Through the early morn­ing fog you see

The Wokingham Paper - - VIEWPOINTS - TONY JOHN­SON caveat.lec­tor@icloud.com

LOOK­ING back over pre­vi­ous com­men­taries, the last one on Re­gen­er­a­tion was “Talkin’ ‘bout our ‘Gen­er­a­tion” on Jan 29, 2016 - over 18 months ago. At the time, the re­vised plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion had cre­ated sig­nif­i­cant ir­ri­ta­tion around the bor­ough, and the strongly crit­i­cal com­men­tary re­flected this – creat­ing sig­nif­i­cant ir­ri­ta­tion around Shute End (al­legedly).

Sub­se­quent meet­ings with the then min­is­ter for re­gen­er­a­tion and the pro­gramme man­ager were in­for­ma­tive but didn’t trig­ger a pos­i­tive piece. The pos­i­tive spark of creativ­ity didn’t … spark.

Un­til last Fri­day – when the pro­gramme man­ager of­fered to demon­strate the progress around the Peach Place bit of Re­gen­er­a­tion.

Vi­sions of the things to be …

The heavy mist made it hard to see Peach Place from half­way down Den­mark Street. Even the town hall was in­dis­tinct, so it was time to mix in some imag­i­na­tion and see what the fu­ture’s go­ing to bring.

Gone was the bor­ing old 60s ar­cade, in its place was a sweep­ing curve of new shops. It turns out some­one had paid at­ten­tion to the pub­lic’s feed­back be­cause it wasn’t all uni­form ei­ther. In­stead there’s a mix of frontages which, while they don’t match the old ar­chi­tec­ture, do bring a mod­ern twist on the chop and change of town cen­tre frontages.

Look­ing at the colour­ful blue hoard­ings in Peach Street and round into Mar­ket Place, they’ve got lots of pic­tures on them, so that you can see what it’s go­ing to look like.

… De­vel­op­ment is pain­less

One of the steps the project team took early on was to ad­ver­tise when work would start. The ad­verts also helped ev­ery­one un­der­stand that while the de­mo­li­tion and main con­struc­tion works were go­ing on, the ad­ja­cent pave­ment would be closed to make sure no­body got brained by any fall­ing de­bris, bricks etc.

For the cu­ri­ous though, you can walk on past the Brad­bury Cen­tre’s front doors and look through the net­ting and wire mesh fenc­ing to see what’s go­ing on dur­ing de­vel­op­ment.

Even­tu­ally, this’ll be the exit for the early morn­ing com­mer­cial deliveries, mak­ing Peach Place traf­fic-free for the re­mains of the day, so that ev­ery­one can safely en­joy shop­ping and re­fresh­ments there.

It brings on many changes

Be­cause things are the way they are, they won’t stay the same. It seems that change is the only con­stant and it’s our abil­ity to cope with it that drives our feel­ings.

If it’s done well, mak­ing the best use of the plaza at its heart, Peach Place can be­come as ac­tive a set­ting as Les Deux Magots in Paris.

This de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as the early

20th cen­tury’s ren­dezvous of the lit­er­ary and in­tel­lec­tual élite of the city, in­clud­ing Jean-Paul Sartre, Si­mone de Beau­voir and the young Ernest Hem­ing­way. To­day it at­tracts tourists, who might then go on to shop at ei­ther Louis Vuit­ton or Burberry, both just a few yards away.

Fur­ther back in time for din­ers, the cof­fee houses in 17th and 18th cen­tury Lon­don were the pre­ferred meet­ing places for writ­ers and so­cialites, also the cen­tre for much po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity.

One such ex­am­ple was Lloyd’s Cof­fee House, opened by Ed­ward Lloyd in 1686 on Tower Street in the City.

It was pop­u­lar with mer­chants and shipown­ers, so Mr Lloyd catered to them with re­li­able ship­ping news.

To­day Lloyds of Lon­don is a ma­jor fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion known glob­ally and, with a turnover of just un­der £30 bil­lion per year, is among the top 20 in­sur­ance com­pa­nies in the world.

And all from chat­ting over a cof­fee.

So when Peach Place gets go­ing, it might just be­come the new des­ti­na­tion lo­ca­tion for Wok­ing­ham – to re­lax, meet friends or talk busi­ness.

There’s the po­ten­tial for the new de­vel­op­ments to do for Wok­ing­ham what the two Magots did for Paris or what Ed­ward Lloyd did for Lon­don.

And you can take or leave it if you please

By the time the tour was over, the sun was out and the fog had dis­ap­peared. As had the imag­i­na­tion.

Per­haps your imag­i­na­tion might ben­e­fit from some re­fresh­ment ? If so, there’s a bot­tle of good wine as a prize for the best email nam­ing and de­cod­ing this week’s cul­tural gags.

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