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The International Writers Magazine: My Town

David Alexander

Gravesend is a fairly large town in the north west of Kent. Within five minutes in any direction lies train stations, motorways, ferries and bus stops, basically anything you could need to arrive at pretty much any destination. However, next to these major arterial transit ways lie fields, trees, woods, parks, a semblance of "country".
Gravesend’s semi-rural setting brings many tourists from London who want to spend a day in the country. Now these people obviously have never stepped foot outside of the south east, because if they truly dwell under the misapprehension that Gravesend is in the country, would they then believe that Derbyshire is a not-quite-so-tropical jungle?

Not many people outside of Kent actually seem to have heard of Gravesend. The town has such a rich and varied history from its origins as a plague pit for the victims of the Black Death to the arrival of Pocahontas in England. Per square mile, there are more pubs in Gravesend than any other town in the country and this fact alone you would have thought would give the town its warranted national fame. Yet alas, Gravesend has sunk into near obscurity, its rich history forgotten in recent years all because of what was built just down the road – the modern monstrosity that is Bluewater shopping centre. This is not exactly a surprise as we are now living in a world where the goings on of some fatuous bimbo such as Paris Hilton is more important than real culture.

Europe’s largest shopping centre has affected Gravesend more than just masking its history, much of the town’s business has been lost and because of this, certain areas have fallen into disrepair. The high street has more empty shops than ever before; major franchises like Woolworths, Primark and McDonalds still do well but small businesses have been effectively eradicated. The cinema became obsolete when Bluewater’s sixteen screens turned up and the building is now an evangelical church.

Gravesend has been through many changes in recent history, some good such as the building of the St George’s shopping centre in the seventies and others not so great such as the Channel Tunnel rail link. Whatever happens to Gravesend it will always be my home, it was where I grew up, it’s a part of me. I know I will go back one day and I can’t help but wonder what other changes, good or bad, await my return.

© David Alexander October 2007

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