Growing up in the 60s, Wednesday was always half-day closing on Balham High Road.
Having worked for over forty years, I realise these shopkeepers needed a break.
As a kid I thought otherwise; perhaps they lent their shops out to wanna-be Mr Benns – thousands of people swarming in from various parts of SW12 & 17 to train as a lion tamer? Or they went into a temporary four-hour hibernation – like human tortoises? Or were secretly setting up radios made from cat gut or crystal meth (or whatever it was when wireless meant some massive wooden thing which sat on your mantelpiece) in which to contact Martians or Martins as Martin was a popular name in the 60s.
There is no such thing as half-day closing these days, if anything the complete opposite, with shops open every day. Odd, as one of the Commandments is: “remember the half-day closing day and keep it holy.”
Aged ten I was not the head shopper in our household. Looking back, I wasn’t aware of any black-market cows residing in my Balham flats ready to produce milk at any time after 1.01 PM on a Wednesday. Or a handy seamstress, ready to knock up a top should you get a last-minute dinner date invite.
Did these shopkeepers do moonlighting or voluntary work? One had clearly done nothing as he’d said on Wednesday afternoons he did voluntary work for the RNLI. This was believable when you were ten, but having started geography lessons at secondary school and realising Balham was sixty miles from the nearest coast, he’d have had to have had particularly good hearing to have heard the rescue siren.
Just taming lions – back in ten minutes.