Bloomers and Tarts was a sandwich shop.
It might not look like much, and it may have been years since I ate from there, but I loved it.
I live in a pretty big village. I mean, there are two supermarkets within walking distance, and since it lies beside the M6 toll road, there’s a whole pseudo-motorway services complex complete with Burger King, Costa Coffee and… a sofa shop. I don’t think they see much business.
Most of these things have been built there in my lifetime, and I’m not very old. But through all that expansion, the village’s small shops have endured.
I used to go to Bloomers every school lunchtime to get a sandwich. Me and my friends always went for ‘The Works’ – which had basically everything on it: bacon, sausage, egg, sauce. I remember waiting in line with a bunch of other kids from school to get our sandwiches. We never thought much of it, but I imagine it brought them a lot of business.
Then the school stopped kids going out at lunch. I was angry about it even then, worried how it would impact my sandwich shop. Some locals had apparently complained about kids causing trouble. You could blame anyone: stupid kids, ruining it for the rest of them. Perhaps: Why complain? God, people are so touchy. Or maybe: teachers are so soft these days, you’re ruining these kids’ childhoods.
Either way, I don’t think I went back. Once I turned 16 I entered Sixth Form and we were allowed out again – but we stayed in playing cards instead. I don’t remember why. Then uni came and Bloomers drifted from my mind.
We recently got a puppy and I started walking him round the village. I decided to pass by Bloomers. I assumed it was probably closed – it had nearly been a decade, after all.
I saw this in the window.
I think they’ve closed a little earlier – the inside looked cleared out and the floor was covered in advertisements posted through the letterbox.
But I have an emotional connection to this little sandwich shop about two minute’s walk from my house. So I wrote them a letter.
I wandered up and tried to post it the other day, but the letterbox wouldn’t open. I assume they got sick of all the junk post. I can’t say I blame them.
I slid my letter under the door anyway, where it probably lies buried under all the junk. I hope they’ll sort through and find it, but if it was me, I’d just scoop it all up in one go and bin it. But the letter’s up here online, too, so maybe someone who works there will read it.
I really try not to talk about the Big C on here, but it’s reared its ugly head again.
Many small, local shops like this were barely managing, but they were still able to get by.. And it takes a great deal more effort, cash and time to re-establish than it does to keep ticking by day by day.
I really do hope Bloomers is able to come back after this, but some part of me tells me it’s done. And hundreds of thousands of small shops across the country will be in the same boat.
I’m not sure what the point of this is.
I also picked up my first dog sh*t on that walk. Which isn’t pleasant, but it went well. Went in the bag smoothly, didn’t get any on me. I tackled a mini-disaster and there was no lasting damage. That’s all we can hope for.
But I don’t think it’s likely.
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