August 2013

Are we living in the past?

Posted 06-08-13

Last week I was watching with interest as the Spanish customs and fishermen tried to bring Gibraltar to a halt by harassing shipping and searching cars entering Spain.  Some might say, why bother to keep Gibraltar under British rule?  After all, anyone who goes to The Rock is less likely to be in awe of standing on the northern column of the Pillars of Hercules than confused by the sense of being in Aldershot whilst looking across at the Atlas Mountains in 30C sunshine.  English pubs, keg beer reminiscent of Watneys Red Barrel, lots of tattoos, no tapas bars (fine by me) and an overwhelming sense of being at home, plus the apes of course.
Not exactly exotic, short of beaches, mediocre food,of no strategic value anymore and perpetually hassled by the Spanish, so why do we love it so?  Simple, because it gets up the noses of the Spaniards and, like The Falklands and Argentina, that’s all we need to stay put.
Then I got to thinking of other anachronistic notions we cling to when there is no logic to support them.  The first one that sprang to mind is the belief held by so many that England will one day produce a national football team that will make the country proud.  With most of our top clubs in foreign ownership and the playing squads filled with overseas players we can’t field a first team that can beat Montenegro and yet we wind ourselves up to believing that nine times out of ten the Germans won’t stuff us.
When the next pointless tournament comes around, the kit manufacturers and makers of the flag of St George (another Johnnie Foreigner, by the way) will ride the profitable surge of national fervour, leaving the fans wondering why blind faith didn’t carry the team beyond the pool stage.
What other old-fashioned nonsense do we cling to?  Ah, Entente Cordiale.  Need I say more?
All right, none of these is particularly serious, just indicative of how we conduct ourselves.  However, there is one anachronism that we should abandon- the notion that the British High Street can recover from the impact of internet shopping, out-of-town shopping centres and greedy landlords.  All the evidence points to a continuing decline in town centres as retail destinations and no amount of pop-up shops and national market days will reverse that trend.
In the light of this compelling evidence the government is proposing that councils retrench retail activity to a few core streets and convert abandoned shops into flats.  It all sounds too sensible to be true but it is on the cards.  Town centres have been revitalised before by converting warehouses and wharves so why not with retail outlets?
So, while we hang on grimly to many of our outdated notions that annoy and amuse the rest of the world, perhaps this is one to which we can give some serious thought- reviving town centres as thriving residential communities.

Bill Howie

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Bill Howie is Chief Executive of ACQSYS Supply Chain Solutions Limited, a company that specialises in the management and recovery of mobile and transit assets for manufacturers distributors and retailers

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