Fareham - Highlands/Fareham Park especially

I was born-and-raised in Fareham. I came into this world in what was Blackbrook Maternity Home and have spent my whole life (minus a few years here-and-there) living just a few roads away from where the shop is. I attended Orchard Lea Infants & Juniors (both known as Highlands back in my day) and Henry Cort Community College (which was plain old Fareham Park Secondary School when I attended - having said that in our 4th year (which today I believe is called Year 10) the name changed to Henry Cort (with none of this college malarkey attached to it)). 

I learned to ride horses at the age of 4 from a stables at the top of Fareham Park Road and could often be found wandering up-and-down the Old Railway Line (now called the Deviation line) when it was still stones and chalk; in fact for a while there was still track and sleepers down, and as a youngling I would often stand on the bridge in Highlands Road with my Mum, waiting for the train to pass through as my Dad was a fireman onboard and we'd give him a wave. We would walk through the Bluebell Woods (which always felt like they were magical to me; I half expected to see fairies and pixies going about their business) which is now where The Copse housing estate is, and along Thames Drive and Red Barn lane, which was just a dirt track with not a house to be seen - except at the very end where the row of small cottages are in the dip the other side of the railway line still in use. Goodness, I even remember walking across the M27 before it was opened up to cars.

I remember the Post Office at the bottom of Fareham Park Road being in it's own building (soon to be turned into flats by our delightful (yes, I am being sarcastic when I use the D word) neighbours) with the wool counter on the left, 2 rows of shelving in the middle and the serving counters down the end directly opposite the door. The clothing and shoe shop over on the Highlands Parade were frequented by us often - I have a school photo from my junior days of me in a hideous dress that I just "had to have" bought from there! 10p mix-ups bought from JD's were a real treat (and I hand-on-heart never once popped a sweet in cheekily that I hadn't paid for; I was too afraid of getting into trouble with my Mum and Dad). 

Skelly Woods was my playground. I spent hour-upon-hour down there, first as a little person with my next-door-neighbour (back when it was a lot safer to let your children out to play) and then as a teenager; I had my own little hidey hole in a tree down there which I used to keep my cigarettes in so I wasn't caught with them at home. The fact all the parents knew what we were doing down there never registered with any of us, however, we were all fully away at any time an adult who knew us, or knew our family could walk by and walk through, and if we were stepping out of line, we'd be for it when we got home. 

Of course, you had your few 'dodgy' characters around (I remember my friend and I being flashed once as we walked the pathway from High Mead to Red Barn Lane, and being chased through the Bluebell Woods by a man with the biggest wolf hound dog I've ever seen, but back then you could knock on someone's door (anyone's) and they'd either know you, or know of you, and would go find whoever was doing such things and make sure they didn't do it again. There were also the ones who'd have a few-too-many down the Working Men's Club, in the Highlands Pub, or along the road further at the Limes who would get a bit heavy with their fists, but again, they were dealt with swiftly and the following day all was forgotten.

I'm not looking back on those times with rose-tinted-glasses, but one thing I do remember, vividly, is how there was a mutual respect among everyone. The thieving community (let's all be honest there were a lot of pilferers around) never did it on their own doorstep and neighbours looked out for each other; even those who didn't like each other. Our little part of Fareham was a lovely place to live and a great place to grow up. I think it still is, to a point (or at least it could be). Crime isn't as high around here as is is in some other places, and most are committed by people outside the area - there are, of course, those local who will help themselves to your stuff, as I discovered the other week when a lad stole from the front of my shop, but among the majority of people who live here there is still a sense of community, and respect; a name for the little thief was given to me by multiple different people.

Sadly though there is an undercurrent to Fareham these days, especially in our little area, that is gradually gaining momentum, and at some point will become a crashing tidal wave, and nobody to help ebb the flow - or should that be nobody is willing to ebb it? 

You all know myself and Vanessa (her more so) have had to deal with some issues in the past few years, basically because a certain group of people want to buy our premises. She offered to sell, however, after agreeing a price they told her they would only do half through the books and the other half in cash that she was not to declare; she was not up for any of that, told them so, at which point they pulled out, told her they would open up the same business as hers next door to put her out of business so she'd then have to sell cheaper. They did that too; they opened up next to her, however, whilst those guys who all want the same haircut will use them, her customers remained loyal, and 3 years later she's still in business, and now has an amazing beauty therapist working in the shop with her. They've pretty much left me alone for the most part, although before we blocked up our section of the alleyway running along the back of the shop, I did have to deal with a couple of men who would stand by my back door if I had it open; they would stay there staring in for an hour or 2. I'm pretty sure they were trying to intimidate me; they failed. I've had them stand at the shop window and do the same too; I just drop the blinds and get on with my day and for a while there was nothing, however, just recently there has been a slight increase again. Men will walk back-and-forth outside my window on their phones and stare in as they do so; they'll stand right in front of the door blocking exit or entry, also whilst on their phones. Why they can't stay on their own forecourt is beyond me. For 3 weekends running I've had a large car park across the full length of my forecourt, making it difficult for customers to get in-and-out. 2 weeks ago one sat in his car for over an hour with his diesel engine running, pumping delightful fumes into the shop in the process. His car remained outside for 5 hours. I'm guessing the price of fuel has put a stop to the engine running though because now they do switch off. Just yesterday, one whilst on his phone, leaned against the window and was wiggling about the stick holding one of my plants upright and in place; when I shouted for him to "stop" he just stared at me whilst continuing to chat. 

I'm sure a lot of it has been ramped up again because I put in an objection to yet another takeaway at the barbers end of the block - ooh, on the subject of food up here I was genuinely quite shocked to find the chippy next door has only a 1 star rating for hygiene; makes me glad I don't buy anything from there (I stopped a few years ago when the guy who owns was out with his mates trying to intimidate Vanessa again and he blatantly told a bare-faced lie to me) - and I have also objected to their plans to build 7 (maybe 8, 9 or even 10 - we don't know because it keeps changing and FBC can't seem to give us an answer) flats where the post office was. We already deal with them parking their cars, vans and 4x4's down the road on double-yellows to the junction for a good part of each day; we really do not need any more cars at the bottom of this road. It could also be because we are women who refuse to bow down to them and toe their line. Women who have had no help or back-up over the past 6 or 7 years from anyone; the police won't intervene unless they actually do something (intimidation doesn't warrant being looked into) and the council couldn't give a rats ass. The leader of our council actually had the front to call me a liar on my own FB page when I made a comment about being told we could apply for restricted parking outside the shop if we fronted up 5k, but that wouldn't guarantee we get it, however, it could move us further up the list. This is the same council who assured me they wouldn't allow the flats they have built opposite the shop (the same flats they refused a previous developer to put up) without making it a clause they pay for the restricted parking for us, and none of their workers park outside the shop or in FPR - those of you around here will know for 2 years they parked outside the shop, up the road and all round in Coppice Way too. The very people we should be able to have relied on over the years, are the very people who have aided in the intimidation tactics we've had to deal with. Misogyny is rife among those in charge, that's for sure. 

I've been told (warned) that for my own sake I should "Put up and shut up" because "it's not worth how unsafe it could be (for me) to say anything to any of them".  In all honesty I'm not even sure if I'm going to share this because of those warnings; I might just slip it in under the radar at some point though, so if anything does happen as least people will have a better idea of what's been going on. As I write this there is a guy leaning against my car; just now he threw his cigarette butt under it; he'd not put it out before doing so. I have no doubt when I leave later they'll bring even more cars/vans up, boxing the whole area in. 

As for this weeks forecourt parker; well, he thought it would be acceptable to spit out whatever he hacked up from the back of his throat onto the planter butted up to my window! They have a big van/truck parked so far for over 2 hours; it's on double yellows and sticking out in the road. Some young person with a baby in a buggy was about to walk by when they reversed back to abandon the van; they never even bothered to look and see if anyone was there. 

And I'm not placing blame on anyone, but every time I've parked my car out of sight of the shop and the cameras I've gone out that evening to find either one, or both, or my nearside tyres have been let down!! Nobody else's, oddly enough! 


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