What in heaven’s name is happening to this country? Recently my wife and I visited Epping, the town where we grew up, and took a walk down the High Street. It used to be a wonderful experience, full magic and mystery.
The cattle market; two sweet shops (including The Golden Iris, a glorious little wonky building full of colourful stock, straight out of a Roald Dahl novel) where you could buy 2oz of confectionery loose from a jar; Cottis, which would sell you an Airfix kit or single fishplate for your train set; Pynes Emporium, selling everything from men’s suits to a ball of wool, with an amazing hydraulic tube system that sucked the cash from each till and sent it scuttling back to the cashier’s department; Cordette & Coleman, an ironmonger selling everything from electric drills to a single screw; Flack’s, a dingy coal-hole of a cycle shop where Mr Flack, a strange character with pebble glasses, would sell you a single valve rubber for your flat tyre, A.B. Chase, a large electrical shop, the first port of call when a new 45rpm record was released; countless pubs, each oozing character but entirely trouble-free; Batchelor’s leather goods and saddlery; the Alba tea rooms, incorporating a coffee bar where all the Teddy Boys hung around a juke box (we weren’t allowed in there, even though they were harmless); and, for the seriously adventurous, the Brunchi Bar, which sold hamburgers.
And let’s not forget the blacksmith. Yes, there was a real smithy with anvil, hammers and a glowing furnace for all to watch as they passed by his open-fronted workshop.
Imagine our horror walking down Epping High Street 2005. Nail bar, tanning studio, nail bar, lifestyle consultant, tanning studio, nail bar – and I swear there was even a "nail bar, tanning studio and lifestyle consultant" rolled into one.
These are interspersed with "theme" pubs and bars, "themed" furnishing shops selling overpriced ethnic tat, the obligatory Argos, and fast-food outlets including a Costa/Starbucks/Pret-a-Pewker (can’t remember which and don’t care) the size of a football pitch which was EMPTY at 1pm on a weekday,
We did have one task in mind – to buy a dust filter for the Dyson. Could I find anyone selling this routine item? No. The best was Argos, who said we’d have to come back and collect it tomorrow because they don’t carry any stock at this branch!
What the f**k is going on here?
I’ve no idea whether Epping has become a low-life Chavhole (it could never match neighbouring Harlow) but it certainly reeks of all that is disgusting at the upper end of Chavdom. Hardly surprising when you see where it sits – half way between Chigwell, the original breeding ground of the footballer’s wife, and Sawbridgeworth, home of the ghastly Posh & Becks.
In case any of you C***s reading this – if indeed you can read – are thinking "sad old bastard, get a life", allow me to let you into a little secret. We did have a life – a far, far better one than you will ever know. I feel sorry for you, with your nail bars, tanning studios and lifestyle consultants who will tell you, at great cost, what you could have worked out yourselves if only you’d bothered to get out from behind that 42 inch TV.