On the High Street Microverse

Bit geeky this post, so skip it if you’re easily bored.

Thing is, when you are a shopkeeper you start to notice some very odd things. When you trade in the same little patch every day, the walls of your universe, albeit see-through, become a lot smaller. You start to notice the minutiae of day to day existence, the ebbs and flows of high street energy, things that are invisible to all but the shopkeeper’s eye.

You know how some things just seem to change hands, or rather come into your hands without you having to seek them out or purchase them? Elastic bands, pens, cigarette lighters, paper clips, carrier bags, jars, padded envelopes… the list is quite a long one. When did you last BUY any of these items? They are communal property and move, unnoticed, from one ‘owner’ to the next, sometimes within minutes.

Well so it is with the High Street. There is a highly pleasing degree of self-sufficiency about the place in certain commodities. The ill-considered trifles of commerce. Take change, for example. We use a lot of coppers, which we purchase from the fast food joint, and silver change, with which the bookies and the internet caff are always very well stocked*. We save the coin bags acquired therein, for which the chippy is always grateful as he seems to get paid exclusively in £1.00 coins and never has enough bags. We buy his £1 coins back, and then share them with the hairdresser and the bike shop. And so the cycle begins again. Not that we are implying that our neighbours are fast food chomping gamblers of course.

Packaging materials are similarly acquired and never bought. Our neighbours get a lot of stuff delivered in padded envelopes, which they barter in exchange for our elastic bands (the Post Office kindly issue us each with one elastic band a day, and they soon add up). The envelopes get pressed into use for our mail order service, similarly boxes of all shapes and sizes from any neighbours who don’t need them for their own use. It’s a bloody brilliant system.

Lending stuff works in the same way. ‘Lend’ your neighbour a pen, a ladder, that irreplaceable bit for winding your shutter up or a drill, and whilst it always comes back to you, it usually takes an amusingly circuitous route. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker and all that.

We realise the above post makes us sound like Borrowers, or even Wombles, but it does at least prove that most indie shops are pretty ‘green’ without even trying. Now, where did we put our pen?

*because we would of course rather visit five shops than spend one minute in the queue at the bank. Besides, most banks don’t actually deal with real money any more.

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