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The bridge carrying the M25 southwards into Kent juts up, like an awkward insect, beyond the dumpy dome and ready-made cornices of the Thurrock Lakeside shopping centre. The centre and the retail park next to it occupy about two million square feet. Three-and-a-half million people live within 30 minutes’ drive, and on a Saturday most of them seem to be trying to get into its car park.

Lakeside is a strange mixture of flashiness and plain grot. A “vertical feature” tells you the time and temperature as you drive along the M25. Then you turn off past the Essex Arena…

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