Ever since the ban on smoking in public places came into force earlier this year I've noticed that hardly anyone stands inside the bus station part of the Longton interchange anymore. This bus station, just opposite the railway station (hence the use of the word interchange), is a modern state of the art building paid for by Tesco as part of their huge Tesco extra store on Baths Road. This store has been extremely popular with visitors and the car park is always full as, like most other towns, the complex also includes Matalan, Argos and Next outlets too.
The approach to the complex has recently become fraught with problems for pedestrians as the powers that be are demolishing an unstable building at the Times Square end of The Strand just opposite the Town Hall. This means that those of us who walk have to cross to the opposite side of the road and back again to get round it. The other way is to walk along Baths Road and up by the bus station. The only trouble with this is that the gap between the wall behind Argos and the glass walls of the bus station is not very wide and more often than not blocked by people standing smoking whilst waiting for their bus.
Whilst walking this route I've also noticed that the small wall backing on to the car park is full of Tesco employees sitting with their cigarettes - well away from the store - but causing as much of a fug of smoke as you would have got in an old pub tap room. It has become quite a meeting place with lots of merry banter and I wouldn't be at all surprised to one day see one of them clutching a pint pot of beer and nibbling a bag of crisps or pork scratchings. I just have to take a deep breath and rush by until I'm in the middle of the car park and then breath.
The only other route is from the back of the store, past the car wash and under the railway via a tunnel and on to a back alley which passes some old derelict pottery works complete with weed covered brick bottle oven, before coming back out onto the main road. I've been this way a few times but earlier this year I read a book by local author Priscilla Masters wherein the murderer, held and tortured his victims at the top of this old factory building and whilst held there the heroine could just see, through a chink in the boarded up windows, the cars in the Tesco car park. This has added an extra dimension to my uneasiness of walking this way.
So, demolition site, smoking circle, or possible scene of crime scenario, which would you choose? I'm getting quite good at holding my breath :)