01.03.13

Not 39 Forever: No.15 - A walk down Gidlow Lane

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Let me walk you down the particular stretch of Gidlow Lane I used to live off. Let’s start at the Guardians, a pub which is still there, it’s just not a pub any more. It’s one of those buildings you can tell used to be a pub of which you can now find hundreds all over the country. I was never much of a Guardians man anyway.
Walking along the right hand side there was a chippy; still is, then another shop across the other side of Kendal Street, I can’t remember what it was originally but it was a butty shop for a while then became a hairdressers called MILLION-HAIRS or some such shite. There were then three more corner shops, one at the end of each block excluding the first one: Scott Street, Kearsley Street and West Street, all more or less the same. My favourite was as a fourth one situated 50 yards behind the others at the end of Delph Street: Liptrots. Set back off the main street, which really didn’t stand a chance once every terraced house in Springfield became the owners of two cars and buggered off to Asda every time they needed a pint of milk. I remember the one on West Street used to sell Pooles Pies from a hot display counter and they were fucking amazing. They were proper Pooles pies, the original recipe, a seething sloppy mess of meat ‘n’ tater not the shite you can buy in bulk these days from your nearest supermarket freezer aisle. (To that MD of Pooles I know you’re reading – you’re pies aren’t bad really but if you ever want to truly make Pooles Pies brilliant, do what Whelan wouldn’t do and fork out for the original recipe if anyone alive knows it)

At the end of Gidlow Lane – at least as far as I went in my youth – it actually drags on for another mile or so all the way up through Beech Hill and half way to Standish - there’s now a nursing agency, I remember it being a florist for ages but it was probably something before that too. Let’s have a pint in the Famous Pagefield (still hanging on in there despite the death of long standing landlord John Meehan a few years back) and cross over. Back we go – I don’t remember that rugby shop being there but that hospice place has been there donkey’s years and time is testing me but I’m not sure whether there was a greengrocers where the Down Under rugby shop is now.

Anyway across the road and the Gidlow Bakery is first up – amazing pies, probably the second best in this row of eight or so shops and it was called something else before the Gidlow Bakery but the pies were always immense: deep, delicious and weighty. Next door there was a hardware shop – is it still open? I think it is, just about. Then came Knowles Newsagents where I went to pay the paper bill, buy toffees (when not going to Liptrots on Delph Street – was it even called Liptrots?) and queue out the door on a Saturday teatime waiting for the Football Pink to arrive in my teenage years.

Next door we had Wilcocks Bakery who made the best pies these young lips had tasted, lighter than the one three doors down but sumptuous egg glazed pastry with a little porthole of dried gravy bursting out of the top crust. You know what’s coming next – Grays’ chippy: still the undoubted best in Wigan, top notch chips served in old newspapers which willing patrons handed over along with their bowls when they walked in. Every Friday, walk in – bowl on the counter, queuing all the way around the shop and outside, listening to Maureen’s incessant rugby banter. A shame they blotted their copy book with their anti-Latics poster. Me, I’ve never been in since but it’s no longer because I hold any kind of grudge, I just can’t be arsed now I don’t live around there. I will try those chips again though – life’s too short not to. There’s a couple in Standish or Shevy which folk rave about but let’s have it right here, Maureen’s would, well, batter the fuckers if you pardon the pun. Another highlight of my youth was spent on her husband’s coaches going to Blackpool illuminations once a year, there was always a community feel about the place.

We keep walking and next door on the main row of shops we had a video shop: Micron Electrical: they had VHS, Betamax and V2000. A rack for rugby videos (and Latics), films of various categories a small chocolate counter and right at the far end a selection of adult movies these young eyes kept peering inconspicuously at. It’s now owned by that twattish middle class estate agent who’s grid is always in the local press. For some reason, I’m picturing a bike shop next to that and right on the end was Pats, another general store with a wide range of sweets and pop for me to spend my pocket money.

Back past Margaret Street, there’s a carpet shop and midway down amongst the terraced houses there’s Denis Matthews’ barbers – both still there. And the other side of Diggle Street, leading to the Little Park where the workmen from nearby Regentruck used to play football in their dinner hour, when they weren’t supping in the Henhole or eating pies or chips. The Henhole was and still is a proper pub and thankfully was given a lease of life recently when it looked like shutting down. Slightly bigger than your average front room in the period before I moved out of Springfield and settled down in my late twenties, I used to be in there every night playing darts while every bugger was smoking in there.

Onwards towards Wigan and the Port Petroleum garage is now a hand car wash place as all provincial garages have now become and I can’t remember what the grocer’s shop on the corner used to be – I think it was actually a grocer’s store, another corner shop. I do know the shop at the end of the next block – Upper St Stephens Street was a corner shop because I got in a spot of bother there once but I’m saving that tale for another day. Possibly tomorrow. They used to sell us kids single cigs in a paper toffee bag. See I’ve half given the game away now? And then we’re back at the Guardians with just a big electrical shop on the corner.

Have a think about the street where you grew up: how the shops have closed and changed, pubs and petrol stations have disappeared, demolished or converted to flats. And look over the pond at the USA with their super malls and retail parks. And look back at our town at what it has become. And think that every town and city in the country is starting to look the same: dominated by the same multi-national, multi-corporate companies swallowing up independent retailers whole. Sad isn’t it? But we’ve got our memories eh?

Pic courtesy of the amazing archive at Wigan World



        
 
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