Posted by: Hackney Tours | December 11, 2008

Last chopper from Woolies’ rooftop

A plague of locusts buzzed hungrily from one shelf to the next, sucking each space dry, then moving on to see what other pickings could be greedily gobbled up. In stark stationary contrast, tired parents stood in a huge resigned line; supervising a choir of misery, their wailing babies protested their hunger and boredom as they queued for tills empty of change. On one hand Woolworths felt like a refugee camp, except it was excess that was the issue here.

In a photo negative of the darkest days of communist Europe – when the hapless proletariat queued for hours to get into empty shops – here they queued to get out, weighed down by cut-price Christmas booty as store chain and high street institution Woolworths started its closing down sale. To the consumer victor, the spoils of retail war. The collateral damage: 30,000 shopworkers put out of work at Christmas.

You have to pity staff who have nothing to look forward to in January but job-hunting in a recession. Those under 30 may have no concept of what a recession is like, and they’re in for a shock. At least in the South East they’ll have a fighting chance to find another job, but it’ll be an anxious wait for the guys at Sunderland’s Nissan plant as the company reconsiders its viability.

The 80s were brutal in NE England. Despite TV documentaries’ 80s-shorthand consisting of 5-second clips of red-brace wearing Yuppies chugging champers under Canary Wharf, it was a grim time in many parts of the country. Recession, riots, wide-scale industrial unrest, weekly factory closures and the ever-present background threat of all-out nuclear war. By all means wear the legwarmers, but please leave the rest behind.

And yet we endure. Like the Buddhists say: “Everything arises, everything falls away.


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