I enter Europe’s largest shopping centre from the South, noting that they have been sensible enough to stick to basic euclidean geometry with their names and navigational aids. Should I have brought a compass? It would be reassuring to know that, so long as one walks in a straight line for long enough, one will eventually be back in society. One of the first indications of the Westfield Uncanny is the presence of a shopping centre. It’s called The Village, and apparently contains high-end clothing brands. They should have made this their advertising slogan – “Westfield shopping centre: so massive, it’s got a shopping centre in it.”
Indoors, I begin to bottle it, leading me to break one of the first rules of the flaneur (‘thou shalt utilise all five senses wherever possible’). I fumble for my ipod, twiddle its wheel a few times, and find the reassuring rumble of Joy Division. Once ‘Twenty Four Hours’ has come on, and Ian Curtis’s threatening baritone is booming through my ears, I feel a little safer. “So this is permanence/love’s shattered pride.” So it would seem, Ian, so it would seem.
Where now? What? (Don’t even attempt to deal with ‘why?’) At this point you must let your body and psyche take over. One presumes that each aisle has been expertly designed to maximise flow of bodies, without diminishing attention to logos. I’m waiting for Mike Davis to publish a book explaining how the smell has been designed in order to inculcate greater psychological tolerance of credit card debt. The logos are surprisingly familiar – Boots, WH Smith, Next. Have they erected Europe’s largest shopping centre, simply to rub our faces in the banality of retail? This is the equivalent of building St Pauls Cathedral in order to let some ageing vicar mumble on about his hopes for the parish jumble sale. I expected Westfield to be a brand universe unto itself. As things stand it might have been easier to simply put a roof over Maidstone.
I’m wandering around in circles, aware that I’m clinging to the Southern District like a swimming novice clings to the side of the pool. But that’s where Shepherd’s Bush tube is closest to! If I ever make it to the Northern Quarter, I fear that the nearest means of public transport will be some rural hopper in the Oxfordshire countryside. “Just for one moment,…