DEVIZES is a fantastic town. Great architecture, friendly people. And unlike many of its neighbours, it managed to avoid the 1970s and 1980s pretty much with regard to its town centre, so it isn’t just ‘high street anywhere’ with rows of franchises and chains and nothing else.

It enjoys many independent stores and services run by the genuinely self-employed. Follow any local social media group however and it won’t take long for the not-another-coffee/charity/antique shop posts to appear… As I stroll around the town centre things are though indeed a little .. odd.

I suspect these are not solely the preserve of Devizes in 2018 and that these trends are replicated throughout the land, but nonetheless a quick thought as to the demographics of businesses in town throws up some interesting figures. As well as oft commented on local social media groups by many…

It has many pubs still, as befits a brewery town. That includes a Wetherspoons, which is one of the franchises in town, but we don’t have a Moon and Slug, Or Carrot and Harvest, or any such chain-style pubs.

It has a Subway, located miles (well… metaphorically speaking) way away from the centre and a Greggs, but also has owner-run sandwich shops as well. We almost have the full range of supermarkets, just missing Asda, though there is one you could build a 747 in just a few miles away in Melksham if you need to slap your back pocket. We have two independent butchers of excellent quality.

But... when you start to count things up... there are seven coffee shops within a 100-metre radius. Three of them are franchises, possibly three, but I don’t drink enough £2.75 a cup coffee to know to be honest. And this number doesn’t include other outlets where coffee is also available - a chain bakers serves coffee out the back, there are several excellent cafes, Morrisons has a café and Wetherspoons sells coffee, if not champagne any longer. But places that say “coffee shop” to me number seven. In a small area.

And of course the thrift/charity shops are burgeoning. Goodness alone knows how many of them there are (well, now I’ve actually thought about it actually I do… namely nine) but my wife would as she is the charity shop queen - great deals constantly at bargain basement prices., kitting herself out for a fraction of buying new clothes, and when they were younger our children.

Many of the clothes having hardly been worn - if ever. As for me I get the occasional item of clothing from them too of course. In fact – most of my wardrobe to be honest. Especially now, having lost over two stones, I need to fully restock it. Marvellous resources.

And finally yet more shabby chic type and domestic antiques shops... half a dozen of them, full of tastefully renovated (or distraught!) furniture and twiddly bits. Stuff that your grandad threw away and are now worth £45.

I bet you never knew you needed an enamel bread bin with a big rust hole in it to have the postman deliver to instead of a letter box did you?

Mind you, the kitchen tables are at least a decent size and don’t look as if they will fall apart after 18 months. They are only 50 per cent more expensive than new anyway. And, of course – this is all fine and dandy and each to their own – and I wouldn’t have it any other way lest it seems that I am bleating about this situation!

We live in what we are told are tough times - not that any cuts have really started and there is a lot of pain to come. Generally people haven’t a clue as to what needs to happen. But even so, prices go up, salaries and wages don’t - and yet people can spend enough on drinking coffee and eating Venezuelan Beaver Cheese (with thanks to Monty Python) before going home to sit on their distressed sofa to gaze at their Edwardian fireguard to keep 14 or so businesses going.

Maybe it’s because they are buying their clothes at the charity shops and saving money that way?

By Ian Diddams, a rugby coach and musical theatre fan from Devizes