I’m not so sure that soft cream marble was the right choice of material for the floors of the spangly new toilets at Westfield. Lino would have at least been cheap to replace when stained brown with bladder drippings. Yuck.
[Is anyone else alarmed by my proclivity for sanitational photography? It is a bad habit, methinks]
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…