“I LOVE you, you’re perfect, now change.” Musicals may be clichéd and sentimental but they also have a knack of succinctly summing up aspects of the human condition.
As I gaze at the wreck that was once my house, I’m beginning to ask what madness possessed us to embark on updating and modernising the home we fell in love with a few years back. Could we not simply have let be? Or just slapped on a bit of paint? You know things are bad when you start making decisions about furnishings by drawing lots – using breadsticks because the straws are under a pile of boxes.
Do the lovely people who owned our house before us shake their heads at our need to meddle? They lived here for umpteen years happily and comfortably. Actually, I suspect they are totally cool with what we’re up to.
But often change is seen as a criticism. Imagine you have been in charge of a shop window for some time. Your display has been effective – the shop has kept going even in these hard times. Then someone rearranges it. Some of it you like, some you don’t. Even so, it would be hard not to take it as a personal reproach.
And I wonder if there is a little of that going on in Berwick.
It can get people’s backs up when incomers coo over the delights of the place and then follow up with, ‘what’s wrong with Berwick’, and ‘what Berwick needs’. As if no-one had ever had such thoughts before.
The truth is there are no new ideas under the sun. But, on the other hand, that is not a reason not to try things twice or even three or four times. New people do often bring fresh approaches and energy. Plus, let’s face it, the difference between a successful initiative and one that falls flat can be a simple question of luck.
We seem to be at a point when real change is within the town’s grasp. There’s the Portas money – match-funded by the county council. There’s an ambitious Berwick Plan being developed by Arch (established by Northumberland County Council to stimulate regeneration and growth). And, there are grassroots groups such as Berwick Deserves Better – chiselling away to improve Berwick bit-by-bit.
Most people agree that Berwick needs more than just a spring clean. Each person has their own hobby horse – parking is popular, and ‘the state of the town centre’ is high scoring too.
It would be marvellous if we could achieve a thriving town centre, lower shop rents, more jobs, renovation of derelict buildings, and better upkeep of open spaces by doing nothing. But we can’t.
So we need people who are prepared to take action and try things out. No doubt there will be some duff decisions and some strokes of genius – though none, I hope, made on the basis of the shortest breadstick; there will be some changes that some love and some loathe – and, hopefully, some areas of total harmony.
Which, in some symmetrical way, is what I expect with the renovation of our house. But I’d like to state the genius decisions were mine and the less good ones The Husband’s. Because I love him, and he is perfect, but…