JIM PARKER: Not the places they used to be
IT kind of summed up the mood of the moment. Scaffolding was up around the front of the Royal Standard pub in Hele Village. Its name had been taken down from where it had been standing since 1935, making the Standard one of the Bay's oldest — if not the oldest —pubs.
It had once been the heartbeat of community life in the village.
But for months and months it had stood empty, looking sad, forlorn and a sorry shadow of its former self ever since once owners Admiral Taverns closed the doors.
It just seems that with it has gone a large chunk of that community spirit for which it was renowned.
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Hele and Torbay aren't the places they used to be.
And now we are struggling generally as a community.
Who would have thought that in the year 2012 food banks would be making the headlines.
And food banks that are running out of food due to the unprecedented demand from people who are finding it more and more difficult to put bread on the table.
These aren't just people who are out of work or on benefits.
These are people in work and with families to feed and who are finding themselves losing the battle to pay the bills and meet every day, basic needs.
The Paignton-based social charity Anode's food bank in Paignton has seen cries for help soar from 75 to more than 2,000 in just 12 months.
There has been talk of one family walking from Watcombe to Paignton looking for help and of a mum who was tempted to take to shoplifting because she had been unable to feed her children.
Yep, this is Torbay in 2012 and without a doubt the picture is the same throughout the rest of the country.
Civic chairman (that's the name for the old mayor) Roger Stringer chose Anode as his adopted charity this year.
In his first three months of office, £3,000 has been raised and a firm from outside Torbay has handed in a cheque for £1,000.
Cllr Stringer says: "I am surprised that this can happen in a Christian society and in a place like Torbay but then again I am not surprised when you see some areas where there is real deprivation.
"We have a lot of poor people. They are on low wages and there are lots of people on benefits.
"The increase in VAT hasn't helped. That effects everybody.
"We have a two-state society in Torbay. We have some people who have quite a lot of money and a lot of locals who don't.
"It is getting harder all the time. If people cannot spend, it effects the shops. It has a knock-on affect.
"I cannot seen an end to it. I think we have to get more infrastructure work going. We just need more jobs and they have to be for a decent standard of living."
Well-known property developer Tony Carter says he put in a bid for the Standard and was keen to re-open it as a pub for the community. But his bid was unsuccessful. He says: "I put in a bid for it. We were going to put it back as a pub with two flats above.
"I had big plans for it and was going to keep it as a pub for the community.
"It is a shame. I would have turned it around.
"I am a working class man. I have worked hard all my life to earn a couple of bob.
"I have never forgotten my roots. That's how I value Hele Village.
"In my personal opinion, it will be a sad loss for the community."
The building has been bought by Babbacombe-based KFS Builders which has been run by business partners Alan Walsh and Robert Harris for the past nine years.
Alan revealed they did toy with the idea of keeping it as a pub.
He says: "We hummed and haaed about it at first.
"There were all sorts of complications. We did not bother in the end and it is not going to be a pub."
As it stands, one big flat on the top floor will be rented out and should be ready in a couple of weeks.
The bottom, former bar area is being cleared as well and still retains a commercial 'title'.
"We are not yet sure what we will do about the bottom floor," says Alan whose firm is working on about seven other projects mostly in the Torquay area at the moment.
Anode and other food bank charities are now appealing for food donations and drop off points for donations.
And that's where the community spirit — and there is still shed-loads of it in Torbay and the rest of South Devon — will kick in. We are extra special at helping people when they need help the most.
And let's not be too downbeat about the demise of the Standard.
At least local builders have it and are providing local jobs so good luck to KFS.
What nobody can take away is the memories.
Memories of granfer and nan enjoying a drink — nan working behind the bar and falling down the cellar door.
Memories of mum and dad following in their footsteps enjoying a night out and a game of darts with their mates, most who have gone now.
Memories of actually living with nan and gramp right next to the Standard and spending endless hours people-watching as the characters of the village came and went.
Tough times, but good times. Hele and Torbay aren't the places they used to be.