Ghost town

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Our local supermarket has closed, a victim of recession.

Well, that’s my last Lidl shop for a while. Our local outlet has just closed, a victim of this seemingly endless recession. 

I’m gutted, as this is where I’ve done my ‘big’ shop ever since it opened. The local SuperU has much much higher prices, and even the top-up shop of a few items costs as much or more than the food at Lidl. But Lidl is also better quality.

I know the firm is a joke in the UK, but here in France where quality control is high, its fish, meat, fruit and veg are superb. I love the German chocolates and brands of tomatoes, chilli, biscuits and part-baked breads available. Not to mention the fact that they stock wine from Chile, South Africa and Italy (what joy in France, where EVERYTHING is French), great chorizos, cheese at two-thirds the price it is in SuperU.

Shopping will now mean trekking 25km or so to the next-nearest Lidl in Mayenne, not something we can really do every week, so it will now become a fortnightly event and we’ll just have to stock up.

It was a shame today, too, to see all these girls out of a job. They’ve worked really hard and always been pleasant and now, through no fault of their own, they’re on the scrapheap. There are few jobs locally. Next to the Lidl, the huge DIY store that has been B3, Mr Bricolage and Gedimat in the past 17 years, still stands empty a year after it closed. The place used to be thriving, with Brits doing up their properties packing the carpark, buying plasterboard and plants. All disappeared. The summer swallows can no longer afford to renovate their homes, and many Brits have had to go back because no work is available here. You can forget running a gite now – the market is completely saturated and this area offers neither tourist attractions nor the weather that attracts people to the south. 

Yesterday, after swimming, I headed into town to the Sunday Cochinelle minimart, which is open until lunchtime. I haven’t been down that end of town in a while and I was shocked to see quite so many businesses closed down. My local town, Gorron, is just a wide spot on the road really, with the main road running right through it and no real centre, and at this end of things, the shops were always a bit lost and forlorn. But now they’re mostly gone altogether: the butchers and bakers who were here when we first came (back when our own village still had a bakery and a tabac, and a general store and a school, all of which have died), the little clothes shops, victims of the fashion hypermarkets that have started up everywhere.

With the drizzle coming down, the roads up for repair and the general greyness, it all seemed rather bleak. Even Bagnoles, which we visited on Sunday, is affected – this once-thriving spa resort was once carpeted with mink-wearing Parisians coming to take the waters, but there are now hotels shuttered up and shops empty – something I never thought I’d see. The town used to be brimming with money. 

France has been hit less hard by recession than the UK in that there is still greater social cohesion and unemployment benefits are much higher. But it’s still hurting, and I wonder how much longer it can all go on. 


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