Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Down the Town

I don't often go "down the town" these days, by which I mean the central shopping area, dominated since 2000 by the monstrous West Quay mall.  It's not just the disheartening spectacle of consumer flocking behaviour which puts me off, but also the large number of non-mall shops which have closed, due to the West Quay force-field sucking the life out of them.  There are few more depressing sights than rows of shuttered and graffiti-splattered shopfronts, where not so long ago many small retailers thrived.

I don't really have much reason to go there; it's been well over a decade since our kids required a weekly expedition to Toys'R'Us to spend their pocket money, and apart from the occasional foray to buy socks at M&S I mainly try to shop elsewhere.  If I must go "down the town", then I try to avoid the weekends, when le tout Hampshire seems to descend on the John Lewis store to buy a new fridge.

If I am in the area, however, I generally visit a favourite spot, a tiled underpass that runs beneath Portland Terrace to Bargate Street, with its cave-like entrance in the shadow of an imposing chunk of the ancient city wall.  It generally yields a few photographs; the silver birches on the adjacent grassy and litter-strewn bank are reliably photogenic.

As it happens, I've never yet photographed any of the city wall itself  -- once the very waterfront where Henry V set sail for France -- or even the castle-like Bargate, probably the only things left in central Southampton a tourist would bother to point a camera at.  I probably never will do so, either, but I really should spend more time down by the docks and Southampton Water, where the cruise liners and the gigantic container vessels come in, more like floating office blocks than ships, and where the Fawley Refinery looms on the far shore like Mordor. Soon, of course -- very soon, in fact -- I will have plenty of time to do just that.

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