I went to London, this week, to be interviewed by a social worker on behalf of friends desiring to adopt a child. Such a long way to travel and a rare opportunity to meet friends afterwards, we conspired to rendezvous at Westfield Stratford, study the Olympic Park in progress and share a meal before wending our weary ways home. What an eye opener.
The tube, always one of the least attractive aspects of London and that day home to a suicide at Embankment, has further disintegrated into a heaving and entombing mass of sweaty, seething, censorious humanity. Ears afflicted by tinny tones, shallow conversation and neighing guffaws (trust me that was just the businessmen), I alighted into a bottle neck of eager worshippers tortuously snaking down steps and through doors to the temple to materialism which is Westfield.
Propelled through doors, a mere panic attack away from the station entrance, Westfield is the essential experience for the 21st century. Thousands of bodies bejewelled, bedecked and often prancing on six inch killer heels and platformed soles, writhed, seethed and simpered their way around the modern day tower of Babel. Every class, colour, creed and nationality appeared to be represented. Literally thousands of bodies being whisked up and down elevators, in and out of units, queuing for LSD styled thrills in artificially darkened retail outlets. This truly is The Age of Aquarius. Fondling coats and jackets priced at hundreds of pounds a piece whilst validating and venerating the creators, true worshippers were satiated.
Across a bridge spanning railway tracks (literally and obviously on the wrong side of the tracks) lies Stratford Broadway; the old, dishevelled, fast-becoming-redundant shopping centre – reeling in the shadow of its larger, glossier, endlessly more decadent successor – which has faithfully served its impoverished community for more than twenty years. Surrounded by struggling, dingy and depressing independent shops whose exteriors – and interiors – are rundown, familiar, once-essential aspects of the traditional environment of East London, Stratford Broadway (where shawls cost a pound and coats, eight), appears to hear its own death knell and eulogy.
No juxtapositioning could better sum up the cause of UK rioting and dissatisfaction. Yet the faithful pilgrims, consumed by their passion, fail to notice the plague already rooted in their midst as they blithely worship at a shrine in which not one single shop is life sustaining or prolonging.
I invite you, I encourage you – visit Westfield Stratford. Don’t just take my word for it; stand and watch – go to hell yourself.