In Praise of City Centres

10 Jan

I had the pleasure of escorting an American friend on a sightseeing trip today. He was traveling to Newcastle for a conference on the literary implications of nose-blowing, so I took the train up to meet him. Instead of hitting the usual tourist spots, we simply wandered around the City Centre before he nipped off to deliver his paper, Congestion in Nabokov’s Novels. (I unfortunately was unable to stay to hear his  fascinating research, but I’m sure it went down a storm).

One of the things he commented on was the exciting array of pedestrians in the City Centre. He took great pleasure in hearing apologies from the number of elderly ladies who ran over his feet with their shopping trolleys, and he was particularly impressed with the teenagers pushing their babies’ prams, dodging the dedicated charity workers desperately harassing the early morning shoppers in the name of a good cause. While he was slightly less thrilled by the young lad taking the piss in front of McDonalds (I mean this, unfortunately, literally), he had to laugh at the good-natured way said lad dealt with the restaurant’s manager who attempted to shoo him from the premises. He even maintained his smile as he gave his witness statement to the police.

City CentreI do love showing my American friends around English city centres. They are such hot beds of activity, so much of it so very English. I myself still adore wandering through the markets; their mystery I initially approached as a novelty, but even after this long, I do my best to support as many stalls as I can. This may explain why I have a cupboard full of striped knee socks and bags of outdated, non-brand-name crisps which will never see the light of day. But I feel I’ve done my part to support my community by purchasing them, and that’s all a citizen can do.

The other thing I love about city centres is the great pride people take in them. The pedestrian areas are clean; litter seems to immediately be snatched up by the thoughtful and conscientious beggars who then feed it to their dogs. What community spirit! While we have to face the fact that city centres often do have problems, I am so chuffed when I see locals taking an active stand about the unfortunate but sadly inevitable crimes that often take place in urban areas. I take my feathered hat off to the commitment these men and women make to maintaining their municipal duties.

City centres often get negative press but I, for one, find them absolutely delightful. I would happily spend a day wandering any English city centre, as long as I can get out of there before dark. I’d kill myself before I went into a city centre at night. I have civic pride, but I’m not a fucking idiot.

5 Responses to “In Praise of City Centres”

  1. tracya Saturday, 5 January 2013 at 11:13 #

    that’s lovely!

  2. MG Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 17:12 #

    Oh Agatha, how can you say that! I live in a city centre and apart from a slight disturbance caused by a few Scottish football fans in 2008 ( and a few lively nights in 2011 when the local scally community decided to take up shopping as a hobby but neglected to bring any money with them (, I’ve rarely witnessed any trouble and have spent many happy hours, or rather weeks, or rather months, or rather, wasted years of my life, lounging about of an evening in cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs in city centres all across Europe and the UK. I love them. Last month I was in Copenhagen and it was very pleasant.

    Never been to Newcastle though so can’t comment on that.

    • SW/AWW Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 19:50 #

      I probably should have written “I’d kill myself before I went into the city centre at night on my own.” I’m afraid I just don’t have the muscle strength (or my shiv which was confiscated by a so-called helpful community support officer) to deal with any possible trouble (including Rangers fans and riot police) on my own. A few months ago, my dear friend Alice Wintergarden was faced with a tramp and/or his dog humping her leg outside of Tesco Express, and she assured me that the experience was dreadful. For delicate flowers like myself, one can never be too careful.

      • MG Thursday, 10 January 2013 at 16:25 #

        Your poor friend. Having one’s leg humped by a large animal and/or it’s dishevelled owner can be distressing. Especially outside Tescos. Yet we’re not really safe anywhere. Whilst out in the beautiful Cheshire countryside, I was once chased across a large farmer’s field by a herd of young bulls who, judging by their frisky antics as I entered it, may well have had not disimilar designs as the dog you mention in relation to me. I didn’t hang around to find out.

      • SW/AWW Thursday, 10 January 2013 at 21:50 #

        So true. Alas, we are not even safe in our own homes these days—just this afternoon Christopher was hit in the head by a flying highball glass whilst he was doing the washing up. It’s just a dangerous world we live in, I’m afraid.

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