Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Miserable City

Aberdeen, you may not have noticed, has been awarded the 'Plook on the Plinth Carbuncle' award for the first time.  And not before time some would say.  The 'Urban Realm' magazine, no I've never heard of it either, chose Aberdeen ahead of Cumbernauld, and that says something and also East Kilbride in the west and Leven on the Fife coast.  
Aberdeen is famous for being the hub of the Scottish oil business.  The fourth of the main Scottish cities it is one of the coldest in the UK let alone Scotland.  I can assure you the cold grey mist rolling in of the sea that Sunday morning in 1968 still remains in my memory when a few young lads looked desperately for some entertainment before returning to civilisation in Edinburgh.  Aberdeen is also famous for the civic pride of Victorian days that caused them to tear down buildings, realign the main road 'Union Street' and rebuild it with Granite!  Sadly the costs were so high Aberdeen went bust!  It became the thing to joke about miserly Aberdonians, probably dating from this time.  Harry Lauder the Edinburgh singer invented a Scottish stereotype character who wore a 'tammy' on his head, carried a crooked walking stick and was incredibly miserly.  This must have been based on Aberdeen people.  
Now it is some time since I visited the place, we won by two goals to one last time I well remember, but council men are no different there than elsewhere and money talks and developers spoils even the heart of Edinburgh Scotland's magnificent capital city with modern day architecture and backhanders aplenty (allegedly!).  Aberdeen is no different.  
At least Aberdeen does produce a speciality, the 'Rowrie' a type of 'Aberdeen Roll' that is well worth buying, not that they would pay of course. 
The fans of the football club it must be said 'stand free' from the sectarian bile often found in Glasgow and follow their club with a good away support.  They remain however the most miserable outside of Glasgow however.  Never happy, always innocent, always finding fault elsewhere.  Fans of Edinburgh's glorious Heart of Midlothian would never act in such a manner, it would be unthinkable. 
Cities and towns ought to have something individualist about them but the larger shops always wish to have their own shop fronts.  When I cycled form Edinburgh to London in 1974, I was younger then, I could not help being aware that every town had the same High Street.  Often there was once some individuality but now the ground floors all looked like every other town.  Looking up we can see many differences in the buildings but on the ground cheap plastic fronts make every town a place of takeaways, opticians and newsagents, all alike, all cheapening the town.  
Side streets often reveal something original, houses from before the war show fine details, but since the financial side and the invention of plastic all has deteriorated badly.  
This town also has too many charity shops filling the High Street.  People ask what can be done but no councillor suggests lowering the rates.  I wonder why? Maybe specialist shops and the town might thrive?



soubriquet said...

Way back, when I returned to britain, after years of making pottery for other people, I was looking for a place to set up my own business. And I saw an ad for the Grape Lane Pottery, in the middle of York, I think the proprietors were retiring, can't remember exactly, as this was thirty years ago. The deal included some equipment, and I figured I could manage the lease, so we did the number crunching, and it all looked good, position was right in the centre of the mediaeval City of York, a little off the main drag, but close enough to have potential.
Until I enquired about the business rates. I talked to the city council, who assured me that I was just what they wanted in the city, a handcrafted tourist draw., and they'd offer every help they could. "How about a rate-free period, while I get established". NO. "How about reduced rates?" NO. Well, that was it. No wonder the town's full of stores that are on every high street, leaving less and less of a special experience for visitors. Yes, I could afford a place in a village with lower rates, but no tourists.... The reality is that most small craft businesses can no longer afford to be in tourist towns.

Adullamite said...

Precisely the problem! High streets could resurrect if helped by councils but they will not lower the rates! One or two small shops of unusual type have soon died here.

Lee said...

Maybe you were riding around in circles and that was the one and only...the same High Street!

I was surprised when I returned to Gympie in 1998 after many, many years's main street, Mary Street those cheap. "dollar" stores had popped up throughout. And half of the Mary Street had turned into a no-car zone...a pedestrian-only mall.

Mike Smith said...

The rowie, Mr H, is the best thing to come out of Aberdeen. Other than the road south...

soubriquet said...

Of the roads out of Aberdeen I prefer the road north. I love the Orkneys, or going up to the top end and left toward Cape Wrath, to me the most beautiful bits of Scotland are up there, and I wish I'd figured out a way to earn a living there. As one of my hats is as a combustion engineer, I was advised that oil and LPG heating engineers were in great demand. Add solar heating, I think it might have kept me fed.

Lady Di Tn said...

Oh my now my imagination is constructing a Plastic Town. How many bottles do you think it will take? I would love to go to Scotland and stand in the miserable cold for just a look at that enchanting land. Peace

Adullamite said...

Lee, The difference between shops now and a hundred years ago was that most then were local, small shops, not giants.

Mike, Indeed, one cannot argue!

Soub, There is indeed money in Aberdeen. The countryside around is pleasant when not wet!

Lady, Go to Scotland! The Yanks love it!