While most town centres suffer from out-of-town retail parks (when will they be called 'malls' or, at Sales times, 'mawls'?), we manage to be attacked by a deadly pincer movement of such parks (especially the newest, Cyfarthfa) and a Tesco Extra in the middle of town and dominating like a huge vacuum cleaner,sucking in shoppers.
People actually visit Tesco and not Merthyr now : students up on the train from Trefforest and , attracted by the 2 hours free parking, shoppers who never see the High Street, or what's left of it. Take away take-aways, mobile phone shops and cheapo Pound Shops and there's little left.
I can recall when Tesco was a mere food store, wedged on the corner by the bus-station, the scene of an infamous gangland battle when machetes were wielded between rival families and one old woman pushed her trolley between them demanding 'sliced meat'!
It was the scene of the arrest of the entire Cor Cochion Caerdydd in an anti-apartheid protest. We often picketed this shop and I remember once saying to this young woman - 'Don't buy South African goods!' To which she replied - 'Too right, love! I wouldn touch anythin andled by them blacks!'
The new Tesco has taken over. Our last independent baker has long gone and only market days bring people into town in numbers. You meet people in Tesco and it becomes the focal point that the precinct once was. Merthyr's ambitious 'Cafe Quarter' exists on a sign, but not in reality.
This megastore has been the scene of high drama and I always seem to just miss it. Not long ago, a woman deliberately set fire to clothing in order to get herself imprisoned, because she was so poor she needed decent food and shelter. She set off the whole sprinkler system and alarms and was badly burnt.
Tesco treats people with all the compassion of a multinational profit-machine i.e. none at all. Like Macdonalds, KFC and the rest of the junk food industry it feeds fat on the unhealthy lifestyles of the poor, with sheer shelves of pasties , pies and fizzy drinks.
The best form of preventative medicine in one of Europe's unhealthiest town's would be to close it down. Yet I shop there and add to the problem, longing for alternatives and wondering if they'll ever happen.
The poem below deals with another true drama and one involving a young man accused of shop-lifting...........
Yew wouldn bleeve it,
I woz in-a soopermarkit
jest by-a frozen peas n carrots
when ev'ryone started goin mad.
'There's a bloke by there,
an ee's strippin off!'
'Ee's off of is trolley!'
(In is case, ee never ad one).
I followed crowds an securitee
t where there wuz jeerin an jokin.
This young fella, beard an long air,
woz standin at-a top o Wines an Beers.
Too trew, ee wuz takin is clothes off
an urlin em down at-a crowd
oo cheered an clapped is striptease :
somebuddy sayz - 'Do-a Full Monty!'
Ee grabs old of a coupla cans
pops em and starts slurpin,
then ee wuz yellin - 'They charged me!
An I wern doin nothin!'
Before ee got down to is goolies
ee'd bin dragged down by eavies.
What a protest against shop-liftin,
ee wuz pissed with all ee'd bin drinkin.