Nostalgic appeal provided by the old corner shops

A typical corner shop.  This one on Hindleys Bridgewater Street was demolished years ago
A typical corner shop. This one on Hindleys Bridgewater Street was demolished years ago

Memories and musings with Geoffrey Shryhane... There’s an odd one here and an odd one there, but by and large, the traditional Wigan corner shop has quietly slipped into history.

Our younger folks – those under 40 – will never know of the appeal, nay the magic, of those little sell-everything shops open all hours.

I’m writing about those times when shops closed on Sundays but in every town there was one little store, nestling in the side street of a side street, which kept open.

The rules governing Sunday opening were beyond logical understanding.

They could sell drawing pins, fire lighters and bottles of bleach but not bread, tinned fruit or Kraft cheese slices.

Now every town had big stores open 24 hours a day.

They are, as you would readily agree, a world away from the comfy corner shop.

It’s true, many were a hotch-potch of chaos.

And I always wondered how they could stock hundreds of products – from bread to a tape of Aspro – in what was essentially a front room.

I doubt if health and safety as we know it even existed.

There were no sell-by and use-by dates. If it smelled okay it was.

Some of these poorly lit emporiums also sold individual cigarettes, (and a match) to lads of 12 trying to talk in deep voices.

Ladies gathered near the bacon slicer to chat and gossip. “Av you seen Mrs So and So’s curtains. Filthy.” Or “Poor Betty – five kids and ‘ers getten catched again.”

No fancy tills then. Just a drawer with a ping when opened. And orange wrappers all over the floor, happy days.

Then, as we all know, the supermarkets arrived.

Sheilah Baron, long-time worshipper at Swinley St Michael’s Church, rang My World in a right strop – a strop-and-a-half to be totally honest.

She admitted that her anger and frustration was because a TV programme on loneliness had failed to mention the warm welcome that awaits lonely folks in church.

“Now don’t get me wrong,” she declared. “I’m not on a mission to increased church attendances. I just want to get the message over to lonely old people that there are all sorts of entertaining and time-consuming activities at churches.”

And she outlined some of St Michael’s activities which, she says, help fill the lives of some folks on their own. These include lunch club, fellowship and book clubs, coffee mornings, trips, a patronal festival and a Sunday club for little ones.

Sheilah added: “There are more and I just want lonely people to know that these activities exist at St Michael’s and many other churches.”

Well said, Sheilah.

Just hope I’ve spelt your name right!

I have some friends. Well, I say friends but the truth is they can’t think much of me.

Why?

Why – I’ll tell you why.

Because they keep insulting me.

They say their advice and the put downs will do me a world of good and propel me into today’s world. I’m doubtful.

They think I’m old fashioned. It’s true. I am. Anything for a quiet life.

My friends say slippers are for old men – I have three pairs. Love ’em.

And Horlicks before bedtime is a real ‘no no’. Apparently it puts 10 years on you even looking at the steaming mug. I should be having sleep-inducing lavender flavoured tea.

Apparently I should avoid “common” foods... cheese slices, instant mash (Sainsbury’s is fantastic), lemonade at 17p a litre and arrowroot biscuits. Not to mention white bread.

They tell me that ties are for sartorially dead.

Open neck’s the thing – even on formal occasions. What rot.

Of course I should be devastated but I just don’t give a damn.

I’m determined to grow old disgracefully doing it my way.

Time means different things to different people. All my working life I’ve worked to deadlines. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” just won’t do.

I’ve written articles which have been printed in newspapers and put on the streets within an hour.

But time goes slower for most folks. Sometimes very slowly.

One Christmas, a woman rang asking me to write a story about her mother who had been given an award during the war.

When I asked when would be convenient to call, she mused for a moment and then said: “Would early spring suit you?” I was thinking more like later the same afternoon.

But returning to the fast lane again, it was amazing that within a handful of hours of this country voting to leave Europe, mugs celebrating that fact were in the shops.

A case of the early bird catches the worm.

The fast world of newspapers holds endless fascination for your My World writer. Years ago, reporting Wigan Council was a top speed job, as I used to dictate speeches over the phone minutes after they’d been delivered and within an hour they were in the paper and on the streets.

Wigan had a newspaper “the football pink” and soccer and rugby fans, making their way home after the matches, could buy the paper with the full report. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than a newspaper printing press going at full pelt.

It’s deafening, of course, and it was ever interesting to see the new newspapers being tied up and rolling at top speed out of the press hall within minutes.

I’ve seen it many times before... successful events that come to a juddering halt because of lack of support.

Too few helpers – and it’s impossible to carry on.

Looking back, the local carnivals all finished because the vast amount of work was left to a handful of enthusiasts. In the end they just couldn’t cope. How easy it is to suggest a big village event... and then hope others will do all the work to bring it to life.

I’m more than sorry to report that this year’s big Shevington Show has been radically reduced. And yes, the reason is too few helpers.

The tremendous day of entertainment had the lot – many stalls, fairground attractions, live music, displays and flower and vegetable competitions.

To be honest, the show was the envy of other places.

This year’s Shevington Show was in the early planning stage, but then, a notice on the web, announced the sad news.

This year’s reduced show – on August 5 – will be minus outside stalls, marquee, live music and children’s classes.

The replacement – Shevington Community Day – is still being planned and activities will be in St Anne’s Church Hall, the Methodist Church Hall and another venue.

A spokesman for the show said: “The change has come about because of a shortage of helpers. We need some new younger blood to replace those who have bowed out.”