In Competition No. 3056 you were invited to submit an elegy on the death of the High Street.
Your entries were poignant and clever, and transported me back to teenage Saturdays frittered away in the likes of Dolcis, Lilly & Skinner and Freeman, Hardy & Willis. John Morrison’s lines ‘Oh Amazon how swift you rise!/ Swamping all before your eyes…’ spoke for many, though J.R. Johnson thinks that the roots of destruction go deeper, pre-dating the advent of the net.
The winners earn £25 each. Bill Greenwell pockets £30.
Hear their doors and cash-tills close,
Play their dirges, sing their blues,
Dolcis Shoes and Bargain Booze,
Ottakar’s and Rumbelows.
Each a loser, once a winner,
Laid low by a store bacillus —
Where are Freeman, Hardy, Willis,
Where is Lilley, where is Skinner?
Soon they’ll vanish altogether
Like Lipton, Dillons, Dunn and Co. —
Even Past Times had to go
With Littlewood’s and Land of Leather.
Where assistants leant and dreamt,
Tumbleweed blows idly through:
Fine Fare, Netto, Comet too —
Even Poundworld’s not exempt.
Stop all the socks; return the tops and ties,
Prevent the buyers ordering for the stores,
Silence all the shoppers’ protest cries
And grieve, for BHS has locked its doors.
Let Carpetright weave patterns of remorse
And strip its rugs of all their fancy frills,
Tell Toys ‘R’ Us to shroud the rocking horse,
Let Poundworld ditch its coins and close its tills.
They were my life, my joy, my bliss, my all,
My daily jaunts to join the happy throng,
My High Street treasure chests, my shopping mall;
I thought they’d always be there: I was wrong.
Blockbuster, Woolworths, Maplin, all closed down.
Board up windows, whitewash every pane.
Buy goods online and go no more to town.
For nothing now can stir its heart again.
For years when towns were bound with national chains,
The local shops still reigned on their parade,
Till supermarkets, built on vast domains,
Bought bulk, sold cheap and sucked away their trade.
With butchers rare and grocers obsolete,
All small-scale shops were species under threat,
While any that survived were yet to meet
The toils that would enmesh them from the Net.
A finger click was trigger to their slaughter
As people rushed to use this new world order
From sites, untrammelled by mere bricks and mortar,
That brook no kind of limit, heed no border.
With bookshops bookies now, bank branches lopped,
It’s charities alone that hold their ground:
The Amazonian flood cannot be stopped,
As we look on and see the High Street drowned.
Whose next after Next?
Not Primark for one.
With gaps in its teeth
The high street clings on.
While Oxfam has closed
And M&S stutters,
More windows replaced
By huge eyeless shutters.
Where now there’s a Betfred
There once was Miss Green’s,
Famous for bacon and biscuits and beans.
And that shop on the corner
Which sold knits in Courtelle,
Was briefly a vape shop
Till that closed as well.
Now fades the glimm’ring streetscene into dusk,
Where once proud trades were plied with dignity
There lies bereft a bare depressing husk:
No faith, no hope, but shops of charity.
Far from the fadding crowd’s revised remit
The rousing up and shaking of the limbs;
’Tis but the moving finger will have writ
The orders that will satiate their whims.
Why cross the portal of some clapped-out store?
Why waste upon ‘Good morning’ vital breath?
Why bother step outside a closed front door
To save the high street from untimely death?
And thus the tumbleweed will find its home
Displacing sullen clerk with distant pout;
No more in teeming streets will shoppers roam
But stay within for fear of missing out.
The TK Maxx in Market Square
Was once a Woolworth store.
Farewell, Ann Summers’ fetish wear,
And BHS? No more.
Charity shops adopt the space
Where many big brands dwelt,
While budget outlets move apace
To suit the tightened belt.
A Bistro’s almost every joint
That owns a microwave,
All flattering to disappoint
The feinschmeckers they crave.
The pizza and the pasta — ah!
These deathless afternoons
Spent haunting B & M’s bazaar,
Adrift in Wetherspoons.
No. 3059: That’s chemistry
You are invited to supply a poem inspired by the periodic table. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 25 July.