Goodbye, Wilko's, and Memories of Childhood

@livinguktaiwan mentioned in a chat recently that wilkos has been shut down in a certain place in the UK.

I was surprised at how much this got me all introspective and reminiscent. Wilkos' was called Wilkinson's when I was growing up, and since I left in 2010, I had no idea they changed the name to what everybody called it anyway, in 2014.

Well, it's a failing business now after 70 years or so, founded in my hometown, Leicester. Another fact I didn't know. But it was always a kind of staple in any given highstreet of small towns. There was always a Wilko's, and it brought back a flood of memories for me just hearing the name after so long.

I grew up in and around Leicester, with divorced parents, so I would visit my mum on weekends where she lives, an old mining town called Coalville (Creative name) NorthWest of Leicester city.


I remember when young my dad would drop me off and I'd be happy, but when he picked me up, I'd get pretty car sick. Never on the way, only on the return. Clearly it was psychological. I very much didn't want to go back home and school. My weekends with my mum and step dad, although only twice per month (because that seemed like a good idea to the courts at the time), was like a mini vacation to me.

My dad was... ok, but it was my mum who focussed on actually caring for me and my development. My school said I had a problem with concentration, so we would go to Wilkos and buy, for example, a few balls of colourful wool.

Wilkinson's in Coalville.

She'd teach me to crochet and I'd spend hours jsut crocheting a ball of wall into another, crochet'd ball of wall, then move on to the next colour. We'd turn them into christmas decorations and hang them all over the house, down the stairs, on the ceiling, and i'd spend a weekend trying to make it as long as possible. I'd even continue it the following time I came over lol.

But this improved my concentration significantly. I think it's pretty genius.

We'd also get a couple of notebooks from Wilko's where I'd just double numbers until the book was full.

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64......all the way until the numbers were absurdly long like 3472928572940865938723908472395827305862907582903567829560298375928365275980236427365428650, and I'd just keep going. It would take a long time to double it, but eventually I figured out the routine. No calculator of course. For some God forsaken reason, I loved it. I'd go on road trips with my step dad, waking up at the crack of dawn to go to the truckyard, travel the UK shipping cars around, and I'd be in the bed at the back, doubling numbers in my notebook, or making a tally list of car colours or registration plates' starting letters, or car brands. See what was trending at the time and place I guess.

All these bizarrely mundane ideas were fascinating to me. Wilko's was a treasure trove of activities. Pick n' mix sweets or pet food, all sorts.

My mum would have me help her do the gardening, planting flowers and such. I'd have my own little triangle corner in the garden to grow what I felt like, and Wilko's was the place to go to buy the gardening forks and troughs.

We'd decorate every room of the house a different colour. Teracotta for the bathroom, orange for her bedroom, light blue for my own little room downstairs when I was a bit older, and red & black for my bedroom, purple for my sister's bedroom (I think), light yellow for the kitchen. Pretty garish in hindsight but it was more about the value of learning these skills than the outcome. I still think it looked great.

We'd get the paint from bigger stores like B&Q. We'd do the floors with new carpets or wood, from B&Q, too. But Wilkos was the place to be! Looking in a shop nowadays it looks a lot more... normie. It's laid out like a standard supermarket or something but this was certainly not the case in the Coalville wilkos all those years ago as a kid. Felt like a wonderland of opportunity.


I couldn't resist and went on Google Maps to check it out but unfortunately it's in a shopping centre so you can't go in, but this lead me to explore the town once again, a place I haven't been to since perhaps 2006.

I saw the two homes we used to live in, one on a street called Charnwood street when I was a little boy, and after that, Burgess road. Seeing them instantly gave me a deep feeling of melancholy, or loss, or something. There was a colourful mix of emotions. I have returned to England multiple times but never once went back to Coalville.

So when I checked it out and toured the streets, it was like being transported back to childhood. Oh man, the things I remembered. I feel like although I was only there 2 days per 2 weeks (4 days a month with my some vacations), the memories were much richer and fulfilling than the everyday life I lived in what I consider my 'hometown' of Blaby.

I guess this is a bit long so I'll do the tour I had in mind in a follow-up blog.

But yeah, I wonder how these memories affect all of our present selves. Clearly a pretty innocuous shop had a far more profound effect on my development than I realised, and was a fantastic place for my mum to supply herself with incredible parenting equipment for the depressingly short time she got with me each month.

I guess we rarely appreciate something until it's gone. I hadn't even thought of the shop for even half a second over the last 15 years, and yet it has this fairly firm grip on my soul in a pretty weird way.

So strange.

Goodbye, Wilkinson's!

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