I don't know where you live, but Leytonstone high street is now wall-to-wall shops selling fruit and vegetables from small plastic bowls, interspersed with chicken-based fast food outlets and places selling phonecards. On the same street, where Woolies once was is now an Argos, and in Wanstead it's now a Tesco Metro. Last week Jessops went under, and this week - so far - HMV and Blockbuster have collapsed. Where is it all going to end? Who is next, and what will our high streets eventually look like? Are all high streets going to look like Leytonstone, where once a variety of small businesses and national chains thrived, but is now a monoculture of fried chicken and grapefruits?
It's all rather depressing. Not that I've bought anything at Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster for many years, and if my shopping habits are repeated across the land then you can easily see what the problem is, but the point is I once shopped there, and thus have an affection for them, even if crucially that affection didn't extend to actually going there and spending money. Jessops I've talked about, but HMV is the same - it was the place to buy music when I was a kid (although of course it's history goes back way further than that). Not that I was a muso particularly, but when, ten years behind everyone else I discovered U2 and whoever, that was where I went. I also bought all my TDK tapes from HMV, they had great huge bins of them - when did you last see a tape? Is that when the decline started? Similarly, when videos were new technology, and when our family finally got one, we joined Blockbusters. I loved going there, with it's crummy blue carpets and yellow shelves, I had a membership card and everything - it was like a library, but fun! And when I went to my Grandma's, she would rent videos to keep us occupied, and they were from Blockbuster too. I've not been there for years, decades in fact, but I'm still sad they're gone. I was amazed that they were still around actually, surely that business model died ages ago? Anyhow, very sad. Lovefilm is pretty good though, I went for the DVD and streaming package.
In other news, the 2012 Peanut Challenge was concluded at a public house on Monday night. Pubs are also disappearing left right and centre across the country, and here at least I am able to contribute to their ongoing survival. Never let it be said that I am a selfish consumer. The pub of choice was The Grapes in Limehouse, and very nice it was too. And to my knowledge, it has yet to kill anyone, which makes it better than some pubs I could mention. I had an emergency packet of peanuts in my pocket, but in the event they were not needed as The Grapes had three extremely large jars of peanuts behind the bar. I ordered one (bowl) of each - standard, roasted, and (I think) sweet chilli. James A is not a huge fan of peanuts, which meant I ended up eating 95% of them, and for which I paid the next day. No matter. Excellent discussions were had about quite how rubbish our work patches were, and we both agreed that although the 2012 competition had been a draw at 42 species each, it was highly likely that Canary Wharf was actually even worse than Tower Bridge. Which means I win, but seeing as I had already purchased the peanuts, this was somewhat of a moot point. I drank far too much beer for a Monday night - or any night - and woke up at 3am with the most incredible thirst, no doubt brought on by excess peanut consuption. It's the last time I do that in a hurry. In fact, we agreed that we might skip the work patch-listing for 2013, mainly on the grounds that suicide might be a likely outcome for one or both of us.
So I'll be sticking to Wanstead, which this year has seen my worst ever start - it is mid month and I have only just reached my Jan 1st total from last year. Teal fell today. I can barely contain my excitement.