I come from Bristol, and my only job apart from writing was when, as a 15-year-old runaway, I briefly sold perfume in a chain chemist in central London. I was very good at it, but sadly I lasted only two months before the police spotted me and took me home. I figured then I needed something involving shorter hours, higher pay and less concentration, so I started planning to be a writer instead. I have earned my living solely by scribbling from the age of 17 to my current age of 51, and it's true what they say that if you do a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life. But some days, I still go off into a daydream when I get a whiff of Ma Griffe, and I think about what might have been...
My mum worked in shops too, both local and supermarkets, when she wasn't a cleaner or factory girl, and my dad's union Usdaw represented shop workers, so I've got a soft spot for them. That's one of the reasons I felt so disgusted when I heard about those total tossers in my hometown attacking Tesco.
And I IMMEDIATELY thought, "Oh, it's THOSE little creeps all over again – Pinky Floyd Jnr, swinging from the Cenotaph – but this time, they're smelly." Look at the Great Satan Tesco, started by 21-year-old Jack Cohen in 1919, after serving with the RAF during the First World War, who invested his £30 demob money in surplus food stocks and a stall in the East End of London; on his first day he had a £4 turnover and made £1 profit; now £1 in every £8 spent by shoppers in this country is handed over in these glorious emporiums. Once more, it's a case of "the silly led by the sinister", to quote Christopher Hitchens' line about the Not In My Name lot. The leaders may be hard, and hardcore, but the followers are the biggest bunch of public school tools this side of Coldplay. They won't be as rich as the Gilmour step-spawn, but most of them will be cut from the same cloth – pretending to be starving students/squatters when really they're Little Lord Fauntleroys who've swopped a cummerbund for a keffiyeh.
The boys who love smashing up big shops (vandalism) have more in common with the girls who love having smashing big shops (retail therapy) than they realise – they do it to make themselves feel bigger, better, shinier people. They are both equally silly, and looking for self-respect in all the wrong places, but I far prefer the girly version as it doesn't actually injure innocent people. (The Selfridges New Year sale being the possible exception.)
Fighting the good fight to make the world safe for artisan shops where some dopey Sloane charges you three quid for one warty, unwaxed lemon – ooh, it's the Cuban revolution all over again, innit! Would it have been equally revolutionary to smash up the shops of hard-working Indian immigrants when their sheer effort displaced the white-owned shops which had always met the needs of their own "community"? No, because progress happens and if you don't like it, you're a reactionary. There's more than one way of being elitist, stuck-up scum. Some snobs wear wing collars and toast the Empire, some snobs wear Palestinian scarves and burn the flag. But what the Bullingdon Bullies and the Tesco-attacking Toytown Trots have in common is that they both think they know what's better for people than people do themselves. The only difference is that the BBs send a cheque to cover the damage next morning to whatever oik watering hole they've destroyed, whereas we who fund the public purse – as ever – pick up the bill for the damage the TATTs do. Chuck both sides into a pit, let them fight it out and let's make it another workers' holiday.Reuse content