A CLICHE it maybe, but the saying that “everything old is new again” is one that has stood the test of time. As reliable as ever as each generation “discovers” something that was commonplace to their parents or grandparents.
It rushed to mind as today’s papers splashed on the “innovative” ways public houses were coping with the Covid-19 lockdown of their businesses.
With patrons no longer able to enter their premises, and certainly not cluster along the bar, these lateral thinkers are following the lead set by cafes and restaurants and venturing into takeaway sales.
Just like the old days.
Those far off days when I was living in my grandparents’ narrow terraced house within sight and sound of HM Dockyard at Chatham, on the banks of the River Medway, the traditional dividing line between Men of Kent and Kentish Men.
Gramp was neither of these but a bluff, tough, working class Yorkshireman straight out of central casting. His pre-teen years were spent precariously crawling beneath the looms of the Dewsbury woollen mills as a piecer, gathering and retying stray threads. He survived the first world war, learned a trade and was now a dockyard labourer and electrician.
True to his roots, he liked a beer. But was not a “drinker”, not one for long boozy nights in the pub.
Thus it was that I was often called upon to “run an errand” up the street, turn left at the top and into the side door of the pub a few yards further along.
This led into a bare space not much larger than a spacious cupboard. A shelf ran along the far wall on to which I placed my jug and waited for a double-doored flap to open in response to a push on the bell button alongside.
A face appeared, usually the same smiling woman. “Hallo you. The usual?”
I nodded. Pushed forward a brown earthenware jug, some money and a pocket-size accounts book given to me by my Nan.
“And the tontine,” I added.
Ah, the tontine. A mix of insurance scheme, lottery and Christmas Club with a dubious history. Basically, each member received an annual payment of the interest accrued. When a member died, their share was reallocated among the survivors until the death of the final investor, when the scheme was wound up. But the capital was never paid back.
How Nan’s weekly investment fared, I have no idea. But there was no fortune for her heirs when she died.
The hatch reopened, allowing a brief tantalising glimpse into the snug beyond. The jug and the accounts book were pushed forward and I scuttled back home, wary not to spill a drop of the precious brown ale.
Gramp would demand an explanation of any overlong absence.
And now those days are returning. But, from what I have seen so far, using unappealing plastic containers.
There is no sign anywhere of that familiar brown jug, which I feel should take pride of place in such traditional trade.
Regardless, drink up and enjoy; it is one more step towards the normality for which we all yearn.
WITHOUT fanfare my local M&S has today reopened its ground floor clothing, cosmetics and sundry items section.
No shouty newspaper or TV campaigns. Almost a whisper; a soft opening as similar cautious events are described.
Yet hardly had the doors slid open to provide access to its Food Hall than the other racks of non-essentials were being perused; busy fingers sorting through outerwear and underwear, items being fondled and considered.
Lines were forming at the check-out counters. It was not yet nine-oclock on a chilly and blustery morning but buyers and sellers were already in full shopping mode.
Why and from where did these customers so suddenly emerge? Had they been locked away in some M&S storeroom, fretting and restrained until being unleashed to meander dreamily along the aisles? They appeared as if from nowhere, like flowers that bloom magically overnight.
One wonders what had been missing from their lives during the lockdown days that there was such immediacy and urgency about their rush to shop.
It is unimaginable that they had they run so completely out of tops and skirts that this expedition was one of great need.
Or that their stock of bras, knickers and all other bits of undergarment frippery was down to zero.
Their reappearance is a promising omen for all ailing retailers and even more so for that much sicker concept, the economy. Whether they will ever return in such profusion as existed in the pre-contagion days is, however, open to debate; as is the survival of the compulsion to shop till you drop.
Maybe those seen on this initial reopening really did need the items they were buying. More likely it was shopping as therapy; the must shop, must have, must buy foundation of an excessively wasteful society.
But when full-scale retailing returns, the “new normal” will be in charge.
This means social distancing, limits on customer numbers, inevitable queues and other restrictions. All sure to curb shopper frenzy and reduce the pleasure quotient.
It could also bring more structured shopping, buying only what is needed, less carefree use of credit cards (and the resultant domestic hardships), much less disposal of perfectly useable products and far less waste.
Perhaps not what already struggling retailers want to hear, but a possible huge benefit to the environment worldwide as shopping changes from pastime to necessity.
Grab your bras and knickers while ye may, there are storm clouds on the way.
AS the world rushes hither and thither to conquer one virus, another, almost as pervasive and pernicious within its own realm, is rapidly spreading unchecked.
The virus of click-bait journalism is devaluing words, dragging them down to bargain basement level and beyond.
Words are losing their value quicker than sterling’s decline in the global currency markets.
An example: the newspapers today “reveal” (they rarely simply “report” nowadays) that a TV star … has opened up about her struggles with mental health, to encourage others to get help.
It’s a story designed to halt readers flicking through the headlines. After all, who can resist discovering the identity of this courageous “star” of the small screen?
Especially as “struggles with mental health” are another intentional tug on our emotions – an issue deservedly being dragged into the limelight from an entire A-list keen to jump on a royal bandwagon.
In this case, the “star” is identified as a 28-year-old woman who appeared briefly on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins earlier this year.
End of story. No further appearances in the showbiz limelight at any level. No BAFTA awards or even mentions.
Traditionally, a star rises high and burns bright for a long time. So many names meriting this tag rush to mind depending on one’s personal faves. But one attached to a fleeting role in a scripted “reality” show is unlikely to be included.
This is but one small example of how our language is being devalued and debased by the rapid rise of clickbait hit-and-run news.
It doesn’t help that, much as one supports this star‘s cause, she actually opened up about her struggles with mental health many months ago to quite wide coverage.
Which makes this story not quite fake news but definitely old hat and recycled “news” that further devalues the words used to present it.
There is, of course, no “vaccine” capable of fighting this worsening disease. It is a killer epidemic we are destined to live with as we watch it take its toll on our language.
As elsewhere, the best advice that can be offered is Stay Alert!