As you may know, I have funded the skating rink that is coming to Woodbridge in the weekend of 15/16 February. This is both half-term and a time of year that traditionally is slow for trading. I am hoping that this attraction will bring families into Woodbridge town centre over half term to stimulate trade and provide some welcome fun at a time of continuing recession.
It has seemed to please most people.
Unfortunately not everyone. I received the following (unsigned) letter by first class mail yesterday. It was word-processed, although the envelope was handwritten:
Dear Caroline Page,
A local paper reports that an ice-skating opportunity has been planned in the Hamblin Road car park “behind the Barrett’s shop”, to take place over two days in mid-February. Your name is mentioned in this connection.
Whose idea was this? Has this matter been fully thought out?
The first objection is that the carpark in question is very much a residential area! Is this the ideal place to have crowds and, presumably, some amount of noise and commotion? In some cases right outside the windows of some people’s homes, to replace the normal quiet and peace justifiably expected. And this to continue over two days!
But of even greater concern is this: Presumably you must know Woodbridge well. And you will be aware therefore that Woodbridge has only IN THE LAST FEW YEARS emerged from the Dark Ages. Any resident or shopkeeper of the town centre will know that this is no exaggeration. We refer of course to the plague of vandalism and unpleasantness at the hands of what you might euphemistically call “the younger elements” of the town. The plague was continuous, day and night.
The town centre has been blessedly free, (apart from a few isolated incidents) of the presence of these elements for a few years now, but what immediately begins to ring alarm bells is the possibility of some of their members turning up among your invited participants to the ice-skating: the event will, after all, undoubtedly attract many younger persons to the area. This is the perceived danger: that your event might re-kindle their interest in the town centre and bring them back again. The thought is enough to put dread into the heart of any inhabitant or shopkeeper who experienced the miseries of the Dark Ages and was on the receiving end of all that nastiness.
If you know Woodbridge as I assume you do, then you will know that this is no exaggeration. Any newcomer to the town, within the last five years say, will not appreciate what the town centre has been through.
To cite only a few incidents. Every shop and store in the Turban Centre has suffered vandalism and break ins. At one time the carpet store there had its windows smasked every Saturday night for three weeks running. And on numerous other occasions.
The circular kiosk there (now a fishmongers) began as a stationary kiosk. It was damaged so often its proprietors were eventually vandalised out of business.
The fruit and vegetable shop there (previously known as Finches) was destroyed by arson. They were out of business for a year.
More recently, the circular kiosk was badly damaged by arson. It was on the way to complete destruction and only the prompt call-out of the fire bridgede saved the better part of it.
You may recall that this sort of thing was the actual continuous daily and nightly unpleasantness which the town centre had to suffer, inhabitants and shopkeepers alike.
We would beg you to do nothing to disturb the comparative fragile calm of the present.
Please do be very careful and think twice before planning anything that might carry even the SLIGHTEST risK of encouraging unwanted elements back to the town centre, and a recurrence of the miseries of recent memory.
We implore you: Be careful. Be careful. Be careful.
I am completely bewildered by the tone of this letter, and that it should be sent to me by someone (or indeed some people) who didn’t want to sign it, or to be identified in any way. Are they ashamed of their views? They write as if they are speaking on behalf of the whole town and everyone in it!
I will be happy to reply directly if they choose to come forward.
And – as ever- will be happy to hear comments from anyone else on the subject
*Ephebiphobia The fear of youth is called ephebiphobia. First coined as the “fear or loathing of teenagers,”today the phenomenon is recognized as the “inaccurate, exaggerated and sensational characterization of young people” in a range of settings around the world (Wikipedia)