The busy Abbey play area can be seen beyond this backwater. One of the last things to reopen after the first lockdown were the play parks. This time round the play parks have been kept open and at weekends look busy.
Before reaching the play area I saw a man litter picking. He is a key worker and does many hours litter picking as well as his work. He now counts the face masks he picks up. Last week he counted about 400.
A friend reported going to visit B&M on the Fairacres trading estate yesterday but then decided not to join the large queue. B&M have done very well during both lockdowns as they sell both essentials and non essentials.
Businesses have received letters telling them to prepare for the change to trading and employment rules as a result of the end of the one year transition period.
In March there was a country-wide lockdown, because of the sudden increase in Covid-19 cases. A few businesses remained open because they were considered to be essential – those selling food and groceries, or pharmacies.
This time round, in the second country-wide lockdown – because of the Covid-19 second wave, more businesses have been allowed to stay open. WH Smith, as a newsagent, have stayed open, while The Bookstore next door have had to close because they only sell books. That seems a little unfair.
Opticians are open. Hairdressers are closed. All the Charity shops are closed. Timpsons, and Lewis Baker, as hardware shops, are open. Estate Agents and banks are open. Jewellers, clothes shops, and phone shops, and shops selling Christmas gifts and decorations are closed.
As to the evening economy, takeaways are open, but pubs and restaurant and gyms are closed.
Schools and playgrounds have stayed open. Church services and gyms; the library and museum have closed. It has not counted that their hygiene and distancing were excellent.
There was a four hour Town Council meeting last night where, after much debate, it was decided ‘with sorrow’ that the 2020 Michaelmas and Runaway Fairs would be cancelled.
There were representatives of Bob Wilson Funfairs Ltd at the meeting. Council staff took advice from the Showmen’s Guild, the police and other authorities. It was decided that the anticipated size of the crowd and the risk that poses to public health meant they must follow the requirements of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and cancel the fairs.
Some people thought the fairs had already been cancelled, and say this decision is no surprise. Most large inland fairs have been already been cancelled – including the St Giles’ Fair in Oxford, and Nottingham Goose Fair.
Only smaller fairs like the Steventon on the Green fair (3 miles from Abingdon), carry on. That was just last week.
The Abingdon Michaelmas and Runaway Fairs had their origins in another pandemic – the Black Death of 1348/9 which led to a labour shortage. The authorities of 1350 (King, Barons, Abbotts and Sheriffs) were faced with the problem of a labour shortages and wage inflation and decided to regulate wages through annual hiring fairs. That carried on until the nineteenth century.
After the industrial revolution such wage-setting / hiring fairs evolved into the fun fairs that we know.
I do not know the last time the Abingdon Michaelmas Fair did not go ahead. During World War II a single stall was set up on Abingdon Market Place to ensure the fair could continue after the war should any legal challenge arise. There have always been voices wanting the annual fair moved out of town.
The Mayor of Abingdon, Cllr Charlie Birks, said: ‘… All parties worked hard to see if the Fairs could proceed but we have come to the reluctant conclusion that we had to cancel this year. We hope the Fairs return to their rightful place in 2021.’
Cancer Research Uk re-opened today in Abingdon. They are the second charity shop in Abingdon to re-open.
They have put in place safety measures to stop the transmission of the virus and keep people safe. Only 4 customers will be allowed in the shop at any time and shop displays allow 2 meter social distancing.
Another shop that has a new look is the ex-Ladbrokes. It will open as Abingdon Nail Spa. The nail bar that was in West St Helen Street are moving and upgrading.
The name Abingdon does carry a certain significance. It is also used by Abingdon Health, in York, who are working on a Covid-19 antibody test.