British TV sitcom Are you being served? ran from 1972 to 1985 and was set in the fictional department store of Grace Brothers. It featured the ultra camp John Inman as Mr Humphries, Mollie Sugden as Mrs Slocombe, head of the ladies department, known for her blue bouffant hairdo and her cat which she always referred to naughtily as her pussy, and her cheeky blonde Cockney assistant Miss Brahms, played by the late Wendy Richard.
Captain Peacock was the haughty floorwalker while Young Mr Grace was the ancient, very rich, mean and lecherous owner. It parodied life in an old-style department store and was said to have been inspired by time spent by one of the writers, Jeremy Lloyd, working in the posh Simpsons of Piccadilly.
While it was hilarious and exaggerated, it is hard to believe nowadays that it represented an era when everybody called colleagues by their full title -- 'Ms So-and-So' or 'Mr Dingbat'. One would never have dreamt of being over familiar and addressing each other by their first name.
Unbelievable too to think of floorwalkers, somewhat before my time, who literally did just that all day, making sure the staff were doing their job, customers were happy, and that there was no messing around.
All of that too, of course, was before the arrival of the modern day department store where the long wooden topped counters are gone, you help yourself, and then find a cashpoint to pay.
Arnotts has been one of our great long-term department stores. It has employed thousands of people since it first opened its doors on Henry Street in the mid-1800s -- and it is really traumatic for the people of Dublin, and also for countrywide customers, to think it has been jeopardised as the company embarked on further expansion.
The Nesbitt family has been synonymous with Arnotts down through the years and it was regarded in those times as very much a family business. The staff had great respect for them and it was considered a good place to work.
That apart, Arnotts has played such a major part in many people's lives, being very much a middle-class store while Brown Thomas was that little bit posher.
It's hard to believe in these days of going into M&S and grabbing your 36B bra off the racks that every young girl was taken into Arnotts foundation department to be measured and fitted out, with due solemnity and anticipation, by a lady in a dark cardigan and white blouse for a good Berlei bra! You went in a child and came out feeling 'all grown up' -- you had a secret under your blouse -- a real brassiere just like Mummy!
So many special events were marked with a visit to Arnotts, including the purchase of an evening dress for my first dress dance when I was 16. Mother, father and I, were ushered into a private room with 'Mrs Slocombe' and 'Miss Brahms' in attendance and shown an array of expensive gowns before a magnificent emerald green dupion satin dress with a full skirt, thin straps, and peaked leaves pointing upwards modestly over the bust, was chosen to match my titian tresses.
I felt like Scarlet O'Hara as I looked into the Cheval mirror, only I didn't have to tear down the green velvet curtains as she did to make a dress worthy of impressing Rhett Butler -- or, as in my case, the 18-year-old boyfriend who accompanied me.
My first make-up was bought in Arnotts cosmetic department -- it had the biggest turnover of any in the Dublin stores for years -- run with a rod of iron by a glamorous buyer called Nancy O'Grady who my parents knew.
A few years later another rite of passage came about when I opened my first budget account with Arnotts, or store card as they are now called. The late Olympia Theatre comedian, Jack Cruise, used refer to them as 'budgie accounts' in the pantomime for, when the time came to pay, the bird had flown! When I got married, the bed, the Stag wardrobe, and the sofas were bought, of course, on the 'budgie account' in Arnotts and paid off on a card over 24 instalments.
My two boys, now 23 and 25, were brought into the children's shoe department, where you took a number and waited, to be measured properly for good shoes.
And at Christmas it was time for a visit to the Lego exhibition and Santa Claus. The best santa in Dublin -- with a real beard -- was in Arnotts. A really nice man, his photo is on my bedside table with the boys smiling out happily. No other Santa would ever do -- it had to be Arnotts. All of these trips, of course, involved breakfast or lunch in Arnotts cafe -- at one stage when I was a child it had a waitress-service section.
These days Arnotts has so many areas covered, from school and nurses uniforms to the lovely new Conran shop, and it had seemed to grow so well for and with the times. It seems absolutely horrendous that the store is now under the control of banks who have made such a cock-up of their own businesses.
There are always great characters too to be seen in Arnotts, from the bargain department to the furniture department to the queue in the ladies loo. The salt of the earth, our new immigrant population, people on a day up from the country, the sniffy ladies looking for bedlinen and towels at a good price. And its sales are legendary.
One of my friends worked in Arnotts jewellery department before she married and used to regale us, Ms Brahms-style, of the chitchat and goings on of the staff and the different customers.
"I'm a personal friend of Mr Arnotts" was a favourite of the snooty 'Mrs Bouquet-type' seeking extra attention -- not realising they were only making fools of themselves. "Its pure lure" was another Dublinese enthusiastic expression overheard while the gold and glitter of necklaces were fingered and dangled.
For many Dublin women, Arnotts is still a weekly visit, indeed one older member of my family travelled in from Sandymount every single day of her married life to shop and have coffee there.
For Arnotts is not just a department store -- Arnotts is a way of life.