Throwing money at the untartupable is not the answer

Borehamgate is attracting attention again as yet another plan to tart up the untartupable is doing the rounds.

I had the pleasure of working there in two spells at the Suffolk Free Press and, despite some cosmetic changes in that time, the precinct remains a prime example of a decade when architecture generally lost its way in the beauty stakes.

My first spell started before the Job Centre – as it used to be called – was built, and then the Free Press office had a window on the world. Three windows, actually, all looking out on the bus station. Best view in town!

Then darkness descended as the windows were blocked to accommodate the new office next door.

There might have been 10ft of snow outside but, tucked up in the bunker, we wouldn’t have been aware of it without regular updates from our receptionist or the advertising department upstairs. If they left in a hurry, we knew to follow.

Sudbury has a wonderful range of buildings, a living illustration of the history of the town, but while many are beautiful, or at the very least interesting, stuff designed in the 60s rarely has any charm.

And Borehamgate is a perfect example of that. It was built in a style of architecture totally lacking in character or appeal. And throwing money at it won’t really make any difference.

Following our decision to move house, the clearout continues, although trips to the household refuse site are now thankfully few and far between.

Going through the boxes, we unearthed a ledger detailing our household accounts from 1977 to 1992, which I have been taking a very close look at it, and marvelling at the way some things have changed over the past 35 years. Since 1992, of course, we have switched from the ledger to the computer.

Back in 1977, our monthly bill for energy – electricity and gas – was fractionally more than twice the monthly payment for rates (council tax). And there was no sign of a separate water bill in those halcyon days before that essential asset – among others – was sold to the highest bidder.

Comparisons may be odious, but here goes anyway. Last year, ignoring water rates, at our old house in Alpheton the monthly council tax bill was more expensive than our monthly costs for energy – electricity, wood and coal.

I’m sure someone, somewhere can explain just how that amazing reversal of costs came about, despite massive leaps in energy prices, and no doubt justify it. But I’m still scratching my head.

I had absolute proof – again – recently that the law of sod always applies.

In Alpheton, we have a fortnightly coffee morning at the village hall, so we decided to hold one at our new home last month – as a sort of house-warming – before village sessions started up again after the Christmas and new year break.

And, of course, on the day the rain was sheeting down, and the wind was blowing up a storm. Just as the party started, and the first teas and coffees had been served, the power went off ... to the surprise of none of us.

Our solution was simple; put the old-fashioned kettle on the fire, and be patient. We do have a primus stove somewhere, but it’s still in a box (I hope).

So one of our good neighbours came to the rescue, rushing home to get their primus stove, and normal service was swiftly resumed.

And, just as the party was finishing, the lights came back on. Sod’s law.

Ken Watkins is a former Free Press editor and sports editor