there has not been one volunteer to stand for any post. Tomorrow’s rehearsal (and I will not be there, having decided positively not to do the next concert, the official reason is pressure of work, and there are figures to back up that claim) will prove interesting, as there will be a discussion about it; with what I think is going to be a very undersized choir!