A couple of burning desires took me to Westfield yesterday. I was almost lead by a kind of hypnotic, compulsion to see this temple of shopping. And the crazed desire to find a unique and funky little wedding outfit for my four year old. Along the local high street it is quite difficult to find interesting children’s clothing; especially boy’s and I didn’t want my son to look like a midget minor of the catering staff. I needed to have access to several different shops in the one shopping experience.
Immediately it was stress. My mother got stuck in a traffic jam then couldn't park. Though she did like the idea of having a green or red light above each space to show if it was vacant, just like a lavatory. I was already inside and her hysterical voice through my phone grated my nerves. Two hours, that's it! I wanted to try and enjoy this.
Once we were all out of the depths of the car park we ventured into a corner of the complex. We needed a map to find certain shops in the labyrinth of signs and sales and escalators and people. It was just all so big, busy and overwhelming. It felt like we were in a giant ant farm of retail hungry insects scurrying to their large trade coves then out again. And I was one of them. Having left this little outfit to the last minute, I too was in a frantic rush.
It was hard not to feel a little spaced out in this massive air-conditioned cube. Shops were lined up like regimented retail soldiers marching with brightly coloured uniforms and bayonets to pop music, trying to entice people into their businesses.
It was a very individual experience, not a fun family outing browsing for cute little suits. Everyone was caught up in a world of their own, driven by a need to get in, get out and get it done. People were focused, hurried and irritated with an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude. We went into some children’s clothes retailers and we could have been anywhere in London. We queued for the changing rooms like we queued to give them our money. It was just another generic homogenous experience, which wasn’t unpleasant, it just wasn’t unique.
On the way out we queued again to pay for our parking. Getting out of the car park was an even more traumatic experience; there was a traffic jam and half an hour of impatient, frustrated beeping.
Serves me right. Next time I think I will just stick to my local high street.
Written by Lauren Ottaway for Diana Bird.