Shop ‘Til You Drop?
The command has come down from on high, against the advice of scientists. We must all rush back to Oxford Street, hurdling the partitions, one-way systems, guards and staff armed with antiseptic sprays to…er, browse for knick-knacks.
My mother-in-law in Australia tells me they had near-riots when the shops reopened there, people fighting to get in. The McDonalds branches opened at midnight and the tailbacks for small flat pink discs of mechanically rendered meat went for miles.
That won’t happen here. The government is already talking about VAT reductions to lure wary British punters into stores, but I’ve had four months to contemplate product lines and frankly, there’s nothing I need, especially ‘fashion’, which now seems a quaint concept built around thin people in unwearable, unsustainable tat. When it comes to a choice between Hugo Boss and John Lewis, I’ll settle for the latter now. Boss doesn’t even make house pants!
Perhaps you recall the absurd ‘fashion’ brand Abercrombie & Fitch, with its threatening guards daring you to grope about in the dark for its obscenely overpriced t-shirts. They didn’t even wait for the lockdown to go bust. To me they represented everything that was wrong with the concept of shopping.
When we were children the idea of shopping as an activity as opposed to a necessity would have seemed absurd. To spend the entire day shopping, or better yet, going to a vast mall, or better yet, going on a trip to another country to visit a shopping village would have seemed to height of lunacy, pointless, offensive, profligate.
Even so, I’d love to take a walk into the West End though, just to see what’s going on. Unfortunately I can’t travel very far yet – I’ve become tethered by my body. It’s a pity because I’d like to go to the big Waterstones bookstore near me. I’ve been trying to get their website to accept payment for months without success, as opposed to the delightful Strange Attractor Press website, whose owner personally posted me a copy of the book I needed.
Since we now shop at our peril (I guess my story ‘Dale and Wayne Go Shopping’ proved a little more prescient than I’d intended) it puts a fun element of danger into an outing to buy socks. The bigger challenge will be encouraging anyone to visit a socially distanced venue, a half-empty hall bringing the smell of death into most theatres and concerts that survive on the energy of communal appreciation. Who wants to file offstage to faint sporadic clapping?
And we don’t go to pubs to drink beer. We go to cram ourselves into a sweaty corner and talk rubbish with like-minded individuals for hours, occasionally supping something wet. After an alcohol-free Lockdown (I could have had a glass of wine, I just didn’t fancy it, plus everything still tastes metallic) I don’t feel the need to charge out at the weekend and ‘catch up’ with mates in the way that I did before. Now we do that online.
When restaurants reopen I’ll pop along to help support them but if I wanted to sit in a hushed half-empty room I’d eat in my mother’s old care home. Going out – it all seems a bit of an effort, no? I’m weighing up the experience of fine dining with having to put my trousers on.
And given the choice between sitting in front of ‘Snowpiercer’ in my jim-jams with a cheese toastie and waxing lyrical about a piece of charcoal-roasted Lebanese cauliflower, I know which I’d now choose, germ-free environment or not.