Returning from a day in Chelmsford Library looking at microfiche and searching through books I stopped off to look at the fire damage. This building has stood here since the late 1500's and has of course been much changed over the years. I always loved it, the jetted front, the small dated windows, and I suspect creaking stairs inside. In recent years the bottom has been a wine bar, restaurant and so on, all have failed and now the premises are used by a church group working with the 'homeless.' Up above rooms are let and a variety of types make use of them. In spite of original complaints there appears to have been no problems, at least none I have heard of anyway. Last night however rumour tells us a young man was informed he would be leaving, evicted is the word, and he apparently was none to happy about this.
It has become obvious he was none to happy as his method of expression was to throw White Spirit about the place, light a match and stand well clear. The chap who rumour claims was in the shower at the time was not happy with this expression of opinions. He was high up in the three story building when he discovered the smoke choking him. He got onto the roof and a double decker bus returning to the garage was brought close and he leapt onto the roof from where the firemen rescued him.
The top floors are damaged, water damage from the fire hoses has reached the shops on the ground and the poor florist on the corner may end up losing her business. Three of them were working on the Valentines Day (none for me thanks) flowers when the firemen knocked on the door to tell them the flats above were burning! Luckily an empty property in the centre has been given to them for temporary use. Her business may still suffer badly mind.
Police are looking for a nineteen year old man, so there is no doubt who is responsible, and work on the building, if it survives, may go on for months. The smell hangs about in the air as the fireman slogs his way dampening down the place.
This blocked the road and caused my bus to drive the long way around town to head south. In fact we arrived a wee bit early while I expected it to hinder us. I therefore headed through the town, stopping at the Cathedral for a moment and found myself impressed with a sculpture in the prayer chapel. It is not often such things attract me but this one, photographed discretely from a distance, did look OK to me. Less impressive was the price on the second hand cameras in the local camera shop. Certainly asking £45 for an aged Olympus Trip was excessive so you can imagine the prices of the better stuff! Following an attractive thin legged well dressed woman, by accident obviously, I came to the market where I had a butcher at the butchers while not surprisingly I lost her as she entered a show shop, drawn irresistibly as a moth to a light bulb! Looking at the butchers was useful however as my fridge was as empty as my intellect, and my chances as it happens.
So I found myself in the library (pronounced 'in t' library' for those in Yorkshire) climbed down the stairs to enter, climbed up the stairs to the quiet local reference area and began to browse. It amazed me that such a building should house the library and the Essex Council Buildings when so many stairs are in use. To enter the council many more stairs climb up and down, only a council could get away with it! There are lifts obviously but really!
Anyway I browsed the books, grabbed very little info and discovered the microfiche of the WW2 newspapers! I browsed, once they had been unlocked and instructed on how not to break the machine, a suitable periodical and was impressed as to how little difference there was between those editions and today's. Certainly tales of war derring-do are limited today but the theft, complaints letters, and sensational headlines are similar. One thing was very good, the ability to advertise for male or female staff! How lovely to see PROPER ADVERTS again! Mind you the housekeeper adverts never revealed how much you were paid, so that was not good! I loved the advert for 'Craven 'A'' Cigarettes, 'For your throat's sake' it claimed! Another interesting point was how little was expressed in this weekly newspaper. A German 'Junkers 88' aircraft brought down by anti-aircraft fire 'a bright orange glow in the sky' was said to have crashed 'seven miles north of an Essex town.' No town name is given in 1944 just in case the Germans find out. In fact considering the years of war past so little was said in the paper, but that is to be expected.
Now I know all about this I must go back and research better when I have more time and know what I am looking for. On returning I went to see the boss to discover a lead as to what next and found her elsewhere. Tsk! Typical! So I made my way home clutching the chicken, meat and pies I bought at the butchers. £11 for a few days meals is not bad all things considered as this will do for most of the week now.
One thing I noted is the attitudes in a large town, now called a 'city' in comparison to those of this sleepy market town. How miserable they appear, how unwilling to speak, unless selling something, although the staff at the library were acceptable in their behaviour. I did note the unsmiling nature the larger the town however. Incidentally Chelmsford was granted 'City' status not because it is the centre of Essex, a boring centre I say, but because Colchester, a much more interesting place, turned it down. The peoples if Colchester regard their town as the 'oldest town in England,' this title they would lose if they became a 'city' so they avoided it to keep the tourists!