Back in the dim and distant days known to people as the 1980s* (again), the main shopping centre in Lewisham wasn’t called “Lewisham Shopping Centre” in a startlingly functional way. No, it was known back then as the Riverdale Centre. I mean, there is a nearby river in Lewisham and I can see why they didn't name it after the river itself. After all, very few people are likely to go shopping in the Quaggy Centre. Doesn’t really give off that whole “come shop here” vibe.
In the shopping centre were shops (that much is a given for a shopping centre). Exciting as Woolworths, Our Price and WHSmith’s** were, there was one reason to go into the Riverdale. The clock. The clock with the people in it.
Not real people obviously. No, I think if there were a clock in a shopping centre that was inhabited by real people, that would elevate it much further beyond the realm of the merely creepy. No, these were a selection of exaggerated caricature style figures that were hidden behind alcoves covered by a curved door; a door that would slide on the hour while a song played to which would move around.
I don’t remember the specific figures (see picture below for the full terror of these supposedly family friendly horrors) but I do remember the crushing disappointment I would feel if there was a trip to the shops without us crossing the hour threshold so we could see them. I can only imagine how bored my parents and grandparents must have been at having to feign interest in them every time.
As with any shopping centre, Lewisham has undergone periods of renewal and regeneration and it was during one of these revamps that the clock was removed. I have to admit, there’s still a little part of me inside that feels a little disappointed whenever I venture inside and the clock is still nowhere to be seen.
* I mean, I guess they’d be known to animals as the 1980s as well if animals have any real sense of the concept of time as is familiar to humans.
** Only one of these is still going at the time of writing (2019).