Why Can’t We Take Photographs in Stores?


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Courtesy of Pixabay.

Courtesy of Pixabay.

In my window-shopping section, I sometimes come across stores that operate a no pictures policy. Even if I state that it’s for a blog about things I admire or (more usually) I’m thinking about buying something but don’t feel well enough to stay in the store* and try it on, or it’s for the house and I have to run it past the other half. If I am told I can’t photograph something, I usually respect this policy (though it’s seldom advertised in store) and blushingly leave.

It can vary from shop to shop, and even shops in the same chain will have different policies. Sometimes the shop assistants will be fine with it (I love those shops, I BUY from those shops and I tell my friends about those shops), and sometimes they tell me not to – nicely (and I respect that) and sometimes, just sometimes, they are very rude about it and make a scene (I tell my friends about these shops too).

Because of this, it does make me think…

Aw, come on. Really? Why?

And so (because I’m not this brave or verbally pugnacious in real life) this is my fantasy debate between a shop assistant and a camera-wielding customer, explaining both sides of the problem. It’s in black and white like a Fellini film; pretentious, moi?:

Hey, HEY – YOU! Yeah, you with the ghastly outfit. Stop taking photos of that pair of boots/ mannequin/ vintage-style urinal!                                              

 Who, me? Sorry, but there’s loads of us doing it. Might I enquire why?

It’s intellectual property theft, you might steal the display idea/ design.              

 If I wanted to steal an idea, I could also sketch the item/ display or just go home and recreate it from memory. You have huge display windows at the front of the store – it is not illegal for me to photograph (or commit to memory) your products from the street.

Anyway, it might be for a personal blog? It could be good publicity.

We have a catalogue.                                                                                                

 If I upload an image from that to my blog, won’t you sue me under breach of copyright – even if I’m not making money off it?

Er, yes. Anyway, how do I know you’re for real? You could be from a rival store doing a price comparison.

I can get that online, there are whole websites dedicated to it, and if this shop were a small boutique, I could write the prices on a pad of paper.

You might be casing the joint; you could set off the security alarm and then film me putting in the code to stop the alarm so you know how to break into the store.

But if I wanted to do that, wouldn’t it just be easier to secrete a camera in a corner of the store and wait for you to lock up rather than film right in front of you and get asked not to. Not to mention drawing attention to my face. You would definitely recognise me in a line-up after this verbal exchange. Anyway, you don’t have a security alarm.

The point still stands

But then I could case this place by just looking around.

Some people photograph the items they want stolen, then a shop lifter will steal the items to order.

I’d hire a shop-lifter? Surely that defeats the point of getting something for free.

It is an invasion of privacy; you are assuming you can take photos of the shoppers.

Lady, I’m zoomed in so close there’s no way your face is getting this picture (so vain, honestly!) let alone anyone else’s. And you are assuming we are willing to be photographed by your security cameras – even in the changing rooms – yeah, I caught you having a sneaky peak. I’ll put away my camera when you do.

Give me the camera, I’m deleting the photos.

Er, you can’t do that.

I’ll get the security guard to throw you out!

You know you could have just asked me nicely in the beginning. I was actually considering buying this bed/dress/ pagan fertility statue. I just wanted to run it past my bedridden grandmother first as it’s actually for her.

We have a website.

She doesn’t have t’internet. She doesn’t even know what it is.

(Pleading) Haven’t you heard of showing some respect? Just respect our shop policy, you wouldn’t like it if I showed up at your house and started taking pictures of everything you own and then lighting up without asking?

Touche! I wouldn’t, but this is public property, my house is private property.

This shop is private property!

But you have invited the public in. I should therefore be OK to take photographs in here as long as it’s OK with the owners. I guess I should have asked permission.

Well, I guess I could have been nicer about it, you are a potential customer after all. (Turns to the security guard) Down Spike! Wait, aren’t you going to buy something?

At these prices and with this customer service, not bloody likely! I just really like what you’ve done with the store and wanted to capture the ambiance. But once you’ve put your store policy up on the wall and gone to charm school, we’ll both know the score and normal business can resume.


So, over to you. What do you think about photography in shops? Right? Wrong? The best way for all parties to get along?

*Note to shop assistants: you may be dealing with someone with a hidden illness.


Like him or not, Stephen Fry is a very useful man


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The fount of all knowledge: I don't agree with everything Stephen Fry says, but sometimes it would be rude not to.

The fount of all knowledge: I don’t agree with everything Stephen Fry says, but sometimes it would be rude not to.

Stephen Fry seems to polarize popular opinion, which is odd for a comic actor. Those who like him, like him an awful lot. Adore him even. After all, whether you matter at all in the world these days is solely quantifiable by the number of Twitter followers you have amassed, and Stephen has 5,966,945.

Those that don’t like Mr Fry are very keen to tell everyone, even sing it from the rooftops.

The charges most frequently laid at his door include the sin of smugness (in his public persona at least), a keenness to pontificate on anything and everything (although he does get paid to do this) and a ubiquity that has lasted my whole lifetime.

However, Stephen Fry possesses a quality that outshines mere likability or even fame. Even fame – that caught your attention, didn’t it?

Stephen Fry can be downright useful.

At least he has been to me. Just when I can’t take the smugness, he goes and proves his worth.

Because of Blackadder, I learned who General Haig was. Because he and Hugh Laurie were plugging the Alliance and Leicester in really bad adverts, I learned what an ISA was.

So I still can’t sit through QI, but when I was revising for my English Literature finals last year, I realised that I didn’t know poetry inside out (which after a decade of studying it is pretty piss poor, I know) so I plucked The Ode Less Travelled by Mr Fry off my book shelf (it had been on the secondary reading list, thank God). Over the course of the following two evenings, Stephen calmly explained metrical feet, the different types of sonnet, heroic couplets et al, helpfully providing little examples of his own and I got a First! So thanks for that, Stephen.

His constant curiosity about all manner of things is coupled with an utter need to tell everyone everything he knows, but this works out well for me.

Even now, in my grown-up life, I have found his ubiquity helps me, though I do not specifically seek it out.  For instance, last week I was given a freelance article to write on HIV tests.

Before sitting down to read all the clinical research, I decided to immerse myself in the history of HIV/AIDS by watching every documentary and film I could. Now, you can watch Longtime Companion, Common Threads, Philadelphia and The Cure and they will make you cry with sadness and anger at the injustice of this cruel illness but Stephen Fry’s 2007 documentary HIV and Me combines human interest with fact after fact and in an informative and non-hysterical manner (which I’ve found isn’t true of every documentary on YouTube). It made me a lot calmer about approaching my article.

We think of the BBC as being traditionally PC and reluctant to tackle uncomfortable aspects of society but Mr Fry did not shy away from including the worrying trend of ‘bug-chasing’, HIV denialist theories in Africa and the complacency of our society now that Antiretroviral Therapy can slow HIV progress. It was so useful; it was almost Everything you ever wanted to know about HIV but were too afraid to ask.

I think we all have useful somebodies in our lives, who will never know the use they’ve been. It could be the bus driver who always smiles even when you’ve had a bad day, the teacher who constructively criticises, the people who remember to hold doors open instead of letting them slam shut in your face or the drivers who flash their lights to let you know about speed cameras. Polite people, smiley people, helpful people. The small details about who you are as a person, though seemingly insignificant, can be so darn useful in the lives of others. Stephen just has a larger platform than most of us.

When the late writer Iain Banks learned he was shortly to die, he wrote letters to everyone who had inspired him during his lifetime. When my time comes, even if I haven’t had the successes I’ve dreamed of, I think Mr Fry would make my list (surely he’ll still be there?) but just in case we miss each other:

Stephen, you may get out of bed hating yourself some days and thinking that a fair proportion of the world hates you too but they (whoever ‘they’ are) do say that if you’ve been of use to just one person then you’ve led a useful life. And you’ve definitely been of help to me. So thank you.


Little Dream


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cloud makers

Yesterday, for a few brief hours, I thought that I would shortly be having an adventure; that I was going somewhere wonderful and would be doing amazing things. I fantasized about telling people about the cool things I’d done when I came back. I dreamed of the Facebook photos I’d post of these cool things in that cool place. Because Facebook is where you catalogue all the good bits. And omit the bad bits.

I prepared a checklist of what I’d take, what I’d leave. Would I need a haircut? Would I need a manicure? Would I need a facial? A wax? Brazilian or Hollywood (ouch)?  Brazilian, definitely Brazilian. Would I need new clothes – oh, what and from where? Dared I imagine the prospect of new shoes? I did.

I wondered if I’d make a new friend or two. Would they be a forever friend, a fleeting friend, a fair-weather friend, a frenemy?  Would we do drunken karaoke? Would they keep the secret of that guilty pleasure song I murdered like a cat strangling an out of tune fiddle? Would I save them from that sleazy man in the corner? Almost, but not quite. And if we just drank more, the memories would hopefully recede.

Would I be able to accurately crystallise a spectacular view in my mind or call upon my senses to recreate the experiences I was shortly to have? I didn’t know but I would certainly try not to take this gift for granted.

Then suddenly, the adventure looked doubtful, and by 4pm the adventure was off.  And although someone would still be going on this journey, it would not be me. All at once, my world shrank back to its tiny, original size and my fantasies of spirit and flights of fancy were returned to that compartment we all have named ‘lost and found: hopes, dreams and superfluous thoughts’, locked away in our hearts.

But what an adventure those few hours of unfettered hope were. Sometimes, I unlock the cabinet and allow myself to stay there for a little while. For the respite.

Smoking in Prague (I)

Some good short stories here and well written too (bonus).


I found myself one afternoon high on methamphetamine and talking to a very serious, slightly tearful, but suicidal meth addict at his spacious apartment in the centre of Prague.

Peter had a straight posture and straight gaze.  He was very handsome, tall, and friendly.  His face was golden and suffering.

‘My cock doesn’t shrink,’ he told me.  His English was perfect with only a hint of a Czech accent.  ‘This shit doesn’t affect me anymore.  I can sleep to.’  He went forward over the the table to snort another line and as he did he said, ‘Do you know, not long ago in Prague we used to work for bread.’

We took his terrier for a walk around the streets.  He loved that dog, it was his only friend.  We drifted through crowds of tourists in a surreal cotton-wrapped world.  It struck me how odd it was in this beautiful…

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Life advice from David Niven


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“Much in life is simply a matter of perspective. It’s not inherently good or
bad, a success or failure; it’s how we choose to look at things that makes the difference.”

Louche man about town, war hero, lothario, David Niven did it all.

Louche man about town, war hero, lothario, David Niven did it all. Photo courtesy of