Forty-Six Years On – Part Two

“Here is the clock.The Trumpton clock.  Telling the time, steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly.  Telling the time for Trumpton”

So Camberwick Green appears to have been laid waste by the advance of modern society, crushed by the homogenising of standards that took place when artisanry was removed from the picture under a welter burden of mass-produced, functionally satisfactory items.  Standards slipped, we accepted this as a society for reduced cost.  We truly became the peanut payer and we got out monkeys by return.   Has the county town of Trumptonshire suffered the same fate?  Well, let’s have a look… 

  • The Mayor, Philby and Mr Troop – The combined “staff ” at the town hall, the mayor was forever in ceremonial garb and this was a state of affairs that couldn’t last.  Successive councils ultimately abolished the role – there was talk of an elected mayor but they took one look at the buffoon in London and the county voted all but unanimously “no” to that.  The role is now filled at ceremonies by the head of the council – the chain is now a museum piece.  Philby drove the mayor’s car.  Redundant, he ultimately took to cabbing after various driving jobs.  Mr Troop the town clerk is still at the Town Hall.  He is now respectfully called “Mr Troop” rather than the peremptory “Troop” the mayor used so frequently.  The mayor, redundant, left the area.  He is believed to have retired on a ridiculous pension after seeing a couple of years out at the Cabinet Office in a sinecure arranged by an old school chum.
  • Chippy Minton – His name gave away the fact that he was the town carpenter.  His son, Nibbs, was apprentice to him.  As one of the few artisan roles that couldn’t really be undercut, Chippy has made a living over the years, both in intricate woodworking and sitework as his bread and butter.  Nibbs has taken to the family trade well and the Mintons are if not wealthy, at least confident of a stream of work that keeps the wolf a fair way away from the door. 
  • Mrs Cobbit – The flower seller who hadn’t missed a day in forty years (Sunday excepted) is a mere wrinkle in the history of the town now.  The demand for fresh-cut flowers, barring fabricated holidays, funerals and weddings, disappeared completely.  Even linking with the flower cartels that cover the entire country was not enough and shortly after achieving 50 years of not missing a day, succumbed to market forces and retired.
  • Miss Lovelace – Millinery died in the same way flower selling did only quicker again.  Miss Lovelace changed her business over to a genteel tea room and made a living out of that until the coffee revolution came along and, in a cutthroat market, removed her completely from the fray.  She still keeps Pekingese dogs, her window to the outside world.  She doesn’t see as many people as before on her travels but at least she has some contact.
  • Mr Munnings – One of the great artisan trades for five hundred years that had its Armageddon in the 1980s, Mr Munnings was also a victim of the government assault on the print industry.  The advent of desktop publishing saw the demise of typesetting, photogravure and other aspects of the hot metal and plate-based shop.  Mr Munnings sold up, left the area and his present whereabouts are unknown.  His shop is now a tanning salon.
  • Mr Platt – Again, a man whose trade suffered for the advent of the digital age, Mr Platt did, however, manage to survive some lean times where others did not.  A clockmaker by trade, his work diminished in the face of digital timepieces but he maintained a living out of batteries, analogue repairs and the occasional curiosity piece.  A revival in the fortunes of the quality timepiece along with some horse trading in antiques kept Mr Platt afloat.  But then his work was also his hobby
  • Mr Clamp – Mr Clamp, the greengrocer, went the way of the grocer.  The latter is now known only by approximation in the entity that is known as the general store/corner shop and even then that image doesn’t quite sit right.  The greengrocer, despite his local, fresh, high quality produce, lasted longer but also went to the wall in the face of cheap, vacuum-sealed, all-year-round global produce that because of preserving measures outlasted local produce and became cheaper.   Mr Clamp runs a stall twice a week at a local market but is for all intents and purposes out of the trade. His shop became a betting shop and after that traded up to bigger premises, a letting agent.
  • Mr Craddock – The park keeper, he has spent a career dodging removal from his job.  Council services were deregulated but he survived the cull.  Some of the land was sold off, he hung on again.  Redundancy and further reductions in service mean that he is one of the lucky ones – he is in a small, overworked team whose budget will be cut again next year and his job, finally, looks as if it will be going.  He’ll now retire on a pension that is far too small for the years he put in and yet people will abuse him for his loyalty and efforts over time.
  • Fire Brigade – Cuthbert has gone, BarneyMcGrew took a package during the last round of voluntary redundancy and the twins are entirely disillusioned with the job.  Dibble is off long-term sick after a serious injury that has been clearly attributed to understaffing and undermanning and Grubb is holding on because the service is his life.   The station is continuing in the face of a closures campaign even though it puts Trumpton’s safety under dire threat.  Captain Flack remains, but he has never seen morale so low.
  • Mr Wantage and his assistant Fred – Telephone engineer and engineer’s mate, they have gone from the GPO to BT, from BT to O2, never leaving the job but being subject to the misery of increased privatisation that would be so much worse but for their stalwart defence of position by the efforts of the CWU.  The days of the local exchanges might be gone and the personal touch as well as they work for an international behemoth, but they will at least get to retire in comfort.  Small comfort.
  • Nick Fisher, Mr Robinson, Walter Harkin – A bill poster, a window cleaner and a painter and decorator respectively, all three were tangential characters and managed to tick over through the years by the very nature of their specialist skills.  Sole traders all, they would probably be looked upon as somewhere between self-employed and franchisees. Work ebbed and flowed but never dried up; Nick indeed has never been so busy as advertising became one of the genuine growth industries over the interceding years.  And everyone has windows and walls..
  • Antonio – Ice cream man.  Survived various turf wars and thrived as increased population meant that his round expanded without becoming geographically larger.  Sales of crisps, drinks and sweets effectively door-to-door helped too.  Frequently racially abused despite his English roots and accent because his name isn’t “effnickly” British.
  • Raggy Dan – Disappeared years back when the local council arranged individual homeowners to recycle their rubbish for free.  When the council finally latched on to the adage “where there’s muck, there’s brass”, the totter’s number was up.  Current whereabouts unknown.
  • Constable Potter – Redundant.  Job ceased to exist through cuts and the amalgamation of the two stations in Trumpton and Camberwick Green.  PC McGarry already retained a role at the reduced station at Camberwick Green.  Potter ended up in private security on a fraction of the wage at yet another out-of-town supermarket.  Former station is now a wine bar

So that’s Trumpton.  Once again the concertinaing of services and the acceptance of  “good enough” over “excellent” shows an overall decline in fortunes but as a small glimmer of hope, at least some of the individual semi-skilled/skilled workers made good for themselves, even if the community appears to have suffered a structural collapse not unlike Camberwick Green.  Let’s not forget that in the interceding period, Trumpton suffered the most awful riots, documented here.  Even in the most idyllic setting, social deprivation can lead to discontent and unrest.

Next – Chigley

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