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Glad to see The Pond will remain in modern Watford
IT was somewhat refreshing reading when the Watford Observer landed on my doorstep in The Tarn, France, this week. I was pleased to see the planned refurbishment to the top of the town, known in my day as The Pond and The Parade, is not anywhere near as bad as I feared.
Upon hearing they were going to rejuvenate the area, I must admit I thought the worst. Watford has suffered more than most towns that I know of through town planning designers who have wanted to place their mark on things rather than accept there are certain facets of the old town that in fact give Watford its individualism and character, Precious little is left of that, but instead of relegating The Pond to a small modern feature with a fountain, they have harnessed it and kept it central to the new thinking.
I quite liked the artist’s impression although I am instinctively wary of such things. I recall when the new Charter Place development was mooted in the late 1960s, the artist impression suggested this was somewhere you would want to spend your lunchtime, eating sandwiches and watching the water feature.
The reality was a real disappointment – a cold unsympathetic structure off the beaten track and providing little to encourage the footfalls away from the normal High Street route.
Then we had the Millennium Square in Market Place, much trumpeted but too bitty: a lost opportunity which ended up as little more than a bbq terrace.
So I will keep my fingers crossed that The Pond development does not disappoint but the initial plans are encouraging.
But then I am an old traditionalist and I do not apologise for that. The towns and cities that have been true to their traditional roots are among the most visited in the land, so obviously being a traditionalist has viability.
I am not a traditionalist when it comes to the monarchy however and some would read the events of the last week as giving republicans such as myself a hard time.
Of course I accept that if we did not have a monarchy people would be looking to invent something to take its place, but although the celebrations of the last week may appear to suggest otherwise, I still do not see the relevance of a hereditary family being the centre of attention in this modern age.
The fact the Queen’s predecessors caused this country more grief than triumph and the number of good, effective or progressive monarchs do not reach double figures in over 1,000 years, suggests the hereditary system does not have much to recommend it in the era when meritocracy seems more pertinent.
Of course the Queen lacks the powers of her forebears, so she cannot be that much of an influence for good or bad, just stamping her mark, like a cipher and endorsing this and that but only where instructed.
My wife Ellie remains a monarchist despite my mutterings under the breath and, while she agreed with me the Queen was totally out of touch with reality and the nation when Princess Di died, she has swung round behind the Queen now.
As a result the television was never off while the Jubilee celebrations took place, so I had to take in much of it and I admit I enjoyed it. I am all for patriotism and being British – a view which is hard to articulate particularly when the trendies dub you as being racist or xenophobic or whatever other label they give you for trying to be proud of the land where you were born and raised.
I think that opportunity to enjoy being British was behind much of the celebration and I enjoyed that aspect as much as any this past week. We even attended “a bit of a Jubilee do” in Mazamet, supported by ex-pats. There we ate Cornish cream and scones, cucumber sandwiches while Elgar, Vera Lynn and such provided the background. Very nice and very British and I enjoyed it.
When a couple at our table told us how the French take them to task for being monarchists, I nodded politely as they listed the advantages of having the Queen, which I did note, seemed to centre around her ability to bring in tourist money.
There is just one thing I feel the Queen should do and that is to say “thanks, but no thanks” to this ridiculous idea to rename Big Ben the Elizabeth Tower. Further I find total support for that view from my monarchist wife, so that is not just the thinking of an old republican.
Big Ben has been Big Ben for 150 years, a symbol of Britain, the sound of freedom for many people in Europe during the dark days and as reassurance for those people of the old empire and Commonwealth that there is a certain continuity in the Old Country.
Like The Pond, Watford, Big Ben should remain just that.
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