What's this bowling up the High Street?No - not that fat slag pushing a pushchair containing a peaky whingeing infant with one hand while clamping a mobile phone to her ear with the other. Not the 'Peruvian' pan-pipers optimistically hoping for our spare change either. (Fat chance they've got in these beleaguered times.) Nor the plaintively bleating Big Issue bloke......or those two Poles glumly regretting leaving Kraków to work in blighted Blighty.....
Nope - it's tumbleweed - that plant synonymous with the desolate spaces of the American West; see tumbleweed and think washed-up and run down. It's buffeting hither and thither in the thin January wind - fetching up alongside the other detritus of the townscape in the deserted doorways of once busy shops. Now ceased trading, their doors are shut tight; from their windows hang posters announcing massive Massive Closing Down Sales in which Everything Must Go. It's a miserable sight. The lights are going out in town centres the length and breadth of the land. This is not the High Street as we know it. It gets more desolate by the hour.
Some well known names have gone or are going - each day brings news of another casualty. MFI, Adams, Wittards, Zavvi, Viyella, Wedgewood and of course 'good old' Woolies - all saying a long and tortuous goodbye. Should mention all those independent traders who've thrown in the glove too. I feel desperately sorry for all the employees who, through no fault of their own, are facing their own personal and major credit crunch. Who will be next I wonder?
True, there are some I'll be sad to see go. I'm scratching my head here a bit to think - actually - which in particular...? Hmm - I'll nominate Woolworths in Welshpool - the biggest shop in town and the only supplier of childrens' clothes, DVDs, CDs and Pick 'n' Mix. (A personal note here - wanting a new glass for our one-cup cafetiere I went to the local hardware store for a replacement. They had none in stock and didn't know when more would be in. I tried Woolworths next door, where I could buy a complete cafetiere for £3.00 - cheaper than a replacement glass alone. I bought one, kept the glass and threw away the bits I didn't want. I now wish I'd bought two. Having said that it's about the only purchase I've made there in the 5 years we've lived around here.)
It looks (as they say) like the lights are on but there's no one home....
Perhaps a slimmed down High Street will be a good thing - the whole retail market seemed, to me at least, to have spiraled out of control and become a flabby behemoth filled with stuff we thought we might want but probably didn't need. Mountains of it - stuff, stuff and more stuff.
What's going to fill all that retail space now? Charity shops? Pound Stores? A complete re-think of what and how we buy? Shops but not as we know them. That's the option I'm hoping for. Or will we be left with empty spaces, like gaps in a row of teeth, to remind us of those far-gone, happy and profligate days?