Words from Catherine O'Flynn
Although I'd been, as a customer, in shopping centres, you know, many times, you know, through my life, it was the first time I'd worked in one. And there was something about that place that just really affected me. I found it a place of strange contrasts:
You know, the contrast between the way it was in the daytime when it was absolutely packed with customers, and at night when I would be locking up the shop and it was entirely deserted and quite 13)eerie.
The contrast between the way it was for customers—you had quite a luxurious experience with, you know, palm trees and leather seating areas—and the way it was for staff where the conditions were very bad, and, you know, there were rats in the kitchens and it was all very unpleasant.
And also the contrast between what it was when I worked there, which was this glittering shopping centre, and what it had been only 10 years before, which was a steel foundry. You know, it had been an industrial site, and when the industry went, the land was redeveloped as a shopping centre.
And also the contrast, I guess, between the inside—this glittering, wonderful place—and the outside, which was an area that had been destroyed really by the loss of that steel foundry, you know, the immediate area was really suffering the economic consequences of the loss of that industry, and it almost seemed like a cruel twist of fate to land this big consumer palace in the middle of these people who actually couldn't really afford to shop there. All the people who went there went in by car from surrounding cities.
So those kinds of things really got under my skin while I was working there, and I'd go home at night and find myself wanting to write notes about it, just to get it out of my system really. I think I liked the idea of writing all this stuff and then one day in years to come, when I wasn't working there, look back and laugh at how awful it had all been. And they weren't fictional at all; they would just be notes about conversations with customers or with colleagues, or descriptions of the staff room or descriptions of the service corridors, things like that.