Our independent DIY retailer takes a look back at Christmases past and muses on how there was never enough time get things done and how staying after hours brought its own challenges

to school one week, Halloween the next, then a high-speed countdown to the festive season. Naturally, I’m speaking about non-Covid times.


Displaying one’s assets One annoying aspect about setting up the shop for Christmas was in not having enough time to get it done due to the increased footfall. Despite drinking lots

of coffee

and moving faster, our increased energy only served to encourage the customers to do the same until every person in the shop was making little snappy noises and dancing around as if treading on hot coals. On one occasion I was so high that I was serving three people at the same time, and found myself in one hell of a rhythm whereby I was dealing with each one a bit here, a bit there and another somewhere else, and then back to the first and so on. Women – the world’s acknowledged experts in multi- tasking – were admiring me with some pretty serious respect, and they hadn’t yet been at the Christmas sherry, oh no. I always suspected that I had ‘it’, and for that few minutes, performing on that concrete floor, I was using it like a Hollywood film star. Sadly, that was the one and only time because ‘it’ never again availed itself to me.

So, not being able to spruce up the shop made us decide to stay on after closing time and get everything done, minus the distractions. The atmosphere on those dark evenings was completely different – well, for one thing the shop doorbell wasn’t clanging every few seconds – and it was almost cosy, which would seem like a contradiction of terms. The cabinet heaters had been on all day so the place was warm and we could even remove our coats and scarves (okay, so I’m joking). I particularly


hristmas 1984 was approaching faster than a swarm of Highland midges on a novice camper. Just like today, it’s back

remember it. There was a bit of snow outside on the pavements; nothing dangerous, and the council’s festive coloured lights reflected through the glass and on to our little team of elves.

Festive screaming

But then, as the time got on towards 9pm, the drunks began spilling out of the Grotty Sark pub across the road, some of them well below drinking age. If they had been chucked out of that establishment, then they must have really been in a bad state. And you know what? They began watching me, tapping on the window and calling me granddad. It wasn’t the insult so much as my disbelief in their inability to notice that I wasn’t quite old enough to have even fathered any of them, let alone sire their fathers. So then: over-indulging

“Whenever we stumbled upon some particular method of presenting Christmas stock that worked well, it never quite worked as well again the following year.”

in underage alcoholic consumption causes poor eyesight. They were unwilling to leave the large screen on which I was starring until the motor engineer’s daughter went out there and shooed them away with some choice motor trade language. Being brought up playing with spanners can come in handy.

Space heating Another thing I remember is that whenever we stumbled upon some particular method of presenting Christmas stock that worked well, it never quite worked as well again the following year, so we were constantly looking for new angles. Maybe one thing we should have tried was stocking defunct Skilten hot air strippers. I mention this purely because it was around this time when Curtis Holt offered us some reconditioned units. These were a welcome relief due to some local problem obtaining stocks of the Black & Decker model. They came in a plain white box and no instructions, but it was claimed they had been repaired and thoroughly tested. One of them, though, had its switch wired incorrectly so that the trigger shone red when it wasn’t switched on, so we kept this for the shop’s own use. And guess what – I am still using it 36 years later. We hadn’t had these long when I spotted them being used extensively on TV: the Blake’s 7 sci-fi drama, to be exact, where they had been repurposed, minus their white power cables, as weapons. Fancy that! We could have made a killing selling them as TV merchandise, though I’m not certain what we’d have done with all the white power cables.

Armed-up I remember a promotional sticker from Evo-Stik in the


advertising a new product called Rok-Rap. Some people called

’70s it

Ro-Crap (and were not joking). It was a cement bandage, applied wet (of course) and dried like, well, a bandage of mortar. In the advert it had been used to re-attach both arms to the Venus de Milo. Call me easily amused, but this made me laugh. Unfortunately, this product is no longer available, nor can I find an image of it on the Internet, and ours was lost when we did the alterations. The accompanying picture is a re-hash I glued together earlier. Happy Christmas!

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