Xmas Books: Department Store Christmas work


The special CiB meme ‘Xmas in books, accompanied by carefully chosen pictures’ is back!

Every December on the blog I feature Xmas scenes and Xmas books – I never seem to run out, but am still open to ideas and suggestions.

If you use Pinterest you can see some of the beautiful seasonal pictures on this page, and you can find (endless!) more Xmas books via the labels at the bottom of the page.



Bond Street Story by Norman Collins


published 1959





[Being a Christmas temp in a department store]

That’s why she looks forward so much to Christmas. She’s on Rammell’s temporary list, of course. One of the permanent temporaries, so to speak. Good assistants aren’t three a penny. And she can go back whenever she wants to. Last Christmas, for example, was heavenly. The same rush in the morning. Standing up in the train. Worked off her feet as soon as she got there. Only half an hour for lunch because there were all the things to put straight again. Ten minutes for tea. A splitting headache by five-thirty. And the glorious sense of being in the swim again.




comments: Christmas in Rammell’s department store in Bond Street – the book (which is wonderful) gave us several entries during 2018. In fact Christmas doesn’t feature much in it, but I liked this description: those of us who have worked in shops at Christmas will recognize the love-hate relationship that goes with the job. The short snappy sentences are very typical of Collins' style - you get used to it. I loved both Bond Street Story and his London Belongs to Mealso much featured on the blog. 




And these pictures from the Tyne and Wear archives – shopfronts in Newcastle and Sunderland in 1960 – are so lovely, and so perfect for Rammell’s. The one with the stars is Fenwicks, which very much seemed as if it might be a model for Rammells. The display of baubles is from Woolworths: Mr Rammell would be horrified, tbh.



The Christmas party at Rammell’s featured in an entry last year – the young woman above had quite the time choosing her outfit. And I compared Bond Street Story with another blog favourite, Rona Jaffe’s blissful Best of Everything, whose Xmas party is one of its highlights – this entry features the parties in both the Jaffe book and Bond Street Story. I said then that ‘both books are an absolute delight on the clothes choices and problems of young women going out to work: and both show honest admiration for the way the young women solve those problems on tiny budgets.’







Comments

  1. There is something iconic about those big department stores, isn't there, Moira? Add the whole Christmas theme and Christmas shopping and the rush and so on, and it makes for a great context for a story. I can see why you chose this. Not that I'm a fan of crowds and rushing around and so on, but there is something about the atmosphere that you miss when you order gifts online...

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    1. You sum up the dilemma perfectly Margot! We need just the right amount of Christmas shopping out and about to enjoy the atmosphere. And I am glad I don't work in a shop now, but I did enjoy it back in the day.

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  2. Well, that brought back memories! I was brought up just outside London, and we always went to look at the lights in Bond Street and Regent Street, and the Christmas displays in the windows of the big shops. It was a big adventure to be 'up in town' in the dark! Once back in our own little town we used to buy fish'n'chips (wrapped in newspaper) and hurry home, hoping our supper would stay hot.

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    1. Oh us too! I lived in Liverpool and we loved to look at the Christmas lights and the wonderful department store windows. An atmosphere of excitement building... and then a visit to Father Christmas, probably a different occasion, to spin it out.

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  3. I love department store novels, and especially those set around Christmas! The nonpareil of this subgenre, for me, is Madeleine St. John's The Women In Black. A marvellous book.

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    1. Oh now I have that on my kindle but haven't read it yet! Something to look forward, thanks for the reminder. Yes, as should be obvious, I love the genre too, will always read a book set in a dept store (well - eventually, even if it sits on my kindle a while).

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  4. I love "Bond Street Story" (and "London Belongs to Me" which I bought after you had mentioned it on the blog). And there is a kind of nostalgia for shops in general creeping up on me as more and more close down because of Internet shopping. What will our towns and cities look like in the future if we all do our shopping on the Internet? I keep telling people that for every on-line purchase they make they help killing a small, independent shop.

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    1. Yes I know what you mean. I think old-school traditional department stores are gone forever - but shops are adapting, and we can hope some will survive.

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  5. I am retiring in two weeks and until then even my weekends are too crowded and busy and stressful. I thought sure I had already commented on this. (Maybe that is just old age.)

    I have been looking for London Belongs to Me at the book sale for the last few years, but I now plan to find it online. The first year my first husband was in the Air Force I worked in a department store at Christmas (in Selma, Alabama, of all places) and it was fun, very busy, mostly nice shoppers (I was in the toy section and restocked LOTS of shelves). And both Glen and I remember the Christmas department store decorations from the 50s and 60s with fondness.

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    1. That's exciting news Tracy - all good wishes, and I hope you have a most wonderful retirement, reading through that book mountain you have built over the years!
      I really think you will like Norman Collins's books. And yes, there's something very atmospheric about descriptions of dept stores in books. I remember very hard work in a shop at Xmas, but then that very festive feeling, and occasional lovely encounters with customers, and that euphoric sensation when you were finished for the day and rushing out into the night...

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