I have a recurring nightmare where I’m stuck in Ikea at Warrington’s Gemini Park between a book case called Billy and a lurid mixing bowl named Blanda.
It’s cloudy outside with a hint of meatballs. The last time I bought Ikea meatballs I fed them to the gulls on the seafront at Cleveleys – rolling them down the slope until an elderly lady went berserk thinking I was dumping dog poo, albeit all of oddly elliptical but identical.
It was nothing to her horror when her own terrier tore after the meatballs and devoured one. I had to assure her that he wasn’t eating dog dirt. Just “köttbullar.”
I’m so far out of my comfort zone in overly large retail centres I need sat nav and a St Christopher’s medal to get about.
Freeport’s fine because you can wander outdoors without having a panic attack finding the exit. Houndshill is just about bearable so long as I make regular dashes to what’s left of Victoria Street today – I’m old enough to remember it as the base of our Gazette offices, my favourite Little Vic pub, and the fashion boutique where I first worked... and spent all of my wages on culottes and platforms heels.
But Ikea, and the Trafford Centre, the Lowry Outlet or Liverpool One leave me cold. Give me Cleveleys – ideally with all of its old markets intact. Or Lytham and St Annes, or Fleetwood Market, with traders such as Jim the watch man, any day.
I don’t want some crass commercial mausoleum to market forces with faux fancy turrets and Moorish pavilions. I want real shops of the type you can still find on Central Drive, or Lord Street, Fleetwood, or Bond Street, South Shore.
And while charity begins at home I’m tiring of seeing it all over the high street. Just as holiday zones need to be protected commercial zones need to maintain an even balance of chains, independent stores and charity shops. Right now there’s a proliferation of the latter.
As for pop-up shops? I rather like them. They lend a touch of bling. Each year I support the Cards for Good Causes Christmas cards shop run by Kath Smith and her intrepid volunteers next to the Winter Gardens - knowing that most of the proceeds are ploughed back into the individual charities.
Another pop up shop has opened next to Quilligan’s on Church Street. Shop Boutique features the work of 17 local and regional designers including trendy pop-culture fashion label, Me&Yu and Crafty Cloth (pictured). The shop will be open for two weeks. As Coun Fred Jackson, a former market trader himself, put it: “This is a really innovative way of bringing formerly vacant retail units back to life whilst showcasing the tremendous creative talent that exists in our community.”
Reducing rents and allied expenses would help a heck of a lot too in encouraging traders to move back into the centre on a permanent rather than a pop-up basis. But all too many great names, big and small, have been lost to inertia or online shopping, high rents or rubbish parking.
If you doubt that look at our Lost Archives series, which is appearing in the main paper every Friday night, one of the joys of journalism in recent years thanks to the finds made ... but a reminder of all that has been lost.
So sad to learn of the death of Coun Norman Hardy, former Mayor and one of the most effective ward councillors the town has ever known.
He was a tireless campaigner for the betterment of Blackpool, a man who knew the town inside out, having first worked for the council as an employee, and then later as a councillor.
What I loved about Norman was he never lost his joy at serving Blackpool - never became blasé in high office. His mayoralty year was one of the busiest in spite of the fact that he was in failing health due to a long standing condition - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - about which he talked only recently in a bid to raise public awareness.
I read that article in a queue for the COPD clinic at the Vic myself - and warmed even more to a man I found witty, wise and rather wonderful.
In his licensing role - chairman for almost 20 years - he was exemplary, steering Blackpool’s night time economy through some dark times.
I’ll be raising a glass to him. Local politics is all the poorer without him.
* Coun Hardy’s funeral is on Tuesday (December 10) at noon at Lytham Crematorium. The cortege will pass Blackpool Town Hall at around 11.15am to give people an additional chance to pay their respects.