On Saturday morning my wife and I walked into town. It was immediately apparent that things were different or should I say normal. The traffic coming in from Dorchester was queueing back from the Esso roundabout, as far as the eye could see. This has not been the case for past few months but is normal for this time of year. During lockdown we had not needed to press the button at the lights but this morning it was essential if we were ever going to be able to make our way along East Street into town. We have become used to walking into town along relatively traffic free streets and what a pleasure it has been to have less noise and hardly any exhaust fumes.
The roadworks around the Esso roundabout area that seemed to be going on forever to link up the cycle paths around the roundabout. They are now complete and the pavement is smooth once again. Thanks to the Town Surveyor Daryl Chambers and his hardworking team, the planters on the corner have been planted up and it all looks an absolute picture.
Walking along East Street beside the stationary traffic we could see ahead of us that the town was busy. It was just like a pre lockdown Saturday Market Day, except it wasn’t. A considerable number of people were wearing masks covering their mouth and nose areas, some wore plain surgical masks and others sported trendy designer ones, Who would have predicted that the face mask would become a fashion statement?
This Saturday saw the return of the Farmers’ Market and it was the first time it was held on Barrack Street and in the Lyric Theatre. By the time we arrived it was evident how successful the morning had been as we walked past virtually empty stalls of produce. Chatting to some of the stallholders, adjacent cafe and shopkeepers and members of the public, it would appear to be a very successful move.
Simon Mazzei proprietor of the Olive Tree Restaurant told me there had been a real buzz all morning and would like to see something there every Saturday. Debbie and Wendy of Blooming Hill Plants and Hardy Way Plants, who were to be found in the Lyric, were really impressed by the support of the Town Council team when setting up and had had a steady stream of lovely customers. Several visitors to the town that I spoke to thought the Farmers Market, and the atmosphere in the town generally was fantastic, and they were able to stock up with some lovely local produce for their stay.
Walking on through the town we didn’t give a thought to seeing people queueing in an orderly safe distance manner outside shops. We have gradually become accustomed to doing this and somehow it just seems the natural thing to do now. The smiley faces and feet on the pavement are now just part of the street furniture we take for granted.
Bucky Doo and South Street were abuzz with people enjoying themselves in the warm sunshine, taking care to maintain a safe distances from each other, stepping aside and doing little dances left and right to let others pass. People watching is a great way to pass the time but it is even more interesting at the moment observing how we adjust to a new way of being around each other.
I remember the first time my wife and I walked into Bridport on the Saturday after we moved to the town. As we walked along she said, ’I wonder how long it will be before we walk into town and meet people we know and stop and chat to them?’ Well, last Saturday a quick trip into town to buy a couple of things became a joyous occasion chatting to friends we had not seen during lockdown, and seeing the familiar faces of market stallholders again e.g. Doug Chalk and his now famous Colmer’s Hill calendar. In so many ways it was business as usual and everything back to normal. But in so many subtle ways it wasn’t. What was unfamiliar a few months ago has now become the new normal.
The one thing that has not changed is the warmth with which the people and traders of Bridport engage with each other and made our visitors welcome.
So what will the new normal finally look like in Bridport?
As towns and cities around the world start to wake up from the Coronavirus pandemic, questions are being asked about how we can enjoy the temporary environmental benefits it has given us more permanently.
I believe we need to be brave and grasp the moment to make our town an even greener and cleaner place to live, work, shop and socialise. It is your town so let me have your ideas about how you think this can be achieved.