Monday, 5 January 2009

End of An Era

I confess I entered Woolworths at the weekend with two ulterior motives. The first was pure Schadenfreude. The second was I was bloody freezing.

But truth told, it was chilly in Woolworths. Icy cold. Eerie. This was the final weekend of trading for a household name, the King of Pound Shops, Queen of the Five and Dime, or Emperor of All Tat, depending on whether or not you were a fan. Most of the cavernous shopfloor was empty, peopled only by one or two callow youths, all the goods moved to the front. Looking at the cordoned corner containing the sad remnants of a shopkeeper's dream, I could only shake my head. Then someone asked me to move my scooter, which kind of ruined the moment.

The motley collection of wares revealed not so much what people are rushing to buy as Woolies breathes its dying breath, but (of course) what has been left behind. It became a surreal tour of the British subconscious, and led me to conclude the following on my way round, based on a bit of demographical detective work:

  • There are no boys aged 6-7 in my area. The sudden proliferation of row upon row of packs of white vests actually made me quite concerned. Hundreds of them, all size 6-7. Has the Pied Piper been in town?
  • Yikes! As I turn the corner, it would seem there are in fact no children in my area. Boxes and boxes of black rubber plimsolls line the aisles. The kind that we wore in the 70s with nylon gym knickers. What is going on?
  • Whatever is going on, no one in my town knows what an Espadrille is. Stacks of them. Maybe they think it's a kind of tortilla. Bit chewy.
  • I then see tons of unwanted files, box files, lever arch files...all manner of files. Just the sort I used to use for GCSE coursework. Has the Pied Pier nabbed all the secondary school kids too????
  • No. Wait. The toy section proves there are indeed still children, at least ones with common sense (and they'd be the ones to not follow the Pied Piper, let's face it). All the Dr Who Destroyed Cassandra frames and Incredible Hulk plush fists remain unsold. Which is a good thing as they are utter crap. Particularly the Cassandra frame. Who's idea was that then? Did some kid break his Cassandra Action Figure and they just decided "Sod it, let's sell them broken." Sorry, slight tangent. Moving swiftly along to...
  • Ceramic coffee jars. Two shelves full. So no one round where I live drinks coffee? Broadening this observation somewhat, if we've moved with the times and Woolies is no longer cool, how come based on this evidence we're still a nation of tea drinkers?
  • A crate of sellotape, masking tape, parcel tape. Strange.
  • Little soap dishes, shelves and shelves of them. Stranger still. I am starting to feel like it's all gone a bit David Lynch in here. Get me out!

I start to panic. Where are the children? Why are there no coffee drinkers? Where did all the soap dish purchasers disappear too? If serial killers aren't using tape, what are they using? I am jolted back to reality by the sight of...
  • Terry's Chocolate Oranges. Now that's just silly. Surely Dawn French would love to eat them if nobody else?
I leave Woolies realising the only thing I really wanted to buy was the 1950s staff chairs from out the back. And then I feel all nostalgic for a time before I was born. It doesn't last long, being an abstract sort of concept. Later that evening I find myself idly checking out Amazon.

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