Dispatches From Across the Pond

And now for something completely British: wise, heartfelt reflections on the demise of Woolworths in the U.K. from two ladies with the most stereotypical English names ever:

“It was just someplace you could come and get all those odd things — shoe polish, curtains, mops, safety pins, paintbrushes, pillowcases,” said Georganne Uxbridge, 56, waiting in line for the checkout counter and pushing her heavy shopping basket along with her foot. She had already bought “masses” on an earlier trip, she said, and felt slightly uneasy, benefiting from such obvious misfortune.

“To be honest, I feel like a bit of a vulture,” she said. She tossed a box of Bailey’s Irish Cream truffles, displayed near the toasters close to the checkout counter, into her basket. “I feel — well, sad.”’

So did Dolores Crummy, who was looking at the children’s clothes (toddlers’ fleeces: 50 percent off) and found herself struck by something like conscience, or nostalgia, or an inchoate combination of the two.

Alarm, too, at this tangible manifestation of the precarious state of the economy.

“As long as I’ve been alive, there’s always been Woolworths,” said Miss Crummy, who remembers shopping there as a child in Northern Ireland during the decades of “the Troubles.”

“It symbolizes longevity and memories that go a long way back, and it’s a sad reflection of the times that an old, established firm like this has gone to the wall,” she said.

Her eyes grew moist and she said she felt, finally, unable to buy anything.

“I suppose I just wanted to be here at the end,” she said.


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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.