December: Shop Local this Christmas

December: Shop Local this Christmas

Christmas shopping starts at the Covered Market and with the independent shops in the streets around the market from Broad Street, along the Turl, into the High and up to King Edward Street.  Concern for this ‘quarter’ of the City is a regular conversation piece amongst Oxford members and friends.  Talk won’t make the difference that putting our Christmas spending into the tills of the local shops will, so my hope is that you’ll join me in shopping small and independent this year.   

The Oxford Preservation Trust team love getting ready for Christmas and we do our best to bring a local Oxford feel to our own little street at Turn Again Lane, holding our own alongside the corporate shopping centre next door. At this time of year, the Covered Market gives us plenty of choice of decorations. There is a forest of trees, baskets of flowers, holly and mistletoe and the air is filled with Christmas smells.  

We love the great things the Covered Market team and traders have done to make the place feel special, packing it with colourful goods, pop-up shops with open doors, ready to welcome customers with cheery words and warm welcome.  No need of the big coffee chains here as this Quarter has a different and a better offer.  There’s some great cafes and good coffee and hot chocolate, and we come back from our shopping with a bag of still-warm squidgy cookies which we can taste in the air as we buy them. 

Fresh meat, vegetables and cheese of top quality have been the mainstay of the Market throughout its history, and it’s a pleasure to shop there.  These aisles, unlike those lined with fridges in a Supermarket, are tactile, lively, real, and empty of packaging.  Food shopping is more interesting, the food better, tastier, more satisfying.  The shopkeepers are engaged, and engaging, as I order the turkey, ham and sausages ready to pick up on Christmas Eve.   I go on to order bread, cheese, and make lists of what else I will need, chocolate, fruit, nuts and vegetables.  There’s wine and Oxford gin, which they’re making with sloes for the first time this year, all to be collected later.  Sadly, I am defeated when it comes to buying fish.  Hayman’s, one of the market’s oldest tenants, have moved to Osney Mead, but it’s still run by the Alden family who celebrate 225 years this year. We need to entice them back. 

Decorations and food in the bag, I look for Christmas presents for family and friends, still in the Market.  There’s a yellow jumper and a red hat to buy.  Almost immediately I find the first, a perfect present, good quality, cheerful and it will look great on.   Walking down the middle aisle my eye is drawn to the red top hat pinned above a door.  There’s magic in the air, and like Diagon Alley and Harry Potter, I duck to enter through the little door into a rainbow-filled shop, full to the brim with hats in different, colours, shapes and sizes.  I buy the red beret that the list-writer requests, she’ll love wearing it.  I must get on and go out into the High Street passing to look at the sumptuous silver and jewels in the lovely old shop window, where eight generations of jewellers are still in residence.  A world away from Amazon, I enjoy buying good paper, art, prints and books, old and new, ticking off the list of things to buy and adding to the list of things I might like myself.   I am about to call it a day, but that red top hat is in my head and tempts me back. I buy myself a present, not the red one but one in bright green, and as I’m off to the Panto at the Playhouse, I put it on and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas – see you in the new year.