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My corner shopkeeper

I live in a good wee neighbourhood. Tenants and owners in houses and flats, side by side and getting along. It's a working class neighbourhood, of the type we recall and desire.

The corner shop here is a little local focus. The man who has run it for twenty four years is like some classic, perhaps mythical, shopkeeper: the one who knows his customers by name, has time for gentle enquiries about your well-being, will trust you to bring the money in tomorrow if you are short today and whose counter has space for newspapers, chewing gum and the elbows of neighbours who are passing the time and shooting the breeze. You can get some of your groceries there; school-kids buy a pot noodle for lunch; local tradesmen post adverts on the door, somebody is selling a pram.

This corner shop could make more money if it, like many others, sold alcohol. But the man who runs it made a decision not to do that. For two reasons: he understands balance and he likes the neighbourhood. Local youngsters get jobs in his shop. I've seen some who started just sweeping the place up, now entrusted at the till. A girl works there who lives across the street and opens the place up early in the morning, for milk and bread and newspaper deliveries.

Her boss also runs a martial arts class elsewhere on evenings twice a week. Some of the youngsters go there.

I mention all this as we hear of the big society and see the BNP canvassing in our streets. The man who runs our corner shop is of Indian origin. Round here, he provides local jobs for local people and, in an unassuming way, is probably doing more for old-fashioned community values than anyone I've ever met.



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