st_james_the_great_dursley
Dursley Market Hall

It was as if I was driving back in the 1970’s again.  The roads, including the M4 and M5 were suspiciously empty and the Cotswold countryside was wallowing in the strengthening early Spring sunshine.  My SatNav told me that the drive to Dursley would take me 1hour and thirty minutes.  The new Support Group was scheduled to meet at 10:30 and so I left at 8:30 aiming to arrive at 10 to help set up the room. Jane, the voice of the SatNav, sent me down the M4, over the Second Severn Crossing and then I headed north on the M5 for a few miles before leaving the motorway and continuing north on a series of near-empty A roads.  Dursley lies in a small valley beneath Stinchcombe Hill.  The road descends into the valley and just at the bottom there’s a Police Station which I liked to think had been strategically placed there in order to monitor who was entering the little town.  I imagined that there was a police officer inside carefully monitoring the comings and goings.  “Hey Up!  Here’s that Nissan Juke with the strange number plate that belongs to that Welshman who keeps going on about B12 who we were warned about” he might have told his or her sergeant.  I tend to imagine such things when I only have Jane for company.  Anyway the road swings around to the right and there I was – right in the middle of the ancient small town or substantial village of Dursley.  The time was just 9:30.  With half an hour to kill I decided to take a look around and headed for the main street.

Dursley market

Dursley market

The high street was a delight to walk along – it was a succession of small independent shops that was probably how every high street in the UK looked like at one time.  There was an old fashioned Ironmongers selling everything from brass coal scuttles to nails; a haberdashers, an old-fashioned sweet shop, a delicious smelling bakers, greengrocer and a florist.  And then there was this amazing butchers shop the window of which was filled with enormous joints of rib beef (and I’m talking joints bigger than the size of most ovens.  Outside on a trestle table lay enormous bones so big that I think they must have been of a recently butchered brondosaurus – all £1 each.  I entered the shop quietly and a stout middle-aged butcher acknowledged my arrival by saying in a loud voice “Good Morning To You”.  I mumbled a reply and then took in an assortment of meats of all shapes and sizes.  The butcher went back to trimming an enormous piece of steak and my eyes took in these large pork pies, all of them a big, I mean think the size of two fists, and they were all hand made.  Now I like nothing more than a proper pork pie and when the butcher looked up and asked me if I needed anything I replied “I’ll have a pork pie please”.  The butcher put down his knife and shouted to somebody in the back of the scope “I desperately need some Lamb Chops for the display – I’m trying to trim the fillet and serve”.  I didn’t hear any response but I paid my £1.99 for the pie and left with a cheery ‘good morning’.  I’m writing this on Sunday morning and that delightful and substantial pie now sits in my belly – it constituted my breakfast and it was delicious.

There were other interesting shops that lined the road that ended in a magnificent Market Hall that looked across to a large and imposing church – the parish church of St James the Great.  Standing out from the quaint stores was a large, specialised camera shop that had a professional drone with high quality digital camera on display at a tempting £600.  The shop was busy which pleased me and a few doors further along was the most beautiful Guitar shop; no, guitar emporium.  The whole place was full of guitars, acoustic, electric, semi-acoustic and a small corner of the large room was dedicated to Ukuleles.  Now I’m not a guitarist but even I couldn’t help but take a closer look and it wasn’t long before I fell into conversation with one of the attendants and we were soon discussing how the manufacture of all manner of guitars had changed in recent years.  There were several buyers or potential buyers all being given advice and information by middle-aged musicians.  As I was leaving I noticed that they also sold nylon tipped drumsticks which, I suppose means that it’s not just a guitar store but a music store.

And then there was a series of charity shops all looking pristine.  One of them sold only books and so it was a fully fledged second hand book shop like you used to see everywhere.  I entered the store and got lost in maze of carefully filed bookcases.  With one eye on my watch I started a leisurely browsing session and there, in the appropriate section, I spotted the Daily Telegraph Concise Crossword Collection (Volume 2).  I bought it immediately and made my way to the library where the support group was meeting.

The meeting was extremely well organised and was well-attended.  For two hours there was an in-depth discussion about all things to do with Pernicious Anaemia.  There were some familiar faces there and some new ones and the two hours allocated for the meeting soon passed and I made my way home.  I was soon back at my house and after making myself a cup of tea made my way to the conservatory, settled down in my favourite chair and with a pen in one hand opened the crossword book.  I had made up my mind to complete two of the crosswords.  But when I turned to the first puzzle I found that someone had already completed it.  And the second one had been completed so had the third.  In fact, every single one of the crosswords had been completed.  I shut the book and tossed it onto another chair.  Now, you may be thinking why didn’t I peek inside the book before I bought it.  But in my defence I say this; why should I have?  Ask yourself instead why oh why would anyone donate a book of completed crosswords to a charity shop?  It was a cruel thing to do!

I hadn’t heard of Dursley until recently and if you want to visit a smart affluent market town of the traditional type then I can thoroughly recommend it.  I might return soon and perhaps take the book back and insist on a refund – the only problem is that I would have to convince the assistant that it wasn’t me who had completed the puzzles and that might prove troublesome.