A reflective blog post with a difference. You won't find the best of this year's outfits here because if you're a regular visitor you've already seen them. Instead I'm taking you on a trip back into the much more distant past.
If the council have their way these buildings won't be here for very much longer. Directly opposite the train station in the heart of our town centre, much of the lower part of Station Street has been derelict for over fifteen years. See HERE.
The powers that be say that the Victorian internal layouts "limit the options for future use" and have given permission for them to be demolished.
Described in 1855 as "a long range of neat, uniform buildings, being mainly private houses", 160 years on there is still a hint to Station Street's former glory.
These boarded-up buildings have been part of our lives for so long that we tend not to give them much consideration but don't they look beautiful in the crisp December sunshine?
Over the years far too much of Walsall's architectural past has been burnt down, bull-dozed or allowed to fall into a state of decrepitude so advanced that demolition is the only option. Our once grand town buildings are gradually being replaced by ugly, grey breeze block outlets offering endless sweatshop-manufactured fashion, fast food and chain stores.
Every high street in the UK is starting to look identical. New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencer, Poundland, Boots, Greggs, Subway, TK Maxx and McDonalds. No wonder people prefer to stay at home and buy off the internet.
It's not unknown for us to return from our travels to discover another piece of Walsall history gone forever so, with no desire to visit the sales or watch any lame holiday TV, we wrapped up and took a few snaps just in case we got back from India to find the entire street flattened.
Stand with a camera for long enough and it arouses everyone's curiosity. Passers-by stopped and cars slowed down, curious to see what we were so interested in.
The most mundane of places take on renewed interest when seen through someone-else's eyes.
My brother wouldn't agree. He worked at this metal-finishing factory when he left school in the early '80s and hated every single grubby minute.
Back in my misspent youth the street was home to the Five Star, a tatty Caribbean social club we'd stumble into after the pub had closed for late-night sessions of reggae, blues and rum.
The poster on the window gives notice for planning permission to change the building into an advice centre. There's evidence of work being started when you peep through the window.
St James Place is part of a Grade II listed terrace which was built in 1856. It was originally used as showrooms and an office for one of Walsall's many leather companies and apparently remains a perfectly preserved example of how the street looked back in its heyday.
The six panel front doors, fanlights and lintels are typical of their period. The house on the left has the original sash windows. According to a local history website the original cornicing, fireplaces, cast iron hob grates and internal doors remain intact.
How blue is today's sky?
There's still some thriving businesses at the top of the street. Smokey's is an American-style diner offering all-you-can-eat meat platters (not very appealing to a vegetarian like me) and Thimble & Threads is a family run dressmakers and alteration service.
The Carriages are former Victorian mews houses converted into flats.
Hope you enjoyed your trip! See you soon.