Archives Month: December 2017

I arrived home on Friday night with no plans for the weekend other than to see what fate had lined up for us. I didn’t have to wait long before a tornado seemed to rip through our valley, followed by torrents of rain. Someone upstairs appeared to have turned on the heavenly bath tap and left it running.

Saturday morning and it was apparent that gardening was off the agenda for the day. The family default setting, when rain stops play, is always, ‘Let’s go out for breakfast’.

A couple of Americanos accompanied by scrummy, sticky pain au raisons later and it was ‘What now?’. The boss said she needed a joint for the weekend and I immediately wondered how long she had been smoking pot. ‘No, a joint of meat for the pot, idiot. Now drive me over to Ilminster and I’ll get some pork from Bonners.

Dutifully I parked the car in the centre of this delightful old market town which was once a staging post between London and the South West. Now its main purpose is to be a dormitory town to Taunton and other exits on the M5.

Fortunately for Ilminster, many years ago a By-pass was constructed, leaving the centre uninterrupted by through traffic. Now, if you are in town it’s for a reason.

When we parked the whole place was abuzz with happy, relaxed, friendly folk going about their Saturday chores. The two pharmacies were busy, as was the newsagents. The garden shop and the interior design emporium with its life-size Father Christmas in the window were trading well. Obviously the card shop was packed with wrapping paper and card purchasers and the Kitchen Café was full of caffeine addicts waiting for dead men’s shoes.

Like so many towns in the UK, Ilminster has one or two of everything needed for a thriving community – even a really charming florist, festooned with festive wreaths. All this but a short walk from your car.

After a coffee and choosing a few more Christmas decs from Weave & Wood Interiors it was time for the Duchess to throw herself on the mercy of Clinton Bonner and his team.

As per always, I stood back and watched as the Bonner brigade went about their work, giving advice on which sausages would suit Mrs Roberts, made some fresh burgers while you wait for the duchess and took the trouble to walk around all the serve-over counters to gently put the change into the hand of petite, frail Peg.

All this commerce, advice and friendship (all the customers were referred to by their Christian names) overseen by the towering, smiling generalship of Clinton Bonner himself.

From time to time, Clinton would throw a glance to the open entrance of his adjoining deli, with all its westcountry cheeses, pies and pickles, in fact all that you might be offered in Fortnum & Mason or Harrods Food Hall.

A thriving country town, a significant selection of shops and one of the finest, most successful, award winning butchers and deli’s in the South West. WHY?

When the column fillers of Fleet Street are telling us our towns are finished and not fit for purpose, why should towns like Ilminster be bucking the trend? Who says the doomsayers of the national press are right? Let them tend to their falling circulation figures and stop putting hard-working retailers down.

The reason for the success of Clinton Bonner and the other small British retailers is easy to see – THEY CARE.

They take enormous effort to create quality products that the public want to buy, they work long hours (often way past when you see the doors close) and they care about their customers and take an interest in them. As I learnt at prep school, QED.

While our towns are filled with traders like Clinton and his staff I have no fear of Brexit or the future of our High Streets. Yes, change will happen, some will fall by the wayside and may deserve to do so, but quality and care will overcome all and prosper.