Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Urban Pick-n-Mix

Woolworths is going down. A feature of high streets across the country, this British retail giant is the most recent victim of the ubiquitous credit crunch.

I first visited Woolworths on my second trip to England. I was 18, and visiting my boyfriend at Plymouth University. Knowing my penchant for candy, he took me in for a pick-n-mix. I was sold and my dentist was delighted. Since that day, Woolworths held a special place in my heart.

It wasn't a classy or upmarket shop, but it wasn't a dump either. It was a basic but reliable department store, readily available and reasonably priced. I recently read Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island', in which he discusses feeling some comfort in the consistency of certain British institutions found far and wide across the country. Woolworths fit this bill of broadened comfort zones. Sadly, it's soon to be a mere memory.

The papers report scenes of vultures ravaging a haggard carcass as a cross-country movement of shoppers descend to reap the rewards of discounted goods. One shopper, clearly one of my kindred spirits, bemoaned the loss of the pick-n-mix. Some people cried outrage. Others sought a good deal, and didn't care beyond that. I took a trip down to my local Woolworths to check out the damage....and my reaction was one of solidarity with Bill.

What's to come of this large building on my high street? Is another Tesco or cheap outlet shop on the way? Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions here, and they'll turn the whole two story building into a beautiful book store, or toy shop. I keep my fingers crossed that a contemporary urban blemish is not around the corner, but my faith is not too high after seeing a fantastic old cinema on the South Circular with Roman pillars and tall doors converted to Weatherspoons pub. I mean, really? I'm not for the Urban Pick-n-Mix. Keep it traditional, or get a decent urban planner!
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