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 The Scent That Captures That "1930s Moment"!

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or to the various credited sources © 2014

IV

 

Woolies brought in budget-range goods for hoi polloi, 

Mostly priced at sixpence, adulterated products custom-made

For the cash-strapped; carbolic soaps for the lumpenproletariat,

Block ornaments, plebiscite bric-a-brac of many departments,

And cheap perfume aplenty –like old DEVON VIOLET,

Tantalisingly dispensed in tempting hand-painted

Miniature pottery bottles, osmagogue genies in opaque vessels,

Kitsch keepsakes, so popular in their day’s rationed tonic key:

The Great Depression of the Neurasthenic Thirties,

The “Morbid Age” –adumbrater of our current Debt Decade’s Exhaustedly marketed Austerity… And So It Was Written:

After the Crash, it would be the first symbolic retail casualty,

Though its classless sovereignty had already been bought up

In the spendthrift Eighties by Paternoster Stores Ltd.

Suzerainty; gutted at the fag-end of the glossy nothings

Of the Noughties by bottom-feeding asset-strippers, after

Marauding speculators collapsed domestic economies

(Classical etymologists will appreciate the tautology:

Oikonomia: Ancient Greek for management of the house,

Or oikos) summoning in mass shop clearances from former

Homes of compulsive corporate hoarders, while bouts of riots,

Although unsponsored, contributed to this retail looting;

Though Woolworths was immune to most of those rampaging

Consumer mobs whose tastes were more aspirational…

 

 

V

 

Woolies was stripped bare by less dramatic administrators,

Then promptly occupied by flash-in-the-pan pick-and-mix stores,

Poundstretcher purgatories, homogenous souvenir shops

Sporting cheap patriotic Jack-draped paraphernalia;

And other pop-up opportunists… So long! –to cut-price

Purchases with a hint of craft and panache pitched just

Below Retail Price Indexes, but without compromising quality

Of craftsmanship, care of manufacture, or epicurean delicacies –

No more LadyBird kids’ clothes: Chad Valley toys now thrown

Away to “Chav” alleys, pile-ups of prams, baseball and benefit

Caps of a designer Jungian underclass, shadow-projected

Scapegoats, feral urban pests, along with ubiquitous labels –

ASBO, NEET, WRAG and other acronymous nomenclature –

Outcasts, sofa-surfers, outlawed squatters, curb-hawkers

Who tout bowdlerised Big Issues to its new Cosmopolitan,

Self-Helping motto: A hand up, not a hand outO

Woolworths2

Button up your overcoat

When the wind is free

Take good care of yourself

You belong to me

 

Fasten up your hungry mouth

When food banks are empty

Save your vouchers for

The BIG SOCIETY…

 

 

VI

 

Now in the ruins of commercial high street trade and the gap-

Toothed retail hinterlands, pop-up shops are ten-a-penny, crop

Up all over the place in pockets of barren stucco rockeries –

Greenshoots of “zero hours” recovery on “the never never”,

“Help-to-Buy-To-Let” mortgage bubbles ballooning again

Like Jubilee buntings, and blisters of betting shops –Not

Quite what old Maynard Keynes meant by artifical stimulus…

Where can the eyes look for retail continuity, but to those

Hardier perennials of the most embedded and historied

Department stores established in prelapsarian eras

Of “responsible capitalism”: Marks & Sparks and O so

Dependable Debenhams amid all the exchange shops’

Exorbitant bedlams –Primark expresses “shock” at the collapse

Of a sweatshop in Jafarabad that patches up their profits

To the rattling tattoos of archaic sewing machines; Peacocks

Hawks cut-price t-shirts labelled ‘Bangladesh’, products

Incubated in unsubsidised humidities of subsiding buildings,

Listing far past parameters of yesterday’s Health & Safety…

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