The Sunny Streets of Bridport by Margery Hookings

Bridport’s streets sparkle in the sunshine. It’s as if the town is paved with gold.

The Pursuit of Hoppiness is jumping as people take in the afternoon light and a nice pint of cold, local cider. Up the road, there are folk sitting outside the Market House. In South Street, people are enjoying a drink at the front of The Woodman. Even more are vying for a bit of exterior space at the coffee shops all over the town.

Years ago, this would never have been allowed. Not because we were unsophisticated and lacking that continental, café culture vibe. Back in the 1980s, the area surveyor imposed a clampdown on pavement clutter. A-boards were impounded and no-one would have ever even contemplated putting out tables and chairs.

The fact that pedestrians could trip over them was the reasoning behind this arbitrary ban.

Now, common sense has prevailed.

The town is making the most of its wide street assets. Long may it continue, although it can get a bit congested on market day with the stalls on one side, chairs and tables on the other and then long-lost friends filling the gap when they meet for the first time in years, hug very extravagantly and then just stand and chat as you’re trying to get from Autobitz in East Street down to the bottom of town to see Simon at The Menders.

Sometimes on market days, the quickest way on foot through Bridport is by walking along the edge of the road, which is probably not to be advised. But at least it’s not Chard where you’d end up getting your feet wet in the freshwater gutters.

I’m standing outside Boots when I see two people in love on the other side of the road. They’re walking hand-in-hand down West Street, oblivious to everything around them but themselves. Some years ago I saw a similar sight as a couple strolled along the same spot on the pavement, which was then just past Monique’s Wine Bar. They had eyes only for each other and were barefoot, only to realise their fashion faux pas when the woman stepped in dog’s mess and it squelched up between her toes.

I can’t imagine there’ll be anything remotely like dog’s mess on the streets this Friday, when Prince Charles pops in to see the Literary and Scientific Institute. (I still can’t bring myself to call it that, or even The LSI. It will always be The Old Library to me, despite the fact that the lettering above the door has been declaring the building’s name and purpose since HRH’s ancestor Queen Victoria was on the throne).

The Prince of Wales is going to be taken on a tour of this wonderfully restored building, which will include a visit to Crowdfunder UK. It seems astonishing to me that the country’s leading crowdfunding outfit is based right here in Bridport.

But then again, when I look at the town’s streets in the sunshine, I swear they’re paved with gold.

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