[Above: Better to reign in hell than serve in Poundland.]
Poundland is doomed and deprived; Poundland is the future.
Automatic doors, entrance and exit. Turnover is the key word. Products are not displayed, they are stashed. Crates form a cardboard and cellophane maze, you are expected to find your way around the shop yourself. Occasionally, like debris falling in the street from an explosion, an unopened box blocks your path.
It’s got a strange smell about it, sort of burnt earth and fish. Takes me a while to realise it’s the pet accessories stand, squatting in a corner. The lighting is drab and oppressive. I can’t find what I’m looking for.
So I venture to the back of the store, which is the best bit. Homewares and stationary jostle – stacks and stacks of cut-price gluesticks, masking tape and brown paper envelopes. Plates and bowls – the dust gathered shows up on the white porcelain – are nestled on the shelves. Beyond the dun parade is a stand of DVDs and CDs, underneath a banner proudly titled “Entertainment”.
The music they play in Poundland is wonderful; it is beyond muzak and beyond understanding. It’s as if Robbie Williams wrote a eulogy-song for Kim Jong-Il; the most inoffensive lyrics penned to plodding retirement village pop melodies. The vocals appear to be aggregated from a panel of X-Factor second-round dropouts, blander than Cliff Richard could ever claim to be. This is played on the in-store radio station, which breaks every two tracks to tell customers about the great deals in front of their eyes. Poundland is the Soviet Union of highstreet bargain stores.
The Entertainment stand is ashamed of itself. Each CD case has a bright-red sticker: “REPLAY! BRING THEM BACK IF THEY DON’T WORK!”. Billie Piper’s last album is alongside Gabrielle’s greatest hits. All Saints and Natalie Imbruglia sit next to Will Smith. The rest, I don’t recognise; all boy/girl bands standing on top of windswept skyscrapers pouting into the sunset distance. The DVD selection is an index of the most unpopular British television of the Noughties – the Britannia High boxset is here alongside some Fred Dibnah steam documentaries. Closer to the Valentine’s Day display (consisting of a bell that is embossed with ‘Ring for Sex’, some tights with hearts on and a bottle of rosy-cheeked ‘Romance Spray’) is an apparently themed collection of saucy made-to-video TV series with names like “Bedroom Eyes – Who could resist them – and come out ALIVE?”.
After finding the tealights, I can surface again. The checkout counter is staffed by dead-eyed school leavers who mumble their words through their rigor mortis smiles. The tills are fortified with cardboard ramparts stocking lighter fluid, tinned steak & onion pie and Pringles tubes, stacked like illicit warheads. The sunshine is refreshing.
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world!