When I was younger, maybe student age, I enjoyed taking the bike or the bus up to Kings Heath High Street, pulling a couple of CDs off the shelves, maybe a DVD, then making my way home to enjoy them. Now my music collection is in the Cloud and I'm wondering what to do with all my DVDs.
I know I'm supposed to care that there's a Tesco Express on the corner where Mr Johnson's old greengrocers used to be, or that I can't find any pic 'n mix, or that all the mainstream music that is already available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, 7digital and everywhere else is no longer to be found in a darkened shop next to some posters and a biography of Cheryl Cole.
But really, I don't. I really don't. I'm nearly 30; I'm not in my 60s. I don't lament over a time when I knew the name of the man behind the counter at my favourite toffee shop. I don't have memories of getting a swift clip round the ear by Officer Bobbins when I stole a wooden toy from Mr Smallhand's Curio Emporium.
I'm not completely indifferent to my changing urban climate, but I fail to share the social Internet's outrage over what I see as a gradual moving of tedious activities from physical to virtual. I do my grocery shopping via the Tesco website not because I want to see fewer people, but because I want to buy lots of healthy things that I can't carry on the bus.
I like independent coffee shops, and as long as other people do, they'll exist. The same will hold true for record shops, especially once HMV and the like have been completely squeezed out. There's an experience you get from those places that's more valuable than the commodities they sell, and although they're fewer in number, I think that's still something that people will want to spend their time and their money on,m and will make an effort to seek out, rather than stumble across.
We seem to have a weird double standard when it comes to the closure of shops on the high street. We lament the homogenisation of our towns by the big corporates, and then get all sad and outraged when other corporates die off. HMV isn't some family-run concern; it's a company that's failed to find a way to compete. People still want to send Christmas and birthday cards, so why is Clinton in receivership? Failure to compete in a changing market doesn't make these companies bad, just old and maybe a little sluggish.
I sort of resent the implication that somehow we're to blame; like we're supposed to support certain shops and eschew others. If that's the case, please someone send me the A to Z of companies I'm allowed to patronise, 'cos I'm not sure I get the rules. I can't research every company I give my money to so I can be sure it's going to an ethical cause, but if I believe my money's going to a thoroughly unscrupulous company - rather than just your common-or-garden unscrupulous company - I'll endeavour to spend it elsewhere. I mention that because so often these arguments become Moral Debates, and I think that's unhelpful in an age of convenience, where convenience exists not because we're lazy, but because we're packing much more in to the same number of hours we've always had.
I'm not some Tory bigot who believes it's every man for himself and we should all pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. I think we should support local concerns, and I suspect Government has a role to play in helping these companies stay afloat. But if I see a Sainsbury Local or a MacDonald's on every high street, I don't think "ah, but for a friendly costermonger and a place to dine", I think "oh great, I can pick up a pint of milk and then go for a slash". I'm sorry if that means I'm heartless.