If you came around the house over the last couple of weeks, you might have found us wearing sackcloth and ashes lamenting our summer in England coming to an end.
I drew this view of St Uny Church in Lelant while reminiscing about our trip to Cornwall. It's one of our very favorite spots on the planet.
It's always sad to leave England at the end of the summer. Leaving this time has been made a bit worse for a few reasons. Foremost is that I will not be back next summer. It is the beginning of the quest we shall not mention.
Also, it's the end of an era in Stevenage Old Town. We found out earlier this summer that the Waitrose store close to our home will be closing on the 27th of October for good. There was much consternation and copious gnashing of teeth when we heard the news.
Waitrose is the kind of store that makes service a priority. At least the store in Stevenage sets itself apart with top-notch service.
If you want to find your way to the fresh potato chips and ask someone stocking the shelves, rather than grunting and pointing the boney finger of the grim reaper, they'll get up and walk you to the right area of the store and help you find whatever you're looking for. If they can't find it, they'll call out the cavalry and track down someone who will know.
It's the kind of store that replaces items bought or gives a refund with no question asked. "Excuse me, I got this and didn't like it."
"Why certainly sir, would you like to substitute something else or have your money back?" No problem, no hassle, no worries.
Not only that, but if you buy something and it has somehow gone off, you bring it back, and they will give you your money back AND get you a fresh whatchamacallit right away or a thingamabob if you'd rather. You may even walk away with a voucher or two in the process as an apology.
That's something special in England. I'm not trying to be unkind, but service in the United States is just different than England. The English just aren't comfortable with overly cheery helpfulness and sycophantic servitude. It kind of creeps people out here.
There's even an advertisement on television for Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Care Hire) that kind of acknowledges there is a difference. They say it's UK car hire with US customer service!
I think it's funny. Give it a gander. Ya might be glad you did.
I think the people at Waitrose and Partners really care about providing top-notch service. They're called partners because each stock clerk, each cashier, every person working in the store from the manager to the meat counter rep are partners. They are each part owners in the business and that, in my mind, makes a big difference.
Their people are always friendly. I'd say, "English Friendly." Warm and helpful without being overly familiar. It's a little more formal friendly.
Waitrose is also the kind of place where you'd go to do your shopping and then stop for a cup of coffee or to read the paper.
You'd see people from the neighborhood picking up a few things after work. I wouldn't say it was a gathering place, but it was a place you could see people you know and wouldn't necessarily see otherwise. It's nice to see people you know out and about.
People from the neighborhood would often make a trip out of their shopping as well. I know we'd go for lunch at a cafe around the corner called Flower Power, then pick up something from Symonds Bakery (lovely Belgian Buns, bread, scones, or something yummy), and make Waitrose run all at the same time.
It's not the least expensive store, but there is something civilized and comforting about walking into Waitrose. You feel like you matter. I don't get that feeling from any other grocery store around here.
I found it extremely pleasing to walk in after being away in St. Thomas for several months. It's like stepping back to civilization. Fresh food, clean floors, and helpful staff make a huge difference. They make life more comfortable to live. It's quite a contrast from the dingy, half-lit, half expired produce, bugs, and staff that couldn't give a flying Frito Lay if you were happy with your experience on St Thomas.
Waitrose may not be the perfect store, but it is a familiar part of the makeup of this town, having been here for 41 years. There's a cachet to having a Waitrose in your neighborhood. It raises the standard of living, and thus the raises the value of your property.
There is so much good about the Waitrose here in Stevenage Old Town. That's why it's so sad that it's going.
It also brings up the elephant in the room. What in the world will be taking its place?
There are already more than six Indian restaurants in the old town, so I hope it isn't another Indian restaurant. There are at least 15 proper restaurants, there's Pizza Express, Dominos Pizza, Perfect Pizza, Bingol Kebab and Pizza, Papa Johns Pizza, and Pizza Hut. Please, no McDonald's or Burger King.
There are more than 12 pubs and bars up and down the High Street, by a conservative estimate. The place becomes a bit of a zoo after dark. Immature women tottering on heels the height of circus stilts combined with over-drinking, underthinking hormonal young men bebopping up and down the town is a recipe for disaster. We need no more bars.
There are lots of things the Old Town does not need. But the worst of them all of them are the three betting parlors, Betfred, Ladbrokes, and William Hill are blights on the town. God, please don't introduce any more shops where people slink in and slink out devastating their family's livelihood.
I hope any business would need to apply to the Council to trade on the High Street, but I have no confidence in the Stevenage Borough Council to make the right decision.
The gaping void left in the High Street by Waitrose will be hard to fill. I'll try to be optimistic. I'll try to be upbeat. I'll hope for the best.
In the meantime, I'll wait and wonder with everybody else what new force will fill the void.
I look forward to seeing my friends in Dayton, but I'm still a bit somber about leaving England behind.
We'll be back in December.
Until next week, my friends, I wish you peace.
Trail - 207 DAYS