Service with a smile!

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And a most pleasant good morrow to you, my little cutie cupcake’. Yes, such was my parting (if unspoken) riposte, to the granite faced harridan behind the shop counter, whose body language seemed to suggest she’d rather be in the dentist’s waiting room, than having to serve some pleb who’d wandered in with the audacity to buy something.

Still, no doubt having to serve all stratas of the great unwashed every day is enough to make anyone grumpy. But there was a time, before the tsunami of supermarkets and ‘convenience stores,’ when friendly little shops were the norm, and, often being run by a husband and wife, provided almost as much of a social service as a commercial business. And within my recollection, there was just such a microcosm of the national scene at Fenny Stratford, with many small shops serving many different needs. As a good source of balsa wood, for model planes, there was Harringtons, which at 3, Victoria Road had been started by M Harrington as ‘Margery’ in 1937. Even earlier, at 61 Aylesbury Street, George Austin and his wife began a stationery and fancy goods shop. On their retirement to Colchester the business was then taken over by Mr K Axford, who as a member of the NFS had been the section leader and mobilising officer during the Exeter blitz. After the war, having been in business as a draper and clothier for 50 years Ralph Bell, of 15, Victoria Road, retired to live in Leighton Buzzard. The business would then be taken over by MA Thomas ,Bletchley inspector for the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society.

Then, as the shape of things to come in 1964 Elmo’s ‘supermarket’ opened in Bletchley Road, albeit without a bar code scanner or chip and pin machine in sight. And another modern day phenomena is the ubiquitous plastic bag. Beloved of bad hair day assistants, to toss before the punter in a clear message that ‘it’s up to you sunshine’ to open and fill it, knowing full well that trying to prise open a plastic bag is well beyond the ability of the average male. So next time, perhaps I’ll mention it’s predominantly a task for females, much like housework. But on second thoughts, perhaps I won’t!