Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I thought it was about time someone got the ball rolling, so here is my piece from our recent meeting.


Closing Time

On the day they announced your demise, I walked between your aisles a few minutes before closing time, following the scars on the pale grey linoleum, where millions of feet had tramped and thousands of  buggies had been pushed.

I filled a bag with pic’n’mix for old-times sake, and observed your employees, pale-faced in their red jackets, lost souls wandering around in glazed silence, aligning some item on a shelf here, tidying a display there, purely out of habit.

Your automatic doors opened and closed of their own volition it would seem, unsure whether they should be letting customers in or keeping them out. And in the December twilight, I imagined the ghosts of a thousand shoppers, stretching back through your hundred-year history, herding in to say their final farewells.

In a flash-back, I felt my childhood excitement, perusing your shelves in search of a new outfit for my Action Man, before, as an extra treat, being taken to the ice cream parlour next door for a knickerbocker glory with hot butterscotch topping. 

It was then I remembered that you sold me my first long-playing record. ‘Top of the Pops’ it was called, if I remember correctly, and contained songs that had recently been chart hits. It was only when I got home and played it that I realised the songs were performed, not by the original artists, but by impostors. My mother, sensing my disappointment, took it back and demanded a refund. 

Where will we go now, I asked myself, making my way towards the forlorn woman at the checkout, to buy those things that fix electrical cable to the wall? And that plastic coated stretchy wire that holds up net curtains? Where will we go for cola bottles, fizz bombs, liquorice snakes and mini fried eggs? And metre-long chocolate bars and giant Quality Street at Christmas? Where will we go for that silver-backed tape, those self-adhesive rubber things that hold tea towels, and cheap CDs containing a hundred Motown hits from the sixties?

They couldn’t even sell you for a quid, I hear, the price that your usurpers - Poundland, Pound Stretcher, et al - purvey their out-of-date and sub-standard goods. And when it came to the crunch, you, the original ‘five-and-dime’, were hoisted by your own petard. 

I wanted to be the one who could say he didn’t hover with the vultures and partake in the feeding frenzy that occurred in the days before your automatic doors flapped shut for the last time. But I’m afraid I can’t; I found myself queueing among the greedy hordes to  buy a packet of dust masks and some half-price beige emulsion that has still to find a wall.

Now, as I wander my High Street, I can’t help but feel that something is missing, even though I rarely stepped through your doors. I observe your empty shell and watch the clearers using your scarred grey floor as a football pitch. I stop momentarily to read the plain printed sign, stuck with Blu Tack to your window, which says: ‘We are now closed forever’. 


  1. You should get a prize Ian! Come on you Zummerset writers, get your pens out.... xxx

  2. oh, i hope no-one misreads pens on my previous comment. Sorry about that! x