Talking Telford: A day running Dickensian errands in an authentic market town
I had a pleasingly retro list of errands to run in Wellington the other day, one that wouldn’t have been out of place in the opening chapters of a 19th century British novel – and all in appropriately brisk weather.
I cycled into Wellington with a fair wind and on my way down I passed a party going out of town for lunch. I exchanged pleasantries with one of their number and we remarked on the weather as I stood aside to let his fellows pass.
Once in town, first on the order of business was a visit to the town cobbler to collect a pair of smart brown shoes I’d dropped off earlier in the week for sole repairs, having worn them out walking home from the office.
Then I had to restock on black thread at one of Wellington’s fine haberdashers, with helpful advice from the shop’s friendly and knowledgeable proprietor. After refreshments, and it being market day, I did a few laps around the indoor market while looking for fruit and vegetables for tea.
Is the scene Dickensian enough for you yet? Reading back that last paragraph I can almost imagine a town full of top hats, bonnets, street urchins and smog.
Granted, that may be down partly to my patchy grasp of Victorian history, but I enjoyed the old worlde feel of my outing nonetheless: the sense that – mod cons, fashions and haircuts aside – a Wellingtonian 200 years ago might have spent their afternoon in much the same way I had.
That’s not to say I’d particularly like to be transported back in time (I doubt very much if you could get hot dogs, decent Caribbean food or even a steak bake in Victorian Wellington, and who knows what the coffee was like?). It’s just comforting that in times that are so uncertain and ever-changing, there remain some tangible links with past iterations of this thing we call society.
As I got back to my bike I saw (and heard) the annual Christmas lights switch-on festivities getting underway.
Music, live entertainment and Santa himself drew rarely-seen crowds into the market square – perfect for families and for putting smiles on the faces of children, but hardly an ideal environment to shop, or to get lost in a Dickensian fantasy.
Call me a Scrooge but I took it as my cue to leave. Until next time, Wellington.