Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cosmopolitan Stockton

In celebration of Small Business Saturday and keeping my shopping relatively local I decided to buy only what I could get in Stockton town centre this afternoon.  I knew that I could get good quality meat for tomorrow’s dinner and decent potatoes to supplement the greens and carrots from the allotment.  What I didn’t know was whether I could get the other things I wanted.
For most of this year my trips to shops in Stockton, and for that matter elsewhere, have been very focused, generally rushed and not taking in anything about other shops around.  This afternoon I decided it was time to “Rediscover Stockton” as the Council’s slogan keeps encouraging me.
First on the list were some cards other than Christmas - people do have birthdays and anniversaries at this time of year too.  That was reasonably easy and fairly quickly achieved.  The butcher was straightforward too, and I even remembered to order the turkey for Christmas.  The greengrocer was a pleasure to deal with, discussing the merits of different items on the stall and selecting goodies for me from his very tempting display.  I couldn’t conjure up a need for cake from the bakery that’s opened since last I looked in the Castlegate centre, nor even a desire for a Wonka’s doughnut, but both stalls were doing a steady trade.  The fish stall had very depleted stock so late in the afternoon but I still had a choice of salmon, cod, sea bass and more.  I’m not sure I’d have had that choice in the supermarket, nor the chat about favourite recipes for them all.
As I walked round, looking at the displays and trying to weigh up what was best to take home with me, I realised another change since the last time I’d taken time to look and listen - the cosmopolitan nature of the crowd.  There were faces and languages from all corners of the globe as well as from all parts of the UK.  We’re a much more varied borough than we used to be.  It felt like being in a small city rather than a provincial market town and that surprised me.  Having been born and brought up here, worked as a volunteer and then a paid tutor in ESOL, I haven’t heard that wonderful comfortable mix before - I’ve been in too much of a hurry to feel my home town growing and changing round me for the last few years.
After all the mockery from some residents towards the Christmas decorations in the High Street it was interesting to hear a lady turn to her companion and say “Isn’t that bonny”, pointing to the “tree”.  And to be sure, in the dark it does look good with the lights chasing round the cone.
Further on, and people walking past the demolished Lindsay House and looking forward to the fencing being down and seeing the view.  One man said “It would be better if they planted a few trees”.  “They will” said his companion, “The council’ll want trees”.
And so past another cafe, a hand-made jewellery shop, traditional sweets, on to the Christmas market and the chance to buy a wreath made by the prisoners at HMP Kirklevington Grange and to envy those who have log fires and could have one of the lovely wrought iron log baskets they were selling.  A final stop for take-away Jamaican curry to take home for our meal and the afternoon had gone.  

An early new year resolution has been made - to make time more often to just wander and shop and enjoy rediscovering my home town and its new multicultural offerings.

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