As half-prophesied in my last entry, I made the journey over to Kenilworth on Sunday. I spent quite a few moments in the peace and tranquillity of the cemetery, but then, realizing I had almost forty minutes' wait for the bus home (it's only an hourly service now on a Sunday) I thought I'd spend some time looking around the town. Although I'd passed through on my travels from time to time over the years, I hadn't spent any real time there, so in the warmth of a lovely sunny afternoon it was pleasant and quite nostalgic wandering round, casting my mind back to when I used to lived there.
In the light of all the recent attention paid to the impending demise of high street shopping as we know it, Kenilworth seems to be surviving remarkably well. I only noticed two empty shops, and neither of those were actually boarded up or derelict. One I remembered as the former Co-op food hall - which had at some point been converted into an Co-op electrical store before closing altogether. Conspicuous by their absence were pound-shops and mobile phone shops, but it did seem to me that there were more coffee shops/cafes than I remembered there being back in the 1960s. As was to be expected, many of the shops in the main street (Warwick Road & The Square) had changed hands - Woollies is now a Robert Dyas - but I was impressed to see that Moores the "gentleman's outfitters" is still going strong and looking outwardly the same as it did in my youth. I don't mean that unkindly, for despite its staid label, I remember at the height of the flower-power era buying a gorgeous psychedelic pink shirt and matching kipper tie complete with hipster flares there!
Not all the shops I remembered from my youth have survived, of course: further down the street, a branch of Sainsburys occupies I think the spot where A H Spicer, the builder/decorator, stood. My parents used to get all our paint, wallpaper and decorating stuff there. Duggins the quaint little record shop is no more, and the other record shop I used to patronize - Shears (on the corner of Queens Road), who sold TVs and radios as well on their ground floor - is now a pizza takeaway. In fact I think there may not be any record shops left in Kenilworth now, for Discotrak which had opened in the then 'new' Abbey End shopping development seems to be one of the ubiquitous coffee shops.
Talisman Square, the main 'precinct', was built during the time we lived there: it's now fortunately in the throes of being given a face-lift as although quite a modern style of architecture in its day, its distinctive 60s-style "concrete jungle" look has fallen out of favour in recent years. Rather surprisingly, the little bookshop which I remember opened in the late 1960s is still thriving there, having evidently at least for the moment succeeded in fending off the mighty power of Amazon. Making my way through and out towards the famous 'Clock', I passed what used to be Bishops (the first supermarket I think to open up in Kenilworth, subsequently Budgens, and now a branch of Wilkinson). Back in the main street, almost opposite Lloyds TSB, another of the old shops has survived - the picture shop where my parents had an oil painting which they'd bought framed. Forty years later, it now hangs on my living-room wall.
And of course the library - where I worked back in 1968 when it was new, in my first job before going off to college! It was closed, so I didn't go in, but now reincarnated as a computerized Council one-stop shop it's I imagine a far cry from my days of checking books in and out manually across the counter!
And so, with more than maybe just a slight tinge of wistfulness, I boarded the bus for the half-hour journey home.