ASDA Car Park – Stockport

Yet another lockdown exploration of forbidden territory for the intrepid pedestrian.

Following sojourns here, here and there.

It’s addictive passing the no access signs, onwards into the abyss.

He hated all this, and somehow he couldn’t get away. 

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

Asda Stores Ltd is a British supermarket chain. It is headquartered in Leeds. The company was founded in 1949 when the Asquith family merged their retail business with the Associated Dairies company of Yorkshire.

It was listed on the London Stock Exchange until 1999 when it was acquired by Walmart for £6.7 billion.

In February 2021, EG Group – led by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital, acquired Asda.

The company was fined £850,000 in 2006 for offering 340 staff at a Dartford depot a pay rise in return for giving up a union collective bargaining agreement. Poor relations continued as Asda management attempted to introduce new rights and working practices shortly thereafter at another centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Wikipedia

Let’s hope that the new owners having been ruled against in an equal pay dispute, attempt to forge better labour relations.

In March 2021 the employees won a Supreme Court ruling upholding an earlier court ruling permitting the action, and enabling employment tribunal action to decide equal value claims.

Asda stated: This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion. 

The claim could lead to about £500 million of compensation to lower paid employees.

All that aside, let’s have a look at what the car park is like.

Pedestrian In A Car Park

One of the great glories of cinema is that it has the power to take the mundane and make it magical. To most of us, car parks signify a world of pain, where fearsome red-and-white crash barriers dictate our fate and where finding a space is often like finding meaning in the collective works of Martin Lawrence. To others, they meant lost Saturday afternoons spent waiting for your mum to finally come out of Woolworths so you could rush home to catch Terrahawks.

Either way, car parks are grey and dull. In the movies, however, they are fantastic places, filled with high-level espionage, and high-octane chases. 

According to The Guardian

I beg to differ, the cinema and TV has helped to define our perception and misconception of the car park.

The modern day pedestrian may reclaim, redefine and realise, that far from mundane each actual exemplar is different, in so many ways. The time of day, weather, light, usage, abusage, condition, personal demeanour and mood all shape our experience of this particular, modern urban space.

To walk the wide open spaces of the upper tier, almost touching the sky.

Is a far cry from the constrained space of the lower levels.

To walk the ramps with a degree of trepidation, visceral and fun.

This is an inversion of the car-centric culture, walking the concrete kingdom with a carbon-free footprint.

I was inspired by a recent viewing of All The Presidents Men to revisit my local multi-storey on Heaton Lane Stockport.

Cinematographer Gordon Hugh Willis Jr constructs a shadow world where informer and informed meet to exchange deep secrets, ever watchful, moving in and out of artificial light, tense and alert.

Look over your shoulder- there’s nobody there, and they’re watching you.

But they have been here.

To party.

To tag.

To live.

Pay here, your time is time limited, your presence measured.

Let’s explore this demimonde together, wet underfoot, lit laterally by limited daylight, walking through the interspersed pools of glacial artificial glow.

Time’s up, check out and move on – tomorrow is another day, another car park; in a different town.

Cinema and car parks wedded forever in the collective popular cultural unconscious.

Bollards

As I was out walking on the corner one day, I spied an old bollard in the alley he lay.

To paraphrase popular protest troubadour Bob Dylan.

I was struck by the elegant symmetry and rough patinated grey aggregate.

To look up on the world from a hole in the ground,
To wait for your future like a horse that’s gone lame,
To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

I mused briefly on the very word bollards, suitable perhaps for a provincial wine bar, Regency period drama, or family run drapers – but mostly.

bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. The term originally referred to a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, but is now also used to refer to posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram-raiding and vehicle-ramming attacks.

The term is probably related to bole, meaning a tree trunk.

Wikipedia

Having so mused I began to wander a tight little island of alleys and homes, discovering three of the little fellas, each linked by typology and common ancestry, steadfastly impeding the ingress of the motor car.

Yet also presenting themselves as mini works of utilitarian art – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Having returned home I began another short journey into the world of bollards, where do they come from?

Townscape Products

Hostile Vehicle Mitigation

Huge range • Fast delivery • Right on price

PAS 68 approved protection for your people and property combining security, natural materials and style.

My new pals seem to be closely related to the Reigate.

Available in a mind boggling range of finishes.

Bollards can be our friends, an expression of personal freedom and security.

A pensioner says he will go to court if necessary after putting up concrete bollards in a last-ditch attempt to protect his home.

Owen Allan, 74, of Beaufort Gardens, Braintree, claims motorists treat the housing estate like a race track, driving well in excess of the 20mph speed limit, and that the railings in front of his home have regularly been damaged by vehicles leaving the road.

He was worried it would only be a matter of time before a car came careering off Marlborough Road and flying through the wall of his bungalow.

Braintree and Witham Times

Though on occasion may be perceived as an enemy of personal liberty, precipitating a head on collision with the local authority.

A furious family have been stopped from parking on their own driveway after bullyboy council officials installed concrete bollards outside their home.

We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here what the with yellow lines and the bollards.

Daily Express

I have cause to thank the humble concrete bollard, having suffered an assault on our front wall from a passing pantechnicon, I subsequently petitioned the council, requiring them to erect a substantial bollard barrier.

Which was subsequently hit by a passing pantechnicon.

They are our modernist friends, little gems of public art and should treated with due respect – think on.

You hostile vehicles.

Underpass – Scarborough Again

I’ve been here before on a much sunnier day.

Avoiding heavy showers and even heavier seas, I’m here again.

Three ways in and out of a doughnut on Scarborough’s South Bay.

One way in and out of the North Sea.

The underpass it seems is generally under threat, unsafe, often unloved and underground – often underused.

Once thought to be the answer to the threat posed to the pedestrian, by increased motor traffic, they are now deemed unsafe – poorly lit, badly maintained and scenes of anti-social activity.

Havens for those who are a threat to themselves.

Don’t let that put you off, get down and get with it!

Why not treat yourself to a walk around the South Bay Underground Car Park?

Then get out of it rapido.

Underpass – Scarborough

I’ve been here before.

In and out of the underpass from shore to mighty sea.

I’ve come back again, fascinated by the barely illuminated utilitarian infrastructure that seems so rarely used, alone in world of my own.

Take a closer walk and look with me.

The light at the end the tunnel is another tunnel.

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Underpass – Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes synonymous with something or other, the town where everything is an off centre out of town centre, where anything was new once.

A broad grid of boulevards, sunken super-highways and an extended series of balletic roundabouts swirls the cars around.

Beneath this merry carbon hungry dance, we find the cyclist and pedestrian, the self propelled underclass passing through the underpass.

During my eight hour non-stop walking tour I encountered several – here they are, home to the homeless – others somewhat desolate and deserted, grass between the paving stones, the occasional casual tag and discarded can.

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