Right after Black Friday and Black Monday came the blackest day of all for our high street stores.
Nothing to do with rock-bottom prices; everything to do with online buying and the Covid crisis. In less than 24 hours a sickening 25,000 retail jobs across the UK fell under the shadow of the axe as the Arcadia group went into liquidation and the deal with JD Sports to save Debenhams fell through.
The shops that could go in Aberdeen also include Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis.
What a shattering blow for all those retail staff, especially just before Christmas. The possibility of any kind of salvage deal looks bleak. Sad days for customers as well as workers.
By coincidence, on my Facebook the other day came a wifie’s memories of Union and George Streets shops down through the decades, while other FBers eagerly joined in the explosion of city centre nostalgia. Just looking at the huge list of stores we loved so much almost makes me weep.
And boy, don’t they inspire the most glorious memories of Saturdays doon toon, first with your mum and, as you got older, with your mates. In the 50s, Falconers, The Equitable, Reid and Pearson, Isaac Benzies (string quartet in the restaurant), Watt and Grant, that toy wonderland The Rubber Shop, the Co-opie in Loch Street and Woollies – when it still had sawdust on the floor. All the cafes tucked up or down stairs, many starting with a P, serving the finest mince and tatties and funcy pieces known to man.
Later, Etams, Richards, Fraser’s, Arnotts, Littlewoods, The Mascot. But best of all, the cavernous C&A’s – a fashion sensation when it hit Aberdeen – everything from the latest fashion to fur coats at a cheap-as-chips Canda price. It became the first far-to-ging for oor Saturday night ootski claes. So what if loadsaquines turned up at The Beach in identical ten-bob shifts? We kint we were the bees-knees. And if Aberdeen was famous for all its cinemas, we must have been record-breakers for shoe shops. Trueform, Saxone, Barratts, Stead & Simpson, Timpson, Clarks, Dolcis, Manfield, not to mention posho eens like John A Dunn.
Christmas back then in downtown Aberdeen was an unforgettable thrill for wee ones. Every big store had its own, huge, ornate Santa grotto, complete with caves, elves, mountains of presents – all free, as I recall. Reckon The Rubber Shop was the best.
I remember near burstin’ with anticipation tottering up to the great man through garlands of greenery and fairy lights, only to burst into floods on his lap. Just too much excitement. Too much happiness. Too many thrills.
That was when our city – and all cities in the country – delighted youngies and oldies more than anything the damnt Internet will ever do. Now I want to cry all over again…
When I saw Buff and STW? in the sticks
Last week I wrote about the 25th anniverary of the last appearance by Scotland The What? at HMT. Tragically, this week came news of the death, at 89, of Buff Hardie.
I first got to know him when every week he’d walk, rather shyly, into the Evening Express offices at Mastrick clutching his painstakingly handwritten copy of his hilarious Dod ’n’ Bunty column, which always started with Dod asking: “Far’s the paper?” – just like, I suspect, thoosands of Aiberdeen mannies did every evening.
Buff had the ear to recreate city Doric and the same dry, self-deprecating sense of humour so typical of the north-east. All his work reflected his love of the area and people. Every two years, before the opening of a new STW?, the trio would have a run-through out in the sticks. I joined a “tester” audience at a wee hall in Ellon once, then back to Buff and Margaret’s house with the other boys, producer James Logan and all their wives, for a pull apart. And, jings, did the wives demolish the dross!
Another year, I spent the first night of the show in the wings of HMT where Buff, Steve and George were nervous. But once they took to the stage and the laughter started to roll, they transformed into charismatic entertainers. I still can’t hear Handel’s Water Music without singing Buff’s superb lyrics: “I’ve got an auntie, my auntie Bunty, she bids in the country, two miles oot o’ Huntly.”
Anti-vaxxers spread dangerous virus
PRAISE-be. It looks like the vaccine to beat Covid could be ready for distribution very soon.
Meanwhile, I’ve been having a bit of a laugh at the so-called anti-vaxxers – the dummkopfs convinced the jab is part of a demonic plan to turn us all into obedient zombies.
But I sure got a sobering shock the other day when I discovered someone I’ve known for half a century is trying to persuade others to boycott the vaccine because it could be dangerous.
Think of the national crisis we’d have if everyone was so cynically delusional.