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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Bye bye Brian, miss you too

So f-f-f-f-farewell then Brian Meecham, the shopkeeper who inspired Ronnie Barker to create the brilliant Arkright character in the 1980s sitcom Open All Hours.

Brian Meecham, who died last week, stocked just about everything in his store, Meecham & Sons in Crewkerne, Somerset.

Barker, who died in 2005, had a holiday home in nearby Beaminster and would often use the shop.

And when he invented the miserly Yorkshire character, it was the store’s layout that he replicated for his shop in Open All Hours, which was based in Doncaster, South Yorkshire and co-starred David Jason as the hapless delivery boy Granville.

The BBC series ran from 1976 until 1985 and was a massive hit. It turned Mr Meecham and his wife Doreen into local celebrities and they would act out scenes for customers.

I mention Mr Meecham’s passing for two reasons...

One is that it brings back fond memories of Sunday nights in front of the telly and secondly to celebrate what I fear is a dying breed of local independent shopkeepers.

As the likes of Tesco, B&Q, Sainsbury’s and other chainstores continue to swallow up our high streets, we should do what we can to support and enjoy the personalised and unique service offered by our smaller shops.

There are the brilliant hardware shops like John Graham’s in Longtown and JB Banks and Firn’s in Cockermouth, but I can think of few bakers, greengrocers, shoe shops, sweetshops and the like where you get the unusual, the unique and the unexpected – and that’s just the staff...

It also gives me the chance to recycle a few classic lines from the TV series which still bring a smile decades later.

To Granville: “How many Ps in per per per per pepper, six or seven?”

To Granville, who is yawning: “Close your mouth there’s a b-b-b-b-bus c-c-c-c, oh don’t worry it’s gone now.”

Or how about Granville saying: “This Jamaican ginger cake’s not from Jamaica.” and Arkright responding: “So? We sell Mars bars, don’t we?”

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