Kidderminster is one of those places that will be forever associated with Victoria Wood in my head. Long before I ever dreamed of heading to the West Midlands "Kimberley's Friend" was talking about Mrs Gupta on the tills:
She's nice, Mrs Gupta. She comes from - ooh, where is it? It's got a right funny name and it's a really long way away. Kidderminster.
It means that, mentally, the word Kidderminster is said in a particular way in my head and always will be. Kidderminster. Kidderminster.
I strode out of the station and down the hill towards the glistening spires of the town centre. Actually the pavement was glistening in places too; the frost hadn't entirely departed from the heavily shaded streets and it made the path slippery. I moved gingerly, not caring that I looked an idiot. I recently turned 46 which is, I believe, officially late forties, and so the idea of breaking a hip is now something I should be concerned about. I'm getting my electric mobility scooter next week.
I passed the courthouse, and a new apartment block with a real ale pub in its base. I find this new brand of pubs fascinating but also off-putting. A shop converted into a bar, selling small brews - it doesn't feel like a proper pub. I don't think I could relax in a place that small, where the barman can see you drink and is probably going to ask what you think of the Fuzzy Forehead IPA when you're not that bothered so long as it's got alcohol in it. Further along was an interior design shop whose window showcased neon signs that said things like DANCING QUEEN and GOOD VIBES ONLY and frankly it took every inch of self control not to hurl a brick through the glass.
Kidderminster was proud of its son; in addition to the statue, there was a shopping centre named after him, and the Wetherspoons is called the Penny Black. Or rather, was called the Penny Black; it closed in 2019. That should have been my first warning sign. A town of fifty five thousand people that cannot support a Wetherspoons is not in a great state.