The lamp-lighter is as much a part of London's past as the pea-soup fogs -- but it looks as if gas lighting has returned to the British capital, at least during the current power crisis.
GV Oxford Street and traffic
CU "Sale" sign in window
CU Sign "Bargains Galore"
CU Crowded pavement
SV Display lights taken down
CU Sign in window showing opening and closing times
CU Sign "Energy Crisis" advertising gas lamps
SV Shopkeeper lighting gas lamps
SV Car batteries in window and sign "OPEN AS USUAL"
SV IMT. Shop assistant uses gas light to show customer coat
CU Sign in window "SORRY, NO LIGHTS"
SV Track out from single gas lamp in shop doorway to unlit windows
SV INT. Woman tries on shoes by gaslight
SV Men looking in man's shop window lit by gas lamps
CU Window sign "POWER EMERGENCY, WE ARE GENERATING OUR OWN ELECTRICITY"
SV Lights burning in shop
LV Shoppers in Street
Initials SC/2028 SC/2103
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Background: The lamp-lighter is as much a part of London's past as the pea-soup fogs -- but it looks as if gas lighting has returned to the British capital, at least during the current power crisis.
The gas lamps are being used in London's shops, to supplement electric lighting and, in some instances, as a substitute. An overtime ban by the nation's coal-miners, industrial action by electrical workers and restrictions put on exports by Arab oil producers have combined to produce a need for drastic legislation by the government. Now laws have banned the use of electricity for window displays, and restricted the number of days that shops may open for business.
The last week in December is the traditional time for the mid-winter sales in the stores. The sales started on Thursday (27 December) -- the first trading day after Christmas. Initially, shops reported that the number of customers was down on last year's count -- by as much as two-thirds. But by Friday (28 December), the volume was picking up
There are also problems in public transport. London's Bus and underground services are badly understaffed, and many trains are not running because of a pay dispute between British Railways and one of the Unions. but despite the problem of getting the shoppers into London's West End, the stores on the whole seem happy with the situation. As one store manager said, "no fantastic rush, but better than expected with the rail go-slow."
SYNOPSIS: The mid-winter sales have begun in shops along London's Oxford Street. The sales are an annual event, beginning during the week following Christmas. This year, there's a different atmosphere along England's most famous shopping street.
To say the atmosphere was not electric would be true - government regulations have curtailed the use of electric lights for commercial purposes, in an attempt to conserve energy. But gas lighting is not subject to the restriction and is being used as an alternative, and sometimes a substitute, by shop-keepers.
The situation is mainly due to the energy crisis facing Britain. The nation's coal miners and electricity workers have taken industrial action to draw attention to their pay claims. The Arab oil producers' cut-back in exports has helped to create the power shortage.
The mid-winter sales began on Thursday, the first trading day after the Christmas holiday. Initially, shops reported that custom was down -- in some cases by as much as two-thirds under last year's figures -- but now, trade is picking up, and the store managers are happy, with the bargain-hunters out in force.
Some shops have their own generators, which the government allows, and they're able to light their display windows. But for some the gas lamps bring back memories of the days before electricity.