Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Lament for lost gems

Lament for lost gems

BLAMING closures and other disruptions in normal business on the Covid Plague is a temptation many organizations have been unable to resist, as if everything worked perfectly before the pandemic.

Whatever the causes, four closures in Bath in the past year have been lamented.

One – For those of us in search of hammers, screws, and plug fuses, family-owned and run Langbridges in Larkhall was the first port of call. For more than 60 years, this family-owned store – some of us, of a certain age, knew it as ironmongers – was the must-go-to when when in need of plug fuses, screwdrivers, and, er, screws … plus, for intrepid Do-It-Yourselfers, cement mixers, drain rods, and scaffold towers.

The interweb has helped to finish it off. People would go in, get the staff’s always helpful advice, and then buy online … and then, perhaps, have nowhere to go for advice.

Two – Reboot Computer Services in Walcot has been knocked out after 27 years by Corvid-19 and those pre-Plague ‘challenging retail conditions’. Its owners saw puzzled customers through the years from Windows 95 to Windows 10, sold 1st class reconditioned laptops, and spoke in a type of plain English unknown by the youngsters who sell IT in the chainstores.

Three – Woods, hard by the also closed Royal Mineral Water Hospital (1738) in the heart of Georgian Bath, sold stationery since 1066. No, I made that up … it’s been selling pens, pencils, ink, and paper for 220 years. Its end came some months before the Plague.

Four – Please … please let the closure of the Little Cinema – known just as The Little – be temporary. Opening in 1935, it was owned by the family of the founders, Consuelo de Reyes and her stage designer husband Peter King, until it joined Picturehouse Cinemas group.

An old-school art house cinema that’s kept its 1930s charms, and kept up with digital sound and projection technology.

Bath: Glamour & Grit - Photographs 2000-2019

Bath: Glamour & Grit - Photographs 2000-2019

A photographic portrayal of Bath from 2000 to 2019 is being published this year by Bath Telegraph editor David Kernek. Bath: Glamour & Grit takes a wry, warts ’n all look at the town, with brief but caustic commentaries on aspects of life here: work, tourism, buskers, hen parties, homelessness, shopping, and pubs among them.

Here’s an extract from the foreword:

‘Perhaps the only significant constant in Bath’s history from a Roman spa 2,000 years ago to pre-Covid-19 England – the exception being its medieval centuries as a malodourous livestock market – has been its function as a centre for rest and recreation, known in the trade as tourism. Bath’s tourism is not as discerning as it was. Visitors, prevented for a while by Napoleon from enjoying Paris, Florence, and Venice, once came for the season to take the waters, often at the cost of their lives. The emphasis in recent decades has been on sightseers coming for the day to take a) the burgers and b) pictures of themselves eating burgers by the great doors of the town’s Gothic abbey. The drive for day-trip – almost over-tourism – coincided with the rapid growth of Bath’s two universities. It was estimated in 2019 that close to a quarter of the town’s population were students. They came, caused trouble, took their degrees, and left.

‘The Covid-19 LockIn followed years of economic change that saw the closure of many of the cute artizany independent shops that were promoted, along with Bath’s over-budget and far-too-small Mineral Water spa, across the planet as Unique Tourist Attractions. It has landed the town with an existential anxiety. Will the tourists and the undergraduates – many of them from China – return, and if they don’t, what will Bath actually be for?’

Bath: Glamour & Grit – Photographs 2000-2019, £15

For more information, and to order a copy, e-mail: kernekdavid@gmail.com

A year in Hedgemead Park

The Friends of Hedgemead Park have produced a 2021 calendar with 12 photographs highlighting the park’s beauty through the seasons.

They’re priced at £10 each, plus £2 postage & packing, with free delivery to addresses within one mile of the park.  To order, e-mail nigel.e.pollard@zen.co.uk

Get Bath out of the tourism trap

Just as Britain needs radical thinking and action to re-shore manufacturing and jobs, Bath has to use this appalling pandemic crisis to re-think its tourism strategy – a strategy that was heading for the rocks long before the Covid-19 shutdown.

While council leaders and Bath’s MP talk about the need for a diversified economy, they continue to spell out the importance of tourism to the town’s finances. This was Mrs Hobhouse speaking in the House of Commons recently:

‘Our local authority has been particularly exposed to the financial impact of the pandemic. In Bath alone, the loss of the visitor economy in 2020 is estimated to be about £350 million. Tourist attractions are a large source of income for our council and it means less money for vital services for our residents. I look forward to working more with the minister to re-energize our tourism sector, in a way that does not risk the health of our community.’

The MP referred in her speech to ‘conversations about diversifying our economy and making it more resilient in the longer term’, but told the government that ‘businesses in this sector need urgent support now to make sure they survive’.

The fear, and suspicion, must be that while there’ll be fascinating ‘conversations’ about new employment sectors for Bath – and new revenue streams for the council – the likelihood is that we’ll end up with business – and tourism – as usual.

The problem – or one of them – in Bath has been a gradual slide to low-rent, day-trip tourism that’s given the town centre far too many fast-food, litter-generating outlets, EFL schools for vast brigades of sidewalk-blocking youngsters who have no interest in Roman history or 18th century architecture, anti-social behaviour, rough-sleepers occupying the doorways of the closed independent shops some of the tourists thought they were coming to see, and beggars attracted to what they thought would be a honeypot.

If in its desperation to fill the black hole in its budget the council fails to see the dangers of over-tourism and doesn’t come up with a strategy based on limited roles for a) distinctively high-quality tourism and b) a reduced student ‘industry’, the town will continue its drift from World Heritage Spa to World Heritage Slum.

2021 Camden Calendar & Donation to RUH charity

CAMDEN is one of Bath’s oldest neighbourhoods, and The Bath Telegraph has celebrated it with a 2021 wall calendar highlighting its charms and quirks, some of which might go unnoticed. Produced by Camden resident, editor and photographer David Kernek, they can be bought for £15, with £2 from each sale being donated to the RUH’s Forever Friends charity.

Payment can be made by BACS, hard cash, or old-school cheques.  

Orders can be made with David, who can be reached on 07842 503520 or e-mail – kernekdavid@gmail.com

He’ll order copies from the printer according to demand.

Pictures featured in the (11″ x 8.5″ on strong, glossy paper) calendar can be seen, if the tech works, at one or all of these: