Wednesday, 3 June 2009


Last week, I went to the local branch of Somerfield's for the last time. Large notices proclaimed that it was one day from closure. There were already expanses of bare white metal shelving and half the supermarket was roped shut.

It was mid-morning and most of the shoppers were retired women - some with husbands - seeking the last bargains. Beside their neatly-permed hair and crisply-ironed summer costumes, I felt scruffy; for me this was a chore but for them this was an outing. They knew the assistants at the check-outs well enough for enquiries after health, relatives - even conversations about last weekend. The journey was as much for conversation as for shopping.

But the shop was going to close. "What will you do now? Will you have a job?" the shopper at the head of the queue asked, looking at the large posters that told us the nearest store would soon be two long bus-rides away. The check-out assistant smiled tiredly. "I don't know. They haven't told us."

She managed the same smile as the next woman asked and the next but I think there may have been tears in her eyes. All I could do was wish her good luck.

A few days later I saw that the windows were shielded with metal shutters. Nearby, five youths with dogs made loud and obscene proposals to a young woman walking past. She paused to strap her baby more securely in its buggy and ensure that her two older children were holding on firmly. The obscene suggestions continued despite the mother's calmness; the youths called after her as she walked away. Then the young men strolled off, heads in the air, dogs tugging at their leads. A few small, optimistic shops remain near the expanse of metal blinds. I hope they survive.

So much is coming to an end. I can't grieve for this government, but I'm anxious about what may replace them. I have to vote in a few hours and I'm still not entirely sure where I'll place my cross. I think the Greens get it. I may not agree with all their policies but they certainly care about more than just being in power - and there's much that's close to my own thoughts. I know few people who are sure of how to vote and, for the first time in a British election campaign, I haven't seen a single house displaying an election poster. People declare their trust in our MP's honesty but most say they can't vote for his party. The words "lies", "greed" and "corruption" are everywhere as the initial shock and mocking laughter turns into pain and doubt. What has happened to that old ideal of public service?

The Nottingham Music Society, formed more than 80 years ago by people who wanted to bring classical music to the city and suburbs, has come to an end. All the organisation was done by volunteers. I went to their last concert, in the wonderful, barrel-roofed Congregational Hall. The Nash Ensemble played Schubert - the Trout Quintet before the interval and then the Octet. They were both sad and joyous - the kind of music that makes me feel vividly alive. It was an apt reminder of all those people who gave so much of their time unpaid so that culture, thought and learning might live.


Anonymous said...

Blimey, I'm so sad to hear of these closures, why did the music society close? Perhaps the money side wasn't feasible? I'm sorry whatever.

Your description of idiots taunting a passing woman with obscene remarks. I don't think we would hear that up here. In fact I'm pretty certain we wouldn't. Such a breakdown of behaviour is dreadful, no desire to do the right thing, everyone nameless and anonymous, no fear of being called into line by shame or respected parents.

I was up at you favourite place at the weekend, a little bit of this county new to me. I hope your workload is lightening. kllrchrd

Kate J said...

Odd... I thought Somerfields had been taken over by the Co-op? In fact, I'm rather hoping my nearest supermarket, a Somerfields, may actually be becoming a Co-op in the near future. I usually do shop Co-op but it's a bit further away (12 miles as opposed to 10.... and in opposite directions!)

Very sorry to hear about the music society... funding for the arts seems to be getting harder all the time.

Love & peace

ps. I voted Green too...

Kathz said...

I think the music society closed for two reasons: there weren't enough volunteers with time to organise concerts and they lost use of their hall. There are also more concerts elsewhere in the locality - but it still seems a shame.

I was really surprised to see and hear the young men taunting the young woman with her children. I think they took her as a target because she had three children. The mentality and assumptions behind their comments seemed much the same as I've heard from people who tell "chav" jokes (so called - I don't find them funny).