Tour of the TCR site 09.02.05
I’m drawn down the alley near Scorpion Records, next to Labour Party HQ which is based above The Big Sandwich – "HANDS OFF OUR HOSPITAL" poster in the window. The funeral directors regrets that it is closed, announced with a small fading framed sign leant against the window. Running down one side of the alleyway is a sloping tiled roof of a redbrick outbuilding. It looks as though it may have had an agricultural use in the days that this area held the cattle market. A dirty industrial unit offers car valeting services and looks busy. A predatory Sainsbury’s lurks behind ready to move 20 yards forward and wipe out everything in front in the name of getting that prime A40 location.
98 Oxford Road is a ghost building complete with weeds in the doorway and peeling poster for Cottles Circus long since left town. They’re digging up the old gas mains and laying new pipes over the road. I lean on the barrier and chat to the workman; "Concrete’s rotten" he says. "Turned up anything interesting?" I ask. "Just some old bottles", and he goes back to the business of scratching his head at the quality of the earth he’s turning.
The Dole Office on Desborough Road is boarded up, rubbish scattered all around. A dedicated archaeologist of the present would study these deposits in the way that prehistoric middens are dissected for clues about the past. But all I can see is an assortment of super-strength lager cans, fag packets, fried chicken boxes and orangey polystyrene take-away containers. Down one side towards the demolition of the gas works there is a little variation with the addition of a computer monitor, two shopping trolleys and a traffic cone, but the collective significance of this is beyond me at this stage of my study. A demographic survey of the various brands of super-strength lager that is consumed across the area could produce some interesting results.
From Iceland to the Rose and Crown has been wiped out. Fried Food Strip has been consigned to a note on this blog. Scary teenager scavengers haunt the road behind.
I’m filming the demolition work at the old gas works and two workmen shout at me from across the road. I stand my ground but they stomp across to confront me. They’re fed up they say with being photographed. I manage to reassure them by saying that the developer is aware of my study and they calm down. "As long as it’s official I don’t care," one says and they go back to their work.
Later I speak to someone who grew up in Newlands in the thirties, Myrtle Church. Her grandparents were the caretakers of the Zion Baptist Chapel on the corner of Bridge Street where a multiplex cinema is to be built. She never went to the cinema as a child, "It was the devil’s work, you see," her husband David tells me. She says all of the old Newlands is gone except for the gas works. "They knocked it down today" I tell her.
Around the bus station and the Octagon a slight air of paranoia and suspicion hangs in the air. A man in a white shirt speaks into a walky-talky, two coppers in padded fluro jackets stand outside the opticians.
I regroup in The Baker’s Oven in the High Street with tea and doughnut. The tables are inhabited by solitary smoking women. There’s an atmosphere of tranquil despair. The hum of the fridge is comforting. Its feels like a different town to what is happening over at Newlands. Maybe the last stand of the old Wycombe will be here at the Baker’s Oven.