Look At It This Way - December 7, 2012

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Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away.

Perry Como was singing when I turned on a radio in Comet. Appropriately enough, a retro radio - sold in a falling star; the Comet chain. Even with the closing down discount the price was steep but the song was sweet.

The radio reminded me of the wireless my dad used to take to work. Had a soft spot for Como too. We kids bought Falling Star for him one Christmas. His last as it turned out. Magic Moments the other side. He played both over and over on the old Dansette.

But it’s the radio I recall because it was my window on the world. A twiddle on the dial could transport you anywhere. A magic carpet crackling with static and news reports in languages alien to me.

Today I faff about finding a decent DAB signal and wonder why we’re being forced to phase out analogue when it never really broke. Just went out of fashion, I suppose.

The same goes for Comet. And shoppers like myself. My local branch, at Plymouth Road, closes on Sunday. Like Past Times, and Woollies, I’ll miss it. And the staff. They knew darn well some dropped by simply to try before buying online and that others might call in umpteen times before clinching a deal. You can’t do that online. Click on the image and capture what the product feels like, really looks like, how user friendly controls are. Or discuss the latest Which? or What Hi Fi? rating.

Last time I upgraded my camera the resident expert guided me through new features and then gave me her own memory cards and adaptors for my old camera - still the one I prefer to use. It has more substance than style.

The deconstruction of this empire is painful to witness. I chipped in a fiver to the staff wake, small price to pay having saved 30 per cent on Bose headphones. Yes, I could have bought them cheaper online. But online I wouldn’t be able to try them on, hear how music sounds. Or imagine how the swish toaster nearby would look in my kitchen and know I’d probably leave it in its box, like the microwave and yoghurt maker, and still toast bread under the grill. And I wouldn’t have been able to dissuade my brother from buying one of those monstrous coffee machines that look like the dog in His Master’s Voice and spits coffee out via a pod. Some of these devices should come with their own “best before” date in terms of built in obsolescence. Pods? It’s like Invasion of the Coffee Grinders. There are probably aliens out there laughing at the fact I still make espresso on the hob, steam cleaning my nails in the process and forgetting to tap the grinds out until days later.

Catch the tail end of Comet. Don’t look online. The list of closed stores and more to come is too depressing. Remember Comet was founded in 1933 - the Depression. And such things really do come in cycles.