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Giles Coren is just popping to the corner shop. Because he can.

By Time Out London contributor
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Like any Londoner, I can measure out my life in trips to the corner shop: riding down there on my first bicycle for cola chews and The Beano; then in my teens for underage cigarettes, Tennent's Extra and The Sun; as a student for Pot Noodles, vodka and The Guardian; then in my twenties for Loyd Grossman pasta sauces and Bulgarian merlot at £1.49 a bottle.

Now, as a parent, I run in there for milk, nappies and stain remover, and to chuckle with old Mr Patel (his daughter does the work, he does the nattering) at the very idea of calling Moeen Ali a test match off-spinner. And when I am old I shall go in for medicated toilet tissue, pet food and The Daily Telegraph.

At least, I hope I will. For in recent years the local convenience store has been under threat from the march of the supermarkets. Which is why I was so pleased to read that corner shops are making a bit of a comeback. According to a survey of 20,000 shoppers, the value of the average local convenience store transaction, after years of decline, rose last year from £6.05 to £6.52. This is brilliant news, because supermarkets simply cannot reach the parts that a corner shop can.

In modern times they have become the epicentre of local life, replacing pub and church as the place you are most likely to bump into neighbours, swap gossip and generally put your life in order. This is particularly true in London, where they are buoyant, multicultural spaces crammed with goods and people from around the world, as opposed to the rural village shop, which is where white people gather to complain about the weather, tut at newcomers and rummage in a jar of humbugs left over from before the war.

In the early post-imperial era, the corner shop served as a relatively genial interface between indigenous Londoners and those newly arrived from the collapsing Empire. The send-'em-home Alf Garnett types of the 1960s and '70s were gradually softened by daily interaction with the Asian couple who sold them their booze, fags and newspaper - readying them for a future in which the couple's children would be their doctor, accountant and lawyer.

Like most people, I toyed briefly with our local 'mini' supermarket when it opened. But I could never warm to a place (and such a chilly place!) that did away with people at the checkout and put in automatic tills whose parents had no opinion about the cricket at all. Nor do they sell anything I'd want to buy. Just the same 100 items nationwide (80 percent of them directly implicated in the obesity crisis) stacked three feet deep and spotlit all to hell. Sure, they will never run out of Pringles or 7UP or tasteless tubular carrots stored at the freezing point of helium. But the chances of finding harissa, lima beans or a screwdriver in there are minimal.

Your corner shop, though, depending on where the owners come from, might stock 47 types of feta, flatbreads from 11 countries across the Levant or Polish sausage in 12 degrees of coarseness. They'll have kids' toys, coal, A4 refill pads, tights, dried pulses of every hue and greetings cards (a little dusty) for everything from 'Happy 30th birthday, Nan!' to 'Congratulations on your pet snake'.

There'll be a Haribo stand, cat litter, a barrel of footballs, some fizzy fruit drink unknown outside one small Caribbean island, a Post Office counter and three gigantic grey-green fruit that you suspect may in fact be armadillos. And if there is something you want that they haven't got, they'll get it for you. Because they are local and cater for local needs, unlike the mini-supers which are stocked centrally and flog the same shit in Pinner as they do in Penzance.

Best of all, corner shop owners pay their own electricity bills, which means that they only refrigerate the things that need refrigerating, instead of the whole bloody shop. So you won't freeze your nuts off just walking in.

Don't ask for credit. Tweet him @gilescoren.

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