FRANK SOBEY: We can make a difference in 2013
I DIDN’T send any Christmas cards this year which, sadly, is a first. To be quite honest, I simply didn’t have the appetite for that lengthy process as I tend to hand write a few paragraphs in each.
Times have changed and the once yearly contact has been usurped by regular Facebook posting, blogs and numerous other cyberspace community platforms.
But it was more than that.
Watching my business washed away by the ‘tsunami’ of economic change that left much of the independent retail sector also in tatters was a little too soul destroying for enthusiastic script.
You can be as good as you like in the micro (the local economy) but if the macro (the wider international market place) is shattered then the fight is somewhat hopeless.
It is interesting to note that one of my city centre shops is now occupied by a charity.
That, I guess, is part of the new town centre trading topography as charity shops, second-hand shops, takeaways and betting shops take centre stage while supermarkets suck the spending horde to the suburban outskirts leaving a trail of broken independent traders.
Mind you, since that personal disaster we’ve managed to start trading again from Paignton harbour as a partnership but the road is bumpy and the future somewhat uncertain. A curious tapestry offering new challenges!
So, instead of a Christmas card, I did send out a brief seasonal blog to friends in cyberspace (www.franksobey.blogspot.com) commenting on some of the fantastic highs — three wonderful weddings and an exciting engagement — and stomach-dropping lows — 30-plus years of business falling over.
Not quite the same as writing numerous tactile cards with an inky pen and sticking costly stamps of personally addressed envelopes but there you go!
At least those that did get my cards in previous years don’t have to spend hours deciphering my spiderlike dysfunctional handwriting.
Shortly before Christmas I happened to bump into mayor Gordon Oliver at a lunchtime gathering at the house of a friend.
He sounded very upbeat about 2013 for Torbay.
Certainly the thrust of his conversation seemed to be about job creation through new businesses centred on the industrial estates while not losing sight of our huge tourist economy.
There is huge debate about the role of a mayor but, like it or not, he is the man with the power locally which is something Torbay voted for.
Also at the lunchtime gathering was the head of a local hotel trade association.
We both slumped when our conversation reached the summer weather for the past five years!
You can do what you like in a tourist resort to generate business but if the sun doesn’t shine we all suffer.
My own business was about summer fun, shorts, T-shirts, sunglasses, surf kit, outdoor toys and we did suffer.
Ah yes, now comes the cry that we need things to do when it does rain.
Yes, we do but that doesn’t take away that essential holiday ingredient of decent sunshine.
My conversational friend in the hotel business said much the same thing, of course, which any intelligent individual not looking through rose tinted glasses would understand.
The year 2012 was, without doubt, a very soggy period in our history and battling along Paignton beach with my dog through torrential rain on December 31 just about said it all.
During my conversation with our leader, I happened to touch upon Parkfield in Paignton.
Those of you who read my words from time to time will remember me waxing lyrical when the £4.8million youth facility opened last year near the Redcliffe Hotel on Paignton seafront.
He didn’t say too much but from my own research and comments from others, I do worry about the future of this brilliant facility.
I gather the centre, which has a sports hall, cafe, music room in addition to an international standard BMX track and skatepark, is now closed on Sundays and Mondays.
That is a worry since this has to be seen as an investment in the future of our young folk.
Sadly, it’s all very well having these new schemes but they must be sustainable.
It is one thing stumping up the grant to get them going but quite another to fund the running on a daily basis. Hmm.
So here is a new year’s resolution for our community — keep your eyes open for the potentially damaging changes caused by local apathy.
Look for the areas where you can help, speak out when you can see things happening that will work against the greater good, make the decision makers accountable and support those struggling to make a positive difference.
Don’t say it’s not your problem because that attitude allows the selfish to gain more at the expense of us all. We can make a difference and we must!
Anyway, happy new year and do keep the smile.