I wake up around 8am and check my phone for the first of around 300 times. Luckily there are no angry tweets about bus lanes yet. On breakfast TV Louise Minchin mentions the death of Johnny Nash:
Someone should write his hit song in reverse, I think, the way things are going: “I can’t see anything now the rain is here, I can’t see the obstacles in my way…. the dark clouds have me blind, its gonna be a dark (dark) dark gloomy day! “ Still good news about a monkey being born at the zoo. And poppies will be downloadable this year! The North West has the highest Covid infection rate in the country. The first bus lane tweet comes at 9.15 (positive) followed by a negative response at 9.43, before I realise at 9.45 that the first tweet was actually negative after all.
After breakfast I prepare for an online question session with journalism students from University of Chester by reading some of my earlier blogs. The naive writing style irks me, but it is helpful to look back. at the start of my blogging years in 2014.
The one hour session is a rare example of positive introspection, as I answer questions about the history of the account and its evolution, taking in Mike Jones, bus shelters, the Brexit rally, and whether people in Chester engage more with positive or negative news. I am warmed by the enthusiasm and interest of the students. We discuss what motivates me to carry on tweeting and meeting after all this time: the buzz of sharing news and sparking debate. A positive soul searching session to start the day, with some upbeat messages spread: there’s loads happening in Chester, just most of it got cancelled this year!
I head for the City to note what businesses have opened or closed since my last visit. The Northgate steps, supposedly all repaired, according to last week’s council media release, still look the same as last week. My hopes were raised that access would be restored soon , but on closer examination there is still an adjacent section of repairs to be completed meaning that “later this year” is the final target. An extremely complicated repair job for sure, I wonder how many people look into the facts in detail before they attack ? Given the superficial nature of social media and the fact that only 432 people have watched the promo video, its probably a small number.
I move up Northgate street, an odd quiet air still noticeable. Workers are inside the shell of the old library , the entrance to the forthcoming Northgate development. An ongoing hot topic, will it be “build it and they will come?” or will the proud/supportive Cestrians just head to Cheshire Oaks like they have in the past . Always found that odd when people claim to champion independents yet are swanning off to the retail parks, which are not noted for being indie bastions. Anyway, stand at the top of the market steps and listen to people watching the construction and you will always hear “but why are they building more shops?”
I pass Rosies, a sad sight still shuttered indefinitely. Its a twisted world in which people can’t dance, kiss or sing (with people from outside their household). Sadly, or not sadly, depending on your point of view theres probably a fair percentage of people doing it all behind closed doors anyway. I go and sit at the Cross for a while listening to a robotic busker, with a resting sign holder on one bench next to me and a Deliveroo person on the other side.
Next for a walk by the river, on a lovely “Fall” day. Yes I will use the word despite the language police saying otherwise. For the first time ever I turn off replies on a tweet so that folk can’t complain about the use of a word. Just enjoy it without the negative replies! It’s always lovely by the river, the sun beams through the canopy of yellowed leaves and Chester Boats sail smoothly by. If “perfect Chester” was still a thing this would go on the list for sure.
Some shopping follows, Debenhams is very quiet and after getting the lift up to the top floor toilets, very sad to see the Cafe apparently mothballed for good, That used to be a nice haunt of mine, the breakfasts were nice. I pick up a Christmas gift then leave for TK Maxx. Bill Nighy doing the in store announcement about paying contactless “if you can” is a nice touch. Staff are very pleasant and friendly. It does make the difference when someone is nice and appreciates you spending your cash.
Leaving the Grosvenor centre I investigate the area at the back where the walls infamously fell in January, the prelude to all this years darkness. After months of silence following the still unexplained disaster, one of the council’s legendary information boards has sprung up announcing the commencement of repairs. Its great news following some hasty and unwarranted concerns last week,that the area was going to be closed until 2022. As mentioned earlier in the summer a temporary walkway has been designed and after some preparatory works, the walkway will be in place “before Christmas this year”. If that happens then there will only be the Bridgegate section closed. Great to see progress on this. Soon you might be able to walk round the whole circuit of walls again!
I walk up to the Eastgate clock, the steps totally blocked by a group of students enjoying their new home. I see the joy in their faces as they photograph the view down to Eastgate street, we could all learn to view our city through new and kinder eyes. But most people are so angry! After they disperse I stand and look down myself On Foregate street a loud miked busker sings in an awful youthful club style, whilst on the other side a cheery Big Issue seller offers the magazine with an “alright love”. I stand there for a while thinking someone I know might walk by and see me when they look up, but no one does. People don’t look up enough… The daydream breaks when 3 older men walk past “ah the famous Diamond Jubilee clock” one of them says. Then they start blathering on about Oliver Cromwell’s links with fashion retailer New Look. I’ve had enough by this point.
The last word goes to another busker at the Cross: