I walked into Wesley Owen Books in Belfast this week and it was busier than I have ever seen it at lunch time. It didn’t take long for me to realise why. The big red signs in the windows told me everything I needed to know:
“CLOSING DOWN SALE – EVERYTHING MUST GO”
Nothing brings out the masses like a closing down sale – and not one of those fake ‘closing down for refurbishment’ sales – a proper ‘we can’t take any of this stuff with us’ sales.
There was a total contrast of emotions on display in the store. One local preacher had accumulated a pile of books almost as big as himself, a smile across his face which read ‘This is the greatest day of my life but I must try and show some reserve’. While the cashier had the biggest fake smile I have ever seen. You just know that inside it feels like he’s lying on his back while the vultures feed on his insides.
The end of Wesley Owen is really sad for me. They were my first employer (if you don’t include my paper round). After being rejected by every college/Uni I applied to, I realised I needed to find some work. I applied for the usual supermarket / shops but got nothing. My life changed however when I wondered into Wesley Owen on George Street in Edinburgh and they offered me 2 weeks work pricing Christmas Cards in their dark basement. Being young and enthusiastic I finished the work in under a week - looking back now I realise I could easily have done myself out of a week’s pay. Anyway impressed by work ethic (or more likely feeling sorry for me) they honoured the 2 week contract and trained me up on tills and working on the shop floor. With the 2 weeks came to the end they asked if I’d mind staying on for the Christmas period. Having nothing else in place (having been rejected by HMV – my then dream job) I said yes. Almost seven years later I left Wesley Owen, I was Deputy Manager, married and extremely grateful for everything I had learned during my time there.
David Hamilton taught me about humility and grace, Graeme Campbell inspired a love for classic literature, Anne taught me that anything is possible, Joy showed patience and taught me that it is better to give than to receive and possibly the most important lesson I ever learned in Wesley Owen was when Bruce taught me how to correctly wrap parcels (a talent I now use every birthday/ Christmas).
So on Tuesday I passed the cashier my big pile of books and CDs with a tear in my eye - like a wannabe vegetarian vulture not really wanting to pick at the carcass but just unable to resist.