But look what happens when the Spaniards start using mannequins. They take human detail and mannerism more than a shade further than we do in the UK (or everywhere else I have ever been for that matter).
In general, our mannequins have no facial features, smoothed to cool humanoid abstraction. Spanish mannequins actually leer. You worry they are going to creep after you back to your home and murder you bloodily in your sleep. You’ll wake up to the sound of your own screaming and find some little plastic bastard’s stuck a screwdriver through your kidneys. I mean seriously, who is going to think “But yes, ay carumba, that little frock will look beautiful on young Esperanza, especially now I’ve seen it modelled by Chucky from ‘Child’s Play’”.
But come to think of it, I have an inkling of where they got the taste for these weirdly over-wrought figures…
See if you can match the following captions with the images taken last weekend in Bristol, which I was visiting to enjoy the St Werburghs Festival:
1. A reveller outside the Minor’s Arms flounced off his binge on ecstasy pipes (or horse tranquilliser). He carries in his pocket a book entitled: “How to fossilise your hamster”
2. An unusual and ghostly close friend of mine guarding two teacups of cider brandy on top of St Werburghs hill at 5AM
3. A witty graffito drawing an analogy between the hysteria or jaundiced consumerism of popular culture and current political events
4. A shopkeeper’s attempt to con some Gloucester Road shopper into a purchasing a lame and tatty item on the basis of endearing humour
5. A remnant of clothing being attacked by a rogue element of road-marking.
6. “Bringing down the system / sticking it to the man”
If you do manage to solve this brainteaser, then send me your answers and I will see if I can bring myself to read them.
Puerto Banus is not known for its modesty. It is a pretty bling place crawling with Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and the port always has a fairly overwhelming haul of outrageous luxury yachts in its moorings.
You can really start to feel sick of the excess, but you know you are dealing with a really sick mind when you find this for sale:
Yes, that’s right – for the brat who has every conceivable thing already, why not shock even Mammon with your vulgarity and buy her a diamante encrusted Hannah Montana Wii for a grand. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. This was on sale in El Corte Ingles – a mall packed with unsellable miles of racks of expensive clothing – it makes you gag and boggle (aka baggling).
The consumer culture is massive on the Costa del Sol. Mind there are some upsides, namely in terms of food. The supermarket, Hipercor, puts even Whole Foods to shame (well, not in the fresh meat section). Have a look at the outrageous Iberico Ham department (!!), fresh seafood counters and the good 40m of cheese counterage. Foodies could spend some time here…
There are many fabric shops on the Goldhawk Road, heaving with all sorts of bizarre and bling reams of textiles. if you like glittery fabric, I recommend a visit – you will have never seen such wonders. Walking into one of these plush emporia is like entering the royal harem of Babylon (if Darius had had a penchant for polyester and was looking to save a few quid). I have absolutely no doubts that MC Hammer’s trousers were cut from Goldhawk Road cloth.
Now I know these places can be a bit natty, even sketchy. I once saw one of them being raided by the rozzers – it was the front for a (quite surprisingly large) drugs operation. So I expect the fabulous and the gaudy but my heart skipped a beat when I saw what one unhinged window-dresser has created. Evidently after a good bucket of PCP.
Hang on a second… Is this serious? Is the merchant psychotic? Am I psychotic? Or is this some perverse parody of the film Mannequin?
Henry VIII squatting in a yurt of spangled drapes… Look at the elegant pose, the jaunty cap, the sparkling jewelleries, the butter-stained ruff, the arrogant lust in the eye of the king! The vignette was created by a craftsman so skilful, it would take Shelley to capture his majestic eye for detail.
You have to wonder what they are hoping to achieve, who they are hoping to attract to their wares. Probably the queen. I am sure she likes MC Hammer.
So the biggest shopping centre in Europe has opened on the doorstep of many a bemused West Londoner. We all knew it was coming. I loved the cranes hovering over the building site for so many years. But nothing could have prepared me for the epic scale of the place when I visited in the flesh today. It is vast. It is opulent. It is bizarre.
It is also heaving with just about everyone. And that is perhaps the most bizarre thing about it. Surely we are in the onslaught of an economic collapse? Not according to this lot:
The Westfield has a lot which commends it to shoppers. It has every sort of shop from a Valentino boutique to a Halifax; it is bright and airy; the shops all have very high ceiling heights which really make it feel quite spacious and less claustrophobic; there is an endless choice of places to eat; all in all it is likely to make good on the centre’s backers’ hopes that Westfield will be the most impressive shopping location in Europe.
But it is so surreally indulgent, so staggeringly vast that it must be a grand experiment to see what happens when you give consumers everything they want. And those consumers were certainly biting off all they could chew. A momentum of buying ran through the mob. You could sense in them the thrill of the purchase (taking the place of the thrill of the hunt in the modern world).
But this is not the future. This gargantuan shopper’s heaven is a monument to the economic mindset of yesteryear. It was conceived, planned, and constructed during the boom years when everyone seemed to believe they could have everything for nothing, that they could borrow five times their salary to buy a house and get some spending money on top, that they could mortgage their houses and spend the money on luxuries intending to pay it off as house prices rose higher; credit card and debt consolidation companies alike did a roaring trade; the bankers laid down stomach-churning bets on the international casino with money they did not think about eventually having to repay; people massed up enormous debts on snowballing 0% a.p.r. credit card transfers; building societies joined the mortgage rush and Gordon Brown borrowed as much as he possibly could either a. to make public services look well funded or b. to put the British economy in a desperately weak position.
The recessional momentum has not caught up with us yet. We are not feeling the pinch properly even though we know it is coming. And in a few months time when the dark times have started to set in, what will come of the Westfield centre? Will it be deserted or will credit cards flash out of wallets and shine forth upon those crowded malls? Will we have built Jerusellem in the Shepherd’s dark Satanic bush?
Maybe it won’t look like such a good investment then. Who knows? From the sheer bloody-minded faith in credit-fuelled consumption on display at Westfield today, maybe the British public will spend its way out of recession. Hmmm.
A lot of the locals would be happy to see the whole place fall into a great chasm. At least the view would be better than looking on to a big fat corporate wall. Look at that banner (H&F is the local council). You have to feel sorry for them…