Tuesday 8 December

For a variety of reasons I ended up in central Croydon this morning and decided to look around, especially to see if there were any bargains in the soon to be defunct Debenhams. Answer no: totally picked over. But I went to Pavers, a very nice shoe shop advertising a closing down sale. I enquired as to whether all the Pavers shops were shutting and she said no, this one in the Centrale shopping centre because the lease was about to expire and the rent was too high. Now I would say that about 50% of the shops are now boarded up and finished, so might one think it would be a good idea to reduce the rent and keep a few open? Clearly not. But I got a very lovely pair of boots for a third of the original price. So good news for me but not for the employees. Usually at this time, every shop would have a Christmas tree and decorations, there would be a kids’ merry-go-round in the precinct. This year almost nothing. Few shoppers. The longest queues were at the banks, and I wondered why. Sadly I fear the customers were there to negotiate on debt and other financial problems. A gritty sign of the times.

In the past few years my immediate family has decided to forgo Christmas presents, except for small children, and make a donation to charity instead. But this year, as we are unlikely to see each other, we have reinstituted the £5 challenge. I introduced this a few years back as an alternative to spending hours of time, and lots of money, buying things which would be almost immediately exchanged at M and S, or given away. Which seriously annoyed me. The £5 challenge is to spend no more than that: it could be from a charity shop, something nice to eat, perhaps home-made, a re-gifting, a sales special………..anything, but no more than a fiver. It is good fun, and if the recipient does not like the gift, then it gets recycled to a charity shop as soon as they open and no hard feelings.

I read that London may return to Tier 3. I’m not sure it will make a huge difference apart from no pubs and no Scotch eggs.

In the High Street today there was a busker singing American Pie. He had a great voice, and was a good guitarist, and yes, I did throw money in his hat. It is a very 1970’s song, and has been haunting me all day, so I leave you with Don McLean.

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