A little shop in Beeston
Like many high streets, ours is struggling. Although we have a wonderful greengrocer/fishmonger that has been a family business for over 100 years, and two butchers, it sometimes seems that most of the premises are charity shops, nail bars, coffee shops, estate agents… or empty buildings. Alas.
One currently empty shop saddens me particularly.
For many years it was a video rental store: remember them? Not Blockbuster, but one of the others: possibly Hollywood Video. Many happy hours have been spent… not merely watching the videos we borrowed, but wandering up and down choosing them. In the days before streaming and Netflix, the video store (DVDs also available) was a brilliantly simple and cheap way of having a pleasant Friday evening. I seem to recall getting through several seasons of “The West Wing” that way.
As with public libraries, at least if you go into a video store you can see all the variety: it’s not an echo chamber. You may not want to view the horror, the movies in translation, or the “adult” section, but other people may. What’s before you aren’t just examples of films “similar to what you’ve previously viewed because we know all about you”.
(The Blogger’s family still owns a lot of videos, and a VCR that inexplicably is no longer working properly, but never mind that for now.)
So I was rather sorry when the Hollywood Video Store closed. It was replaced by an curious establishment called Chimera. (Why? Don’t know.)
Chimera sold comics.
Digression: In my childhood “comics” meant the Beano, a worthy magazine called Look and Learn, and the girls’ story comics Bunty, Mandy etc. These last contained stories in several categories: girls with horrible home lives but amazing talents (most often ballet or gymnastics, but one girl had a gift for making artistic objects out of shells); girls trying to save themselves or others from a supernatural threat or curse; victimised Victorian or Edwardian girls; or light relief contemporary life. As far as I gathered, the boys’ equivalents dealt roughly with World War Two and football.
These comics seem to have vanished almost without trace, although the Beano is still going strong.
I completely missed what most of us now think of as the comic book genre. When I first went to see the film “Superman” in 1978 I had no idea that Clark Kent/Superman hadn’t been invented just for that film. How I was introduced to the wonders of Marvel, the X-Men, Spider-Man and all the rest, is another story. But that’s the kind of comics Chimera sold (single issues and back issues; the bumper Extended Edition adventures of the Avengers and Batman were and are available in ordinary newsagents.)
The shop also sold action figures, unhealthy snacks and board games. The staff were friendly and helpful, and took a poster for my latest book launch.
And they opened at night for role-playing games.
This is perhaps what I miss most. Not that I attended… but in these days of lives lived online it was a treat to walk past at 8 pm and see the tables set up for four to six cheerfully serious youngish people who had come together for the social activity of pretending to be magical warriors fighting each other or an overall Big Bad.
Just as visiting the video rental shop was that little bit more active and convivial than just flicking switches on a home screen, these type of gatherings are more human than trading comments on Youtube videos or podcasts. Aren’t they?
So I was very sorry to pass one day a few months ago, and see that the shop was “moving online.” I really hope it survives in the ether.
There’s still a website https://www.chimeraccg.co.uk/; there’s still a Facebook page; and they’re still advertising live RPGs in a local premises.
So I have hope.
Love from the PPI Blogger
PS Any volunteers to complete the trilogy of Star Wars reviews on this blog? Or should I do it myself?