For, indeed, a bomb in a Santander office in Derry did make it to the public prints and the airwaves. Admittedly it was a token effort, and made only the smallest of column fillers.
Yet Malcolm’s point is that pathetic gesture received more national publicity than the far more threatening and significant bus fire in Norwich.
Obviously, if you want the nation’s attention, you live at one end of the shrinking empire rather than the other. And with attention goes money: just look at what the 1981 Brixton and 1985 Tottenham riots did for facilities in SE5 and N17 — and, moreover, in the depths of Thatcherite penny-pinching. Perhaps if the good folk of Norwich burned out the odd bank they’d get a decent rail connection, along with the swimming pools, park up-grades, leisure centres that reward civil disobedience.
Malcolm was in Shipgate Street in the last week — the Shipgate Street in prosperous, bourgeois, touristic Chester. There is a pointed contrast with Shipgate Street, Derry.
For Derry still has that grey, worn-out look to it. Shipgate Street, Derry — indeed much of the area inside the city walls — has the potential to be one of the architectural gems of these islands. Somewhere recently — ah, yes! it was Simon Winder’s Germania — Malcolm came on the observation that a walled town was somewhere which had been prosperous in the Middle Ages, but had subsequently lost its place in the wealth league. Hence the town had never been able to tear down those constricting walls and get on with rebuilding.
That’s not quite the case in Derry. The walls there are iconic, especially for certain beefy besashed types. Public money has been swilled on Derry, in the hope of putting a veneer of decency on what for years was a war-zone: the consequence is some of the most revolting concrete monsters on the face of the planet: once one has seen the brutality of the BT tower by the river, all other horrors pale into the merely disgusting. The private sector hasn’t improved the urban ambiance either: was the assumption that insurance companies and the Treasury would come up with more moolah to have another try after the inevitable Big Bang?
Through it all, though, there are substantial numbers of real authentic “period” buildings, from the Georgian and subsequent periods. Even the restored Edwardian Guild Hall (above) has a spiky Gothic — and distinctly unUlster — personality, especially from within where every piece of Edwardian glazing tells a story.
Quite frankly, if the fringe fanatics and semtex-merchants are seriously into town redevelopment, there are far more deserving targets than the plain, unpretentious, and none-too-offensive Santander premises.
Now, as for the disgraces that litter the Norwich landscape …