Afternoon in Godalming

Pepper Pot

Pepper Pot

It was a pleasant day, and so train to Guildford, walk along the River Wey, lunch at The Keystone, then bus to Godalming.

It is a pleasant bus trip to Godalming. Or to be more accurate, the bus passes through pleasant countryside, the bus itself a clapped out, rattling, bone-shaker.

Godalming has an excellent bookshop (and no I do not mean Waterstone’s). But it usually closes at 4pm and I rarely find it open. It was almost 4pm as I alighted from the bus and so it was not even worth trying.

It was therefore to my surprise that I found it open, or at least there was a sign outside that indicated it was open. As I tried to walk in, a woman closed the door in my face. She then relented, and let me in, but locked the door behind.

I queried, were they now open later. No, I was rudely told, and we have homes to go to. I could not resist pointing out she had left the sign outside that they were open!

Well that is one way to encourage customers, must be a novel marketing technique.

Strange shop. Central section marked ‘Popular Authors’.

Does that mean the others are unpopular authors, I asked, handing over three Paulo Coelho books shelved with the unpopular authors.

My question did not go down well with the rude woman, who told me they were less popular.

I pointed out trash, may be a better description for the so-called popular authors, whereas Paulo Coelho shelved with the unpopular authors was actually popular and rattled off the number of weeks The Alchemist in the New York Times best seller list, copies sold. Had I though of it I could have rattled off followers on twitter, facebook, but sometimes I wonder what is the point, so picked up my books and left.

Why is service such an alien concept in England? The only way small shops can survive is through offering a superior service.

Godalming is a relatively unspoilt small market town south of Guildford through which flows the River Wey.

Relative is just that relative. Compared with a few years ago, it has been ruined, lots of High Street retailers have muscled their way into the town. Compared with other towns which have been completely ruined, it is unspoilt.

I walked the town and ended up in the museum at the far end of the town. Worth a visit, though easily missed as a small entrance is the only visible presence of the museum.

In the museum copyright reared its ugly head. You cannot take photos, I was told. Or more specifically, I could not take photos of an art exhibition.

Having taken photos before, I pointed this out, that permission had been granted. That was then and now is now, I was told by a woman who gave the impression of being in charge, or as she pointed out the others were volunteers and they do not always get it right.

Why is it that volunteers always seem to have an inferior status, should it not be the other way around? It is the same at the Guildford Institute in Guildford and yet there it is the volunteers who are always helpful, courteous and better informed.

An offer was made to call the artist, to see if it was ok to take pictures.

Although they were trying to be helpful, I pointed out the situation was ludicrous, and gave the example of a London red bus and Le Corbusier furniture. I suggested that for future exhibitions, they ask the artists if it was ok, or even make it a condition.

It is ridiculous. Obscure artist exhibiting in a public place and then getting excited someone may wish to take a picture. What do they think we are going to do, raise them out of obscurity?

In Puerto de la Cruz, all the exhibitions I went to, all the artists I spoke to, were only too happy for me to photograph their work. Why? Because I was showing an interest in their work and it got them better known.

The irony was, I had no interest in photographing the exhibition.

Later they will have an exhibition of woodwork, from the same guy whose excellent woodwork I saw last year. I suggested that as they had a lovely garden out the back, would it not be a good idea if he worked on some of his wood out in the garden.

This idea sank like a lead balloon. I think I will contact the guy myself.

As I walked out of the museum, I remembered my reason for being there. I wanted to go upstairs to take a photo of the Pepper Pot, the lovely old town hall.

It was now 5pm. I had wished to walk down to the church, but probably not now open, and the greengrocer the other end of town told me he shut at 5pm.

In the town were posters for a free music festival the following Saturday.

I looked in one shop and signed a petition opposing Tesco opening a store. But when I asked for more information no one knew anything, apart from a customer who seemed to believe it was a foregone conclusion as far as the local council was concerned.

Then it was bus, train, bus, home.

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2 Responses to “Afternoon in Godalming”

  1. Joy Says:

    What a shame you had such a bad experience. I love Godamling and lived nearby for over 10 years before moving overseas. However on my last visit (July this year) it felt like a ghost town with boring high street shops, no nice little cafes and a very arrogant attitude from many of the staff in the shops. It was very sad and very disappointing. The most lively place was Waitrose! I completely agree about volunteers – they are giving time to a cause and receive very little training or recognition. The council or some other town body needs to bring back some life, some service and some fun into Godalming before it all closes down.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Godalming is worth a visit, but it is not what it was, and it is the High Street chain stores that are destroying Godalming, as they are towns across the country, but the sad truth is corrupt local councils who act for developers and Big Business who get into bed with them to the detriment of local communities. The soul is then sucked out, leaving nothing left.

    There is though an excellent coffee shop in Godalming that is well worth a visit, Café Mila.

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