Fridays nights as a 30-something, and the Curse of High Chelmer
Friday nights. Many a year ago they consisted of watching TFI Friday, going down the pub, staggering home later having spent £20 on beer, food and bus fares, and watching the new episode of an up-and-coming sitcom called Friends.
Christ, that seems a long time ago. Shortly after that period in my life, my friends all went off to uni, and Friday nights out were restricted to non-term times. Fast forward a few more years and I was settled down with a baby on the way and Friday nights (and in fact, most weeknights) became all about actively avoiding the new episode of a new series called Big Brother.
Since then, and since splitting from the ex some 4 and a bit years ago, I’ve found Friday nights fairly boring. All my friends live in other towns, so any night out was generally planned in advance, or in the rare case of being a spur of the moment night it ended with having to sleep on a sofa somewhere followed by a hungover journey home.
It was strange therefore to received a message last night from Kip & Loz asking if I fancied meeting for a few drinks in thirty minutes or so. They have a kid, and another on the way, so it’s even more unusual that they had some spare time and within half an hour I was sitting in my local pub drinking Fosters and moaning about the cost of lager these days. (My God, as I get older, I get more and more moany!)
The unexpected night out was fantastic, with plenty of laughs, a few inappropriate questions which - in some circumstances - would have led to fisticuffs (I love that word) or at the very least a backtracking apology. Not to mention some highly questionable jokes including one about pregnancy and a wire coat hanger which thankfully escapes me for now, but at the time (after a few pints) was hilariously funny and had me giggling in a way that I haven’t done since the elderly patron at the local school felt he had to announce to a hall full of under-11s and their parents that he “likes some kids more than others” before hastily adding that he “wasn’t a paedophile”
Yesterday afternoon I wandered through the local shopping centres and town on my way back from the interview. High Chelmer, which was built in the 1970s and is the older of the two centres in Chelmsford is due to have a Primark open later this year, but in the past couple of months its seen several stores closing, with Base and it’s neighbouring store (whose name escapes me) displaying “Closing Down Sale” notices last week, and Hawkins Bazaar closing it’s Chelmsford store, located in the centre, just after Christmas without notice.
Yesterday I saw that Red Sun Comics and Dr SpaFish were both closed or closing too, and they are all shops within the main centre.
Down Market Street, a far less busy area, and towards Tindall Square there are even more empty shops. I’ve jokingly referred to it on Twitter as the #CurseOfHighChelmer which I appreciate sounds like an Enid Blyton book. In reality though, the appearance of Primark in the next few months probably means that High Chelmer can start cranking up rents for the surrounding stores knowing that the centre is going to have a massive increase in footfall as a result.
The new filter lane at the Odeon roundabout in Chelmsford also favours High Chelmer as it dictates that traffic approaching the town from the Army & Navy (and therefore from the busy A12 road) has to drive up to the High Chelmer end of town, only to drive back the other way if they want to park in the Meadows Shopping Centre car park. That’s very handy for High Chelmer. You can make up your own conspiracy theories if you like.
Just before I pressed “Publish” on this entry, I decided to run a quick spell check, which has just asked if I want to change “weeknights” to “wee knights”. I don’t, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.