This lively and very readable memoir by a leading Harpenden figure is full of interesting details of relevance to Harpenden history. As owner of C&A builders and general stores, and later a Town and District Councillor, he has contributed much to Harpenden life in many different ways.
After describing his early life and family, education and training as a chartered accountant, he was brought in to rescue the ailing fortunes of the C&A business, moving first to St Michaels Street in St Albans and then to Harpenden. The C&A store in Lower High Street was gutted by fire in March 1974, but he was quickly able to obtain the finance and volunteer labour needed to restore and modernise the business. Then in 1988 the lease ran out, but there was the opportunity to transfer the business to Kingston House, with new ideas to make it profitable, including opening a coffee shop on the first floor, which attracted more customers. He also became involved with the Chamber of Commerce, determined to promote local trade, which was becoming more threatened by the growth of out-of-town business centres and warehouses, able to undercut local prices.
As a local councillor, he was impatient with the slow nature of the procedures, and had several occasions when his desire to ‘get things done’ fell foul of the authorities, such as the erection of the Jubilee arch in Thompsons Close in June 2012, which was ordered to be pulled down until it was given permission and promptly re-erected two weeks later. He had an enjoyable year as Town Mayor*, and became involved in Town Twinning, particularly Alzey.
He describes the many ups and downs in his life, including the serious injuries sustained after a faulty loft ladder was installed in his home, requiring long periods of recuperation. But his enthusiastic support of charitable ventures led him to take part in many fund raising events, marathon runs, long distance cycling and climbing Kilimanjaro. His final words in the book are “Never give up!”
*This included launching the harpenden-history website in September 2012
In June 2022, Michael died after a short spell in hospital, and Harpenden lost a good and active friend and campaigner.
This book was self-published and is priced £8 of which £5 goes to Keech Hospice, which provides care for children and adults in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. It can be obtained from:
Amazon. www.amazon.co.uk (the author donates to Keech from the royalties)