The royal and ailing Burgh of Lanark

As we wander quietly around the town centre in May, we can already see the signs. Not the signs that global warming has finally reached the Royal and Ancient, but sure and certain signs that the Lanimers is approaching at fair old rate of knots!

We may only very belatedly be experiencing an eagerly awaited rise in temperature as yet (political anoraks, hustings meetings and in/out disciples excepted) but at least all our local painters and decorators have something to smile about, and why not indeed. The month of May is when these artisans and anyone else who can climb a ladder or hold a brush are very much sought after. Their services all at a premium.
Even all talented amateurs among our local Picasso groupies – and these guys and gals could give Banksy a run for his money - have for the most part been begged, bribed, blackmailed or brow-beaten into indentured service (i.e. slavery) by various Lanimer Lorry entrants. 

The professionals however, tend to be engaged to provide a quick makeover for local shops and that’s how it totally locally should be and bon chance to those thus engaged because (to be honest), many most of our town centre shops are more in need of cosmetic surgery than bit of slap.

Sadly, our Royal Burgh is somewhat less than regal these days and is getting more ancient and decrepit by the minute as it physically deteriorates. I am not referring to the disintegrating central reservation in the High Street here either; since the Council have assured the RBLCC that this will be made safe prior to some hyperactive and/or inebriated Lanarkian (or, heaven forfend, an innocent visitor) being accidentally assassinated during our ancient ‘Aye Beens’!   
Neither am I referring to the visual impact that Lanark presents to visitors arriving by train and bus only to be met by the sight of that monument to the aura of decay and apathy which pervades the physical appearance of the town; the Royal Oak.

What I am referring to is the High Street. At first glance around the High Street and Cross the range and appearance of shops seems bright and varied. The range of colours on display at street level would make the approaches to Tobermory Bay look bland by comparison. Our bright and highly varied shop fronts do serve a purpose though, in that they blind us to the general condition of even the best of them.

 One very popular bookshop is now looking a wee bit past it and is now suffering from what one author termed, “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, or in today’s speak, corporate austerity, the internet and Kindle. 

Next door the dark green corporate woodwork of the shop looks fine from across the street, which is just as well, because from across the street it looks quite good. Up close however, it displays more lines and wrinkles that an O.S. Survey Map of the Himalayas. The cream paintwork on this shop front also seems to have succumbed to the same green bug that so troubles St. Nicholas Church.

It’s a blessing that our previously mentioned local, and highly imaginative, amateur painters and decorators make such a good job of their lorries in that it ensures the Lanimer audiences firmly focus on the show before them and not the grotty shops at their backs.

But cheer up, the Council does produce a general “Guide to Shop Fronts” in an effort to harmonise the appearance of our town centres and particularly such as Lanark, seen as a shining example of a traditional Scottish market town.  The only wee snag with this approach is that it is a guide only - is not mandatory - and has never actually been seen by any of the local shop proprietors, so we can’t even claim they are ignoring it!

Ergo, as the town grows steadily more downmarket, we can hardly blame our youth for living down to the standards the Council has set.  We have long ago ceased the battle against litter-louts (if it ever got started), and nowadays are content that the litter is brightly coloured and pretty. The Council seem content to clean it up as fast as their small, but expensively managed, cleaning squad will allow, working on the principle that if clean up half of it, it won't be half as bad as it was the day before.  

We have over 25 food outlets of one kind or another spread around our town centre, so the swarms of starving teenagers who forage like locusts for food on a daily basis have a wide range of choice and if the packaging for their popular culinary delights could be manufactured from some sort of edible material, much of the problem could be resolved instantly. 

But - not all of the litter is dropped on the streets by mindless children who don't know any better.  Much of it is stuck in shop windows by mindless adults who do know better but don't give a monkeys. No, not those who illegally fly-post on empty shop windows; the shop-keepers who fly-post on the inside their own windows.

Perhaps it’s a novel psychological marketing ploy? If we can’t see through the windows, are we more likely to enter? Which provides the opportunity to subject the unwary to a well-rehearsed sales spiel? We also have more ladies hairdressers than we have Crowning Ladies in Lanark, but perhaps they keep everything dark because of the hubble, bubble, toil and trouble that goes on inside?

The one bright note, if you’ll forgive the pun, it’s not all bad news. We still have a large variety of shops and premises in the town centre, although most of them are urgently in need of some TLC from our local decorators.

So come on all you totally locally entrepreneurs (and all you minions in the big corporate giants) all your premises are totally in need of a wash and brush up; our totally locally painters and decorators are in need of the work; and from where Wallace is standing, the view totally locally needs improving - so get painting!

PS. If you think I’m a tad critical, take a look at the picture of the entrance to Fawlty Towers that appeared on the Gazette front page on May 4th. That’s what I call drab and dismal, and that’s what your place could end up looking like if you don’t do something soon!



Frank Gunning shares his views on various local issues in his Let's Be Frank column.