Soper’s survives.

Last week Debenhams announced plans to close 22 more stores, though I’m surprised they’re still going at all. Debenhams has somehow survived the advent of shopping malls, retail parks and the Internet but who still goes there? The stores have neither the prestige of Selfridge’s nor the solid reputation of John Lewis but 116 branches survive. Including Debenhams in Harrow. I went to school nearby and Debenhams (or Soper’s as I can just about remember it) was Harrow’s centrepiece. Back then, it was impossible to visit Debenhams without meeting someone you knew because everybody went there. And its cafe was always the favoured venue for lazy afternoons of truancy. I haven’t been there for years because no other area has been as hideously overdeveloped and heartbreakingly disfigured as Harrow. I’d prefer to remember it as it was 40 years ago when, in the record department of Debenhams, I rather presciently bought this.