Party On, Dude…

…but at Matalan? Who’d have believed it.

People who know me find it highly amusing that the only chain I actually miss in Greenwich is the very wonderful Woolworths. I have always loved Woollies – ever since I was a kid – the pick & mix racks, the plastic picnicware, the chart CDs, the toys, the mop-and-bucket sets…

I can’t really explain why Woollies garish strip lighting, bright colours and cheerful tat have always held an almost mesmeric attraction for me – and let’s face it, I’m alone in this. Hell – the store announced £100m losses only yesterday as it slipped further in the public’s affections.

OK – They’ve made mistakes – remember when they tried to go up market a few years ago with ‘designer’ chocs and celebrity cappuccino-whisks? No? Nor does anyone else. But I still have a soft spot for Woollies and my mates always know where to find me if I go missing in a strange town…

But – well, we haven’t got one and that’s that. I have to go to Eltham or Lewisham if I want a Woolworths fix. In a jam, Wilkinson will do – in fact, even for die hard Woolworths fanatics like me Wilkinson is beginning to represent what Woollies used to be, but there ain’t one of them in Greenwich either.

Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest. And I am receiving therapy for this embarrassing affliction. But there is a reason why I’m wittering on about Woollies. Because that’s where I used to go to find bargain party stuff. I remember a couple of years ago trudging to Lewisham and buying a charming string of pumpkin Halloween fairy lights, that looked from a distance like a row of orange lollipops. I may even still have them. There’s therapy for that too.

But I have found a pretender to the party-throne.

Some clever person at Matalan – purveyor of cheapo clothing that falls apart the day after you buy it – has hit on the perfect product. Party stuff that dresses your home, your kids and yourself, which doesn’t matter if it falls apart the day after you use it.

The section started out small, with just a few balloons and paper chains, then it got in banners and a couple of hats. Since then it has been slowly getting bigger and bigger over the past few months.

Now it’s pretty large, selling happy-tat to decorate your home in any style you like. 70s disco? No problem. Western Saloon? It’s yours. Haunted house? We aim to please.

Large paper posters that give the impression of panelled rooms or cacti, a graveyard or a princess’s castle. Lanterns to hang from the ceiling. Balloons a go-go. Costumes (albeit not of the very top quality and mainly of the ‘sexy witch/nurse/cheerleader’ variety) for adults and children (less sexy for the kiddies, thank god) accessories that outshine the pathetic selection in Angels (which I was in yesterday but will not bother with again – now there’s a place that doesn’t care about its customers – rude, unhelpful staff, piss-poor selection (no better than Matalan and very much of the Smiffy-sort) and outrageous prices – avoid them, guys…) cards, badges, party poppers, make up, wigs – you name it.

Turnover is fast, so don’t count on any particular thing being there when you go. At the moment, it’s all Halloween stuff – loads of frankly horrid gore and unidentified plastic creatures with red lighting-up eyes – perfect for scaring the kiddies – I assume that as Christmas approaches, different fancy-dress stuff will supplant the horror. But I first noted this section back in May – so I think it’s going to be permanent.

I don’t know whether it’s a general thing with all Matalans or whether the buyer at the Charlton store is some kind of genius, but this to me is a great first-stop if you’re having a party. You MAY end up trekking into town for that extra-special piece of sparkly rubbish – but, if you’re having a bit of a do, do check at Matalan first. What it loses in quality, it makes up for in fun.

For somewhat better quality I’ll be looking at Prangsta another day…

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