Posted in Highbridge on Monday 28th July 2008 at 7:12pm

By the time I got into work today, a little later than usual, the clouds of smoke had all but dissipated and there was almost nothing left of Weston's Grand Pier. It was interesting to watch reactions to a fire which affected the community in a similar - perhaps more dramatic - way to our own conflagration at the Highbridge Hotel. Early on, the conspiracy theories started - the pier had recently been taken over by new owners who'd had to do lots of improvement work, perhaps they'd bitten off more than they could chew? An insurance job, after all the cash they'd spent, surely not? And so it rolled on, with claims both plausible and outlandish aired in the absence of hard fact.

The simple truth is we've lost another key piece of our heritage, and Weston has suffered a bigger blow. The town is in a kind of binary state just now, flip-flopping between family seaside holiday destination and a town built around stag- and hen-night debauchery. This fire may just have tipped the balance. Not today of course, as trainloads of day-trippers arrived to watch the fire or it's smoky aftermath. Roads closed and traffic chaos as rubberneckers attempted to get a glimpse. Was the west tower still standing? Isn't that where the deep fat fryers were? Are they saying that's what started it? A colleague pointed out that the tide would soon be washing away any evidence that had fallen through the superstructure. We decided not go and look today, it didn't seem right.

But there are key differences to Highbridge's situation. Within hours the owners of the site had said that despite this monumental setback, they would rebuild the pier. Local councillors were offering 'moral support' straight away (no cash, naturally) and people seemed to be getting behind the unlucky owners and supporting their local heritage. Suddenly it seemed OK to express a sense of loss, of childhood memories burned. Having lived in Weston for a few less than happy years, I was amazed at this sudden outburst of community spirit, in what has been a centre-less, disjointed and divided town for years.

Perhaps we could never have excited the local population here about a pub, particularly one which was declining in popularity and had seen better days in many senses. However, our tiny group of supporters remain committed to finding out what happened, and more importantly to doing all we can to secure a future for the Highbridge Hotel. We simply can't afford to lose any more of our heritage, our links with a quite recent past which seems impossibly distant to those who live in the town in 2008. As the people of Weston will discover tomorrow and beyond, once the strange gut-twisting thrill and disbelief of seeing flames leaping from a building has gone, a strange sense of loss sets in.

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I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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