Tuesday 18 November 2008

Wild um... Westfield

Yesterday, I met Gingerbread Man at Westfield... or Westlife as London Aunt calls it.

For out-of-towners, Westfield is a massive shopping centre in a strange location with very little parking spaces and questionable transport links.

For in-towners, or me at least, it's bizarre.

Now, don't get me wrong, it had an impact on me. In fact, Gingerbread Man found me wandering around mouth agape like a feeding whale...

It's vast!

It also has mini sitting rooms dotted about with comfy retro sofas and armchairs, where men were sat reading newspapers while, presumably, their other halves shopped, got lost or used the circular layout for track running.

But all this, in Zone 2, just felt weird! London is about the hustle and bustle of the streets, the belching buses, the facades of buildings that once housed tailors and snuff box shops becoming enveloped with the bright lights of Tesco Express. It's about rain, tourists holding gigantic maps, and Evening Standard sellers.

To me, Westfield could have been anywhere in the UK and I actually had to force my brain to accept that outside the clinically white walls of this gigantic building really was the bus-belching London with all it’s variety and everchangingness (not a word, I know).

But perhaps this will make Westfield a success – after all, it kind of removes the boundaries of who can go where. In London, Bond Street is littered with posh, rich beautiful people and a fair few ugly ones. But, as an ordinary person, it would never occur to me to do anything other than window shop there – I would feel like an imposing impostor! And, I am sure I am not alone in this. Those shops are so intimidating – the staff seem to check you out to see if you really are capable of spending money.

But in Westfield, Miu Miu and Mulberry all rub shoulders with H&M and New Look, and it’s easy to wander into any of them. Which means people will, and before they know it, they'll own a £600 handbag not a £6 one!

In these credit-crunch times, it’s easy to avoid Prada and favour Primark – you just go to Oxford Street instead of Bond Street but in Westfield there’s no getting away from it, so unless you have steely strong willpower the money will be spent – I think I am going to avoid Westfield altogether.

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