11 March, 2006

Mall rat

I went to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre today. It was a trip I'm not intending to repeat anytime soon, or liable to make willingly ever again.

The place is conveniently situated well away from the misleadingly named Brent Cross Underground station, and requires what feels like a never-ending trudge through a multitude of exhaust-filled subways, underpasses, walkways and flyovers to actually reach any of the shops.

It sprawls unhelpfully across titantic carparks, none of which boast any clue as to the nearest way inside, and looks appalling: several squat grey hangars decorated with grey lettering, grey awning and and to all intents and purposes grey lighting as well.

Inside are allegedly over 100 different stores. I could only see about a dozen. But perhaps I was already too tired to go looking for the other 90 odd outlets, having made the mistake of thinking everything was in easy walking distance - as is common in every other shopping centre in the entire country.

It isn't. You don't stroll from shop to shop in Brent Cross, you motor. I didn't see anybody else trying, like me, to walk between each of the buildings. In fact, I felt quite the fool struggling to cross acre upon acre of car park with just my two feet to rely on. This positively militated against me wanting to stay any longer than necessary in my chosen destinations, which in turn led to me to shrink inside a fiercely antagonistic mindset, which culminated in me accidentally jumping a queue and so incurring the wrath of an over-dressed middle aged harridan.

"You pulled a smart one there," she proceeded to bawl at me. "Didn't yer use yer flaming eyes, eh?" I could only offer my profuse apologies. But they did no good. She was revelling in the drama of the moment, and was not going to accept any form of reparation. "Oh no no no, you carry on, you stand there love, you have fun," she spat. The whole shop was watching. I wanted to die.

Once my transaction was over I hurred from the premises as fast as I could. Which, given its size, took about a whole fucking half hour.

Brent Cross was the UK's first shopping centre, built in 1976 but subject to renovation and expansion work ever since. What went on when they were planning the construction of this empire? That it would be easy for the pedestrian? Perish the thought. You need a full tank of petrol and nerves of steel to get anywhere. And that's before you reach the checkout.


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