So Shifnal is a service station. And like so many other places across the country it's become known not as a place but as a staging-post. Indeed, the staging-post has become the place, the town itself remaining unknown and unvisited. You'll know of other examples depending on your itineraries – the grander motorways offer up the likes of Newport Pagnell, Strensham, Leigh Delamere. And for those of you who have reason to saunter down a motorway less travelled, Shifnal.
That the service station is a mile out of town isn't of vast import. That every year thousands of cars stop at the services on their way from there to there, bypassing here entirely is so unremarkable it's taken me seven years to even notice it. That, as regular as the seasons, the edges of the road opposite the service station are taken over by travellers with their cars and caravans, with their tethered dogs and horses, isn't a metaphor, but feels like it should be. As does Shifnal's rooted community's collective distaste for these travellers, something which makes me uncomfortable and restless.
Instead, notions of relevance, import and place can all be bundled up into one observation. Our overlooked and understated, our bypassed and unvisited, our simple little town doesn't have a Waitrose, but the service station a mile away does.