THE biggest item on sale at the Brunel Centre this week in 2004 was the centre itself.

We revealed: “The Brunel Centre has been put on the market by developer Westfield for an asking price of £125 million.

“Town Centre manager Bernie Maguire said the decision is a blow for the town and the centre’s future development.

“Other business leaders said the sell-off was disappointing but they hoped a buyer would step in to drive plans for the centre forward with more investment.”

The centre, completed in the 1970s and extensively refurbished some years later, had been owned by Swindon Borough Council until the late 1990s, but was sold into the private sector for an eight-figure sum.

It had been hoped that the revenue might be used to provide significant new public facilities including a concert hall, but that never happened.

The 2004 announcement came not long after an artist’s impression of an extended and improved Brunel Centre amid a bustling town centre was released. The alterations were doomed never to happen, but The New Swindon Company, a firm charged with revamping the town centre, was optimistic that new owners would soon be found.

Away from that location centre, Swindon police were under metaphorical fire because neighbours believed they were left for hours in danger of coming under literal fire.

“Armed police,” we said, “took 15 hours to act on a tip-off from a resident who spotted a gunman.

“A neighbour raised the alarm shortly after midnight on Sunday after spotting a group of men with what appeared to be a handgun.

“But an armed response unit was not sent to the scene in North Street, Old Town, until 2pm.

“Sgt Richard Moorhouse said that specific intelligence reports had warranted a softly-softly approach and that the safety of officers was an issue.

“No weapon was found and no arrests were made, but some residents emerged from the ordeal feeling they had had a lucky escape.”

One of those people had emigrated from South Africa two years before. He said: “South Africa is notorious for long response times but this is ridiculous.

Another said: “Obviously the person felt threatened enough to call the police in the first place. Even if it turns out to be nothing, armed police should have been there quicker.”

The police were unable to comment in more detail on the situation – and told us that this was because the address in question had been linked to firearms offences in the past.

Fortunately there were some cheery stories to balance the worrying ones.

Cricklade couple Eileen and Samuel Kinchin proved that romance knows no age restrictions.

The 70-year-olds surprised family and friends by slipping quietly away to Gretna Green, traditional destination for eloping teenaged lovers, and came back as man and wife.

Unlike some of the younger people married there, the new Mr and Mrs Kinchin’s news was greeted with nothing but delight by their loved ones.

Instead of wedding presents, the couple asked for donations to Great Western Hospital and raised £425.

Eileen and Samuel, both widowed, had been introduced by Samuel’s sister, and had been close for about two-and-a-half years.

Eileen said they married in Gretna Green because they didn’t want any fuss, but held a reception for friends and loved ones at Cricklade Country Club.

In showbusiness, the latest achievement of three young Swindon men and their friend from Surrey gave us an opportunity to print a large photograph of Beyonce.

We said: “British Beef is the flavour of the month for a top record company after it agreed a deal with one of Swindon’s hottest bands.

“The quartet is the first act to sign for newly-merged Sony BMG, which is behind artists such as Beyonce, Travis and Dido.

“And the six-album deal, struck on Tuesday, is believed to be worth a six-figure sum.

“After celebrating the success with a big party in London, the group is preparing to release its first single and is gearing up to support the ever-popular Busted in Minehead later this month.”

British Beef, a pop punk band sometimes compared to Green Day, were Swindon men Gaz Brookfield, 24, Jam Lindsey, 21 and Felix Milburne-Foster, 21, and Pat Smith from Surrey.

Their single, Without You, attracted positive reviews and is fondly remembered, especially by fans of 2006 football video game Fifa Street 2, whose soundtrack it appeared on.

Felix and Pat later formed Fire in Cairo, named after a Cure song.

A Swindonian on a rather higher rung of the celebrity ladder was also in the news.

Melinda Messenger had long since made the leap from glamour model to popular TV personality. Her latest appearance was in a show called Age Swap, which involved judicious use of latex prosthetics, make-up, a wig and a cardigan to make her look like a woman 60 or so years older than her true age.

Melinda was then sent out to mingle with genuine elderly people and report back on how they were perceived by themselves and others.

She was left looking like a long lost sister of Catherine Tate’s Gran character.