You can tell a lot about an area by looking at just one shop front. That might sound at first a bit snobby or prejudiced, but its simple economics and the reality of life.
Take this example, bright colours, simple strong slogans, offering a winning combination of alcohol and cheapness. You know what you’ll be getting if you venture into this shop, they’ll not be trying to flog you the best year of Chateau l’posh by the case. You won’t find yourself trying a gourmet cheese and being asked if you agree that the bouquet is sublime. No, what you’ll see is piles of cheap beer, lager, and spirits, sold in bulk, heavily discounted. There will probably be special offers for excess consumption, they may even offer discounts if you are short of a liver, having pickled the last one. These guys will look after the good customers.
So what about the neighbourhood? I’d be surprised if there is somewhere to buy a Gucci handbag within a 5 minutes walk. I’d be astonished if there was a jewellery store selling Rolex’s next door. There’s going to be a launderette pretty close by, a few interesting second-hand shops selling the kind of stuff that really should not be recycled, and probably a cheap chain supermarket.
I’m not being prejudiced here, it’s just reality. A shop that proclaims “Bargain Beer” so loudly is bound to be in an area where people are less well off than average. You won’t see shops like this in Knightsbridge, their natural home is in areas of above average unemployment.
It’s no surprise that this shop front is in the West End of Morecambe. I’m not criticising this area, I used to live there myself in fact. The flat I rented was a few doors away from a well known drug supplier, who the police appeared to tolerate on the basis that they had the problem “contained”, until repeated complaints from residents forced them into action. Now that little anecdote tells you everything about this area. Yes, here you will find the dregs of society, but they are outnumbered by the decent people, the ones who may not have a lot of cash to splash around on a bottle of fine wine at the weekend, but do care about their area.
So while in Knightsbridge the designer shops parade their shining shop displays of over-priced high quality gloss, the inhabitants of the West End of Morecambe can stretch their benefits to the limit.
No matter the lack of designer labels, the West Enders have something that the Knightsbridge set can never match – the ability to breathe fresh sea air, to walk a few hundred yards and gaze across the bay at the hills of Cumbria, and to watch some of the best sunsets anywhere, all with a can of bargain beer in their hand.
Enough writing, I’m off to Morecambe for a beer.