One of the places I like to go sometimes is a bar where they have free wi-fi and a relaxed attitude. You can sit there for three hours nursing a single pint (orange juice and lemonade in my case, if you’re buying) without being hassled or asked to leave.
Basically, neither the bar staff nor the owner seemed to care about such things. And as for the clientele, they were all concerned with their own affairs. I wouldn’t call them social misfits exactly but they were, shall we say, characters.
And now they’re gone.
The bar, you see, has had a make-over. It’s been ‘done up’. It’s been ‘upgraded’. It now serves ‘toasties’ and ‘skinny lattés’. It’s more light and breezy. But it’s not my bar.
I’m not, and never have been, a pub-type person. But a pub with free wi-fi and open all hours, now that’s a different matter.
But now that it’s changed so much, I doubt that I’ll be seen there too often. I may venture in there when I need to send an email urgently and I happen to be in the area. I doubt that I will again make it the point of my journey.
All of which makes me wonder: are all refurbishments improvements? Is it possible to have a brand spanking new computer suite, but none of the old atmosphere or user-friendliness?
I visited a school a few years ago in which the computer lab had nothing on the walls. No posters about how to use the equipment. No notice stating who to phone if something went wrong.
“Why’s that?”, I asked my host.
“Private Finance Initiative”, came the reply. “Not allowed to put anything on the walls.”
That should have been negotiated out of the contract before a single brick was laid, in my opinion. But that, and my bar experience, serves as a warning, I think: just because something has been refurbished, or renewed, doesn’t mean to say it’s been improved.