Last week Will, a colleague of mine, said that he was going to do something rather surprising. He was planning to do Christmas shopping the following day and would be going into central London, to real shops and without a list. I can't even begin to think about the final point, but as to why he was eschewing the warmth of home and the easiness of shopping online, he explained that he feels a duty to support bricks-and-mortar stores rather than virtual ones.
Having yet to start my festive wallet emptying, I haven't followed his lead yet. But it made me think about the shops that have given me something Amazon or Asos couldn't – memories.
When I was 13, my birthday present was a pair of Dr Marten boots, bought from Baldocks, an army surplus store when my dad got his own DMs as a teenager. I went for years after for army shirts and bags to Tipp-Ex the names of bands I loved on to. My dad tells me that it is no more, but it lives on for this ex-Green Day fan.
To this day I rue the fact that the I never got to shop in the Biba department store. Dark, glamorous and – according to one acquaintance with form – one of the easiest places to shoplift a feather boa from, I thought it sounded so cool, as a teenager I wanted to change my name to Biba but wisely realised I'd sound like a right wally.
Recently, I'm happy to say, I ticked off an almost-decade-long wish – visiting a store called Blustons on my local hight street. It's a ladies outfitters, with a shopfront built in 1931. It has curved glass windows that sweep round to two entrances. For more that a decade I've walked past it, but because it mainly caters to shoppers of a certain age – its window displays show off snazzy tops and dressy skirts for the older lady, as well as capacious undergarments, I had no reason to enter except pure nosiness.
Then came a cold snap and I realised Blustons would be just the place to buy a thermal vest rather than going online. It was warm, neat as a pin and welcoming inside. The staff had just what I was after, time for a chat and a tidy little gallery of photographs of the Royal family. My receipt was written out by hand.
It was one of the most pleasurable shopping experiences of my life. So don't just walk by whatever your Blustons equivalent is – go inside. Otherwise, like Baldocks and Biba, it'll be too late.