February 11th – I can’t beat about the bush here: it was a bloody horrible weekend weather-wise and my disposition wasn’t sunny as a result, either. All the spring of the previous weekend had evaporated and I was left with cold, freezing rain, sleet and a strong wind.
I had to get shopping and run errands. I had to get out. I went to Brownhills, and it did, to be fair, lighten my mood but the photography was dreadful. But there couldn’t have been a better afternoon to consider Ravens Court, the crumbling, derelict shopping centre whose private owners couldn’t give a toss for.
This foreboding, grim vandal-magnet seems beyond the powers of anyone, including the local authority (and lord knows, they’ve tried) to be sorted once and for all. The people with the power – the owners who are a land-banking company based in Mayfair, London – couldn’t be less bothered.
This place blights our town, is a cause for derision, prevents new investment and stands testament to the abject failure of governments to tame the worst aspects of speculative property capitalism.
It was raining in Ravens Court; but surveying this desolation, the rain in my heart was torrential.
August 11th – I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not very well. I’ve been off colour since the weekend and I’ve only got out for short runs; today a quick loop of central Brownhills just to get some fresh air after dark.
Still, it gave me chance to experiment with the Nikon a little more – none of these shots used a tripod, but handheld night mode on the camera. They’re OK but I’m not sure about the indistinct fuzz it makes of lights.
Need to experiment another day when I’m well I think. Here’s to better days.
December 12th – Tesco, the retail giant, are in trouble. Beset by falling sales, a very competitive market and seemingly mired in financial scandal, they abandoned plans to redevelop Brownhills which left us with a rotting, decaying, derelict shopping centre and no regeneration plan.
Yet still their store operates, raking the money in…
Never mind, it’s Christmas and they’ve put a green paper hat on the sign.
Dear god, why? What an utter, utter waste by a company that can ill afford it. Are we all supposed to cheer? Perhaps Tesco could organise community carolling in Ravens Court.
One things for sure: the directors of Tesco came from the west, because wise men come from the east.
November 28th – The day was mad and stressful, and the weather atrocious. I wanted to attend Gerald Reece’s history talk, but was stuck at work until late. Pouring myself liquid down the High Street at top speed to get home, I stopped for a couple of pics of Brownhills deserted late; then I got on with the rally important business of finding a takeaway still open…
The symmetry in the Ravens Court picture wasn’t intentional and has surprised me…
June 4th – A spin around Brownhills in the rain. I had errands to run, and I took a shortcut under the loading bay of the old Tesco at Ravens Court. There, no doubt pushed off the back of a truck under the cover of the fences and scrub, the carcasses of two scrap fridges.
The plague continues. The old appliances have been stripped of any metal with commercial value, and that will be kept by the tatters and weighed in for cash. The remnants are just flytipped anywhere they can offload them.
There is no defence of this; it’s what happens when recycling legislation is thoughtlessly altered, but the people doing this are scum. They don’t care for anything but the cash, and everyone who leaves old appliances out for the scrap men to collect is as guilty as those who dump the remains.
Stop leaving stuff for tatters and get your waste disposed of properly, because we all up up paying if you don’t.
January 25th – A horrid day. A stomach bug, too much work to do, bad weather and a migraine that kept coming back when I thought it’d finished.
The daylight was headache grey and the night wet and very dark. I spun out early evening, trying to clear my head, to no avail, but I did feel a bit better for the exercise.
This month seems to have been so long, and so very, very wet; I despair of ever seeing the town light, aired and dry again. I rode the high street, Hussey Estate and looped around Clayhanger. I barely saw a soul.
Ravens Court is particularly grim these days. So many promises, and so much talk, yet it still stands, rotting. I love Brownhills with all my heart – I really do. But today, my lack of wellbeing, the weather and the endless dark made it hateful, tense and forlorn.
November 1st – returning to Brownhills from work, I had to get some errands run. It was dark, and very wet, but in the night, the town glistened. Brownhills High Street, depressed and depressing as it can be, looks beautiful and almost busy in these conditions. Even the deserted hinterland of a Ravens Court possessed an unusual air.
It’s sore abused, but Brownhills is my home, and I still love it as much as I ever did. Even in the rain of the coming winter.
November 10th – I didn’t get out until nightfall. It was cold, and clear, and I was all set. Then I discovered my camera had not charged from the night before. I carried on with my ride, then returned home, got a fresh cell, and nipped out to Brownhills. It was around 7pm, and the High Street was quiet. I looked in Ravens Court, the battered, all but derelict shopping precinct. A typical design of the period, it was further bastardised by a hideous facelift in the 1990s. It’s now down to a couple of tenants, and stands, unloved, steadily decaying. Tesco were to demolish this and build a new superstore, but they got cold feet and have left the community in limbo. this desolation is our gift from the retail behemoth that destroyed our town. At night it’s grim, desolate and forbidding.
In daytime, it’s worse.
Further towards home, I traversed the Black Path, the cycleway and footpath that heads up through Holland Park to the A5 and Newtown. That too was dark and hostile. I don’t know what it is about Brownhills at night these days, but the quality of darkness seems to be getting more malevolent. Perhaps it’s just the mood I’m in…