In Codmanton, Black Friday had been heralded the previous evening by the annual switch-on ceremony for the Christmas lights that hung from streetlamps and featured in almost every shop window. Decades after the pits had closed, the colliery band, clinging on to its existence by its fingernails, had played carols in the Town Square.
On the day itself, the large department stores had queues forming outside before Mel reached Hannays’. There were no queues there at that time, but during the day, several people looking to buy Christmas gifts in advance did arrive to take advantage of the cut-price offers on cameras and associated equipment.
The shop wasn’t so busy that the staff didn’t have time to talk to each other and Jamie reported that online business was even greater than that on the shopfloor.
December was the wettest month ever recorded in the UK, with almost double the rain falling compared with average years. The rising river levels, swollen by the downpour and by run-off from the hills, caused widespread floods. At the same time, it was the warmest December since records began.
When customers entered the shop, the weather was the opening comment on their lips. Marcus was kept busy mopping up rainwater that had dripped from umbrellas or rainwear onto the floor. No one wanted any injuries to customers or to staff caused by slipping. There were no bands playing in the rain that day, though traditional Christmas music was being piped through into every store that had tuned into local radio.
Despite the weather, December was still a good month for sales turnover. Although not everybody had taken advantage of Black Friday, Tony was more cheerful than ever, because customers kept buying for Christmas anyway.
Mel had used one lunchbreak to do some Christmas shopping of her own. She bought presents for her family – and some for Lucy, Tony, Tracy, Jake and Elaine in case she was invited there. For Jamie, she selected a pure wool Arran sweater.
Even on her way to the shops, the photographer in her saw the colourful reflections of the overhead decorations and shop windows in the pavement puddles. She noticed the pedestrians struggling to prevent umbrellas from blowing inside out. There were some great photo opportunities, but she didn’t have time that day.
Christmas Eve fell on a Thursday – half-closing day. Hannays’ was not the type of shop that would have had last-minute clients, so when the door closed and the Open sign was swung around to Closed, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The place would be closed until the following Monday for the Boxing Day sales.
It wasn’t as long a break as many workers would get, but that was retail for you. It was, nevertheless, essential to make the most of it.
Tony had bought small gifts for Mel and Marcus to thank them for their contribution to the year that was now nearly over. He didn’t expect much net profit from the next few days – any sales benefit could be countered by returns of unwanted gifts. That was always a time-consuming dead-weight activity, and in most cases the returns would have to be sold at a reduced price.
Mel and Jamie were invited to each other’s homes for meals over Christmas. By now, their relationship was no longer the centre of interest. For their parents, the news on television was the main topic of conversation – though the two households prioritised different aspects of the broadcasts.
At the Harringtons, conversation was very much about the floodwaters in the Calderdale Valley areas where communities in Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Todmorden and other areas had been badly hit by the floodwaters, which had wrecked thousands of properties and caused an estimated £150m in damage.
The Hannays focused on the bleak reports about the future of the retail trade. It was being said that almost ninety percent of British customers preferred shopping online – and had done at least some of their Christmas shopping that way rather than going to a high street shop.
‘Well, Jamie,’ his dad said, ‘maybe you’ll be the only Hannay trading in five years. We’ll probably have to invest more in your side of marketing.’
The family digested these results along with the compensating news that Black Friday online sales were up thirty-six percent on the previous year.
There didn’t seem much Christmas joy in either household, so Mel and Jamie spent a lot of time with friends such as Stacy and Connor.
Jamie loved his Arran sweater and he’d bought Mel a silver charm bracelet.
She couldn’t resist teasing him about it.
‘Did you get this from a chain store?’ she asked.
‘No,’ he said, ‘Well from a franchise I suppose. Why.’
‘Am I supposed to wear it round my ankle as a sign that I’m your slave?’
He took a while to see that she was pulling his leg.
For the first time in years, the shop remained closed on New Year’s Day – a Friday – so the couple had three free days together. They used the time to have a City Break in London – sightseeing, shopping and, in Mel’s case, taking photos as they rubbernecked.
I continue with another of the architecture shots that I took on my afternoon in Liverpool a few weeks ago. Today’s shot is another that I took looking skywards. This time, it was a view of a spiral staircase – I assume a fire escape – seen from below.
For all the street shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens at an ISO of 100. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/100 secs @ f/5.6 and 21 mm.