Thursday, 27 November 2008

And when did you last see the inside of a Woolworths?

It's no surprise at all, is it, that Woolies is on the skids. I don't even remember the last time I bought anything from within its portals. There was a branch in St Neots whose chief function was to provide a) a gathering place for Goths in the front porch, and, b) a handy shortcut to Waitrose through the back door. The supplies of chocolates could be got cheaper from the all-powerful Tesco, and the children's toys were of the variety bought to placate screaming brats and discarded, or broken, after two minutes.

The first signs of trouble went unnoticed or unremarked on but came a few years ago when, for example, the branch in Cambridge was closed and refurbished as some sort of cut-price place - now probably also closed. The staff must have known something was up, though. On the odd occasion that I took the shortcut to Waitrose and passed by the tills, the matronly assistants would be trying to sell stamps to anyone who'd bought from the selection of dowdy greetings cards.

Nostalgia comes in waves: in the 1970s the branch in Runcorn was very good for buying records and (oh, the shame) a little bit of light pilfering of paperbacks that looked quite racy but were just boring crap from hell.

The obvious difficulty now - apart from the livelihoods of the 30,000 employees, a surprisingly big number - is that Woolies' disappearance leaves a further gap in the high street. Think of a mouth with teeth knocked out. I suppose pound shops will take their place, or the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.


Went to Changeling last night and thought it pretty good. A nice bit of storytelling with interiors and exteriors that brought to mind Chintown and the final sequences of There Will Be Blood. The real shock, though, was to see that Mrs Pitt isn't just a pretty face. Cor! Wanted to see it at the Picturehouse in Greenwich but the timing wasn't convenient, so we trudged to the Odeon at Surrey Quays, where the staff were young, vacant and drawn from the reserves of Autism United. A out-putting experience to be "served" by people with absolutely no social graces. The customers were worse though, with one young lady insisting that she should have compensation because the screening was delayed for a few minutes. I shall be reluctant to go back there.