My Mum recently moved to a tiny village near the sea. This village is so small it has no name. In fact, the village is so small it only has one shop and that shop is just called “Shop”. Not The Shop, local shop, or Village shop. Just “Shop”.
I love Shop enormously and so whenever I go to visit my mum I immediately start thinking about Shop. It has no punctuation, so I don’t know whether the sign demarking shop is a query “Shop?” or an order “SHOP!”. Regardless, the effect is the same: it calls to me and I cannot walk past without getting drawn in to shop something from Shop.
They have everything in Shop: eggs, Frisbees, and cards for every occasion: birthday cards, christening cards, fathers’ day cards. To be honest they have more cards than I really think is necessary. I considered mentioning this to the owner, but I like to read the cards at length so the owner will say after some minutes. “This is not a library”. And I say “no it is “Shop”, that is very clear, I am sorry”. And the owner smiles and I smile. It is kind our thing.
This is probably my number one activity in when I visit my mum in the village with no name. She says I should try out the beach. But I am not interested in beaches; they are everywhere.
The man who runs Shop is very kind. He has two kids, they are both doing well, one will be starting college next year. The other spends too long on the internet but is getting good grades, so that’s fine. I haven’t asked but I really hope they are called “Boy” and “Girl”. And then one day when they are old enough, they will become “Man” and “Woman”. And Mr Shop will be so proud.
I asked the owner how he came up with the name for shop once. He smiled but looked at me like I was the crazy one. My Mum is like this too. I sometimes try to explain why I like Shop so much but she does not understand.
Yes, Shop is probably the thing I miss most about England. You can’t find that sort of brilliant simplicity in Norway. The closest I have found is the Vinmonopli. But naming yourself after an economic concept is a bit posh, elitist even. Indeed, I am quite sure that if the owner of Shop went to Norway he would be puzzled that Norway named their wine stores after an English board game and not just Vinbutikk.
I have asked in the Vinmonopli why they called it Vinmonopili. I got this answer. “We are called Vinmonopli because we are a monopoly of wine. We are the only ones who can sell wine all of Norway. That is why”. I smiled out of politeness but I could not hide my sadness. The Vinmonopli staff smiled back at me. It wasn’t the same. I am quite sure he thought I was a simpleton.
But I do also love the Vinmonopoli for celebrating an idea – monopoly – that everyone else in Europe defines as the ultimate failure of the market, and to some even civilisation. The rest of the world have even set up multilateral European wide monopoly fighting organisation called the Anti-Monopoly Commission. That is how much they hate it. The Anti-Monopoly Commission hates monopolies so much, they don’t even tolerate monopolistic behaviour.
Ultimately though, I miss Shop. I often imagine what the world would be like if everything and everyone followed Shop’s logic. I would be “writer”, and your would be “reader”. And I would just write “words”. And you would reply “interest”. Or “boredom”. But most importantly no one would ever have to wonder about when to use “an” or “the” ever again. And that would be great.