First it was Woolies.
Now it's HMV and Blockbuster.
The major high street stores are closing and it feels like the end of an era.
In order to explain my dismay, can I get a rewind?
Hanging with the boys
It's probably 1987. We’re on the top of the bus travelling into Birmingham for the sales.
I'm rocking double stonewashed denim, even though it's proper '80s cold outside.
I’ve already slipped on my bum by Kwiksave, thanks to my white stilettoed Bacon’s boots.
Some of the fifth year boys are behind us. They’re calling me Glen. Medeiros, because I have three layers of greasy Constance Carroll lip gloss on.
And they’re trying to set my hair on fire.
God, we fancy them so much.
Town is the highlight of the week - TOTP aside.
Hanging around the shops, looking for boys in the new indoor shopping centre, or Mall as Helen’s snobby mom calls it, followed by tea (sorry, Helen’s mom, I mean dinner) at McDonalds.
I've got some returns. My totally selfish mother bought me some embarrassing comedy Garfield Slippers from Clinton Cards. Gonna swap them for a Brat Pack calendar.
Must visit Our Price to spend a £5 gift voucher. Don't need to buy Top Gun because my friend has two video recorders and we have a pirated a copy.
Need to go to Mark One for a £2 top, the indoor market for a turquoise mascara, Harry Parkes (because one of the sales assistants is fit) and get back in time to neck cider outside Thresher.
You see, those stores were part of my youth. Along with:
Woolworths – Where else could you buy a 7” Amazulu single, pick and mix and Tungsten screws?
After the boys were born I would visit for Easter Eggs and JML must haves like a back fat corset and a revolving tie caddy.
Blockbuster – My ex wanted to rent 'Roadhouse'. I preferred 'Dirty Dancing'. We compromised on 'Ghost', even though it needed rewinding.
We got a great deal: £25 for a mega box of popcorn, 4L of full fat coke, plus a pre-owned copy of License to Drive.
My first proper membership card – way before I joined the Music and Video Club (MVC). Although the bouncers at The Hummingbird would not accept the blue laminated card as a valid form ID.
HMV - Birmingham boasted three. My Saturday ritual; meeting my mate John and rummaging around the stores for the latest gatefolds, picture discs and imports from Europe.
In 1989 we bunked off school and queued for hours at the better of the two, yes two! New St. stores to meet Depeche Mode.
However, the record signing and my trilby hat, made Midlands Today. Our geography teacher looked a bit sus the following day.
A special mention to the original Clinton’s, Athena, which I was shocked to discover is still alive and well.
Viva Sad Sam, Love is… , Forever Friends and arty black and white stills for people like Helen’s mom, who appreciate dinner, malls, and Sade.
Athena, you set the net unfeasibly high.
Flashing lady tennis player : Women have to pretend they like sport, go knickerless and have an itchy - yet pert arse - like two tennis balls in a sock, instead of a binliner of beach inflatables.
Sensitive new man with child: Let’s see if you’re still so chuffing calm and fresh when a screaming newborn keeps you awake all night with acid reflux and spews all over your freshly immac-ed chest.
Retail between their legs
They will join the long list of other dearly departed stores in Brum, including:
Midland Educational - Not sure if this was actually a Midlands only shop and if there was a Scottish Borders or Brighton and Hove Educational, for example.
This was a haven for set squares, spiral bound notepads and enough dewberry scented pencils and Hello Kitty notelets to satisfy my teenage stationery habit.
John Menzies – The stationery lovechild of the above and WHSmith.
My friend once dared me to stuff a load of James Dean postcards down my coat and leg it, but I chickened out when Rebel without a Cause started to cut into my Tammy Girl training bra.
C&A – My favourite Clockhouse ski jacket (not much cause for it in Birmingham, but it looked ace with my Farahs).
Lewis’s department store - a bit like John Lewis, only they let poor people in too.
Past Times - Where else could you buy a mock Victorian Camay necklace, flower fairy soaps or a replica Titanic manifest?
The point of no returns
Course, I have my suspicions about Wilko and BHS. And WHSmith, where I spent hours pawing over The NME, Melody Maker and the rude bits of Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’.
I’m a tad confused. Some shops go into administration, but then remain open.
I don’t know who owns what anymore, and I’m scared to buy anything incase I can’t take it back.
Peacocks stopped honouring exchanges and returns the week I tried to take back some leopard print control pants. I argued that the gusset sticker was still intact, but the unenthusiastic assistant merely muttered something about being out of a job and destitute by the end of the week.
His mother’s voice
However, I’m guilty as charged.
I can't tell you the last time I went into the likes of HMV/Blockbuster, due to the digital age of downloads.
But I still remember the feeling of elation and anticipation at queuing for hours for the release of the first Suede album or the buzz of pre-ordering a SNES.
It’s a rites of passage.
When I go into town I will make a concerted effort to take the boys into a record shop and tell them to ask for the 12 inch, extended remix, on blue vinyl of 'Star Trekkin’ Across the Universe', along with some blank C60 tapes.