Monday, January 19, 2009

Business is tough

The [recession/economic downturn/global financial crisis/gloom and doom phrase of your choice] has definitely hit in England, with today's lead story being a proposal to nationalize the entire banking system to stimulate credit. On the high street (a phrase that can both generically refer to the main business/retail industries, and also to High Street, which is what the main street in most towns, villages, and cities is called), several big chains have gone out of business or into administration (basically the equivalent of bankruptcy) -- Woolworths, Zavvi (music store), Whittard of Chelsea (tea shop), Olan Mills, Pier (UK equivalent to Pier One), and Waterford Wedgwood, among others.

Some of those stores have Cambridge branches that are now closed. We live near Cambridge's first shopping mall. A shiny new mall has opened in the city centre, and the stores in the old mall and in the pedestrian streets around it are struggling, and independents are shutting down, too. I try when I can to use the small grocers and butchers instead of the posh and expensive Marks & Spencer food shop in the mall; now the M&S is closing.

Some aspects of Cambridge are business as usual. Last week the new term started, and the city centre was full of fresh young faces, suitcase in tow, college scarf wrapped around their necks. The open-air market was bustling with parents in town to drop of their kids. In my day job, we note that this is the time to take that class you've been meaning to take, improve your skills in the work you're doing now, take stock of all the jobs you're qualified to do but maybe haven't considered. Meanwhile, JT and I remain grateful for our jobs and our situation. And occasionally discuss whether our ability to order take-out is a transferrable skill.

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