Philip Treacy hat www.ShopCurious.com

Susan makes an error of judgement and finds herself in Westfield…

If I had a pound for every time I’ve clipped my alloy wheels on a badly designed car park entrance/exit, I’d be a wealthy woman by now. The other time this seems to happen is when my mother is in the car, wittering in my ear, as I’m trying to park.  Last Sunday, I was planning to take her to the Hammersmith vintage fair, but in a moment of madness, I decided to go to Westfield instead. This is something I never wish to repeat.

Why on earth do people flock to a large building, lacking natural light and air, and full of chain stores – when they can shop online for the same goods from the comfort of their homes? It reminded me of a down market version of Heathrow Terminal 5. Unfortunately, the champagne bar, located in a section bizarrely named The Village, bore little resemblance to a first class lounge. This soulless enclave of ‘luxury’ shops appeared to have more staff and security guards than customers, whereas some of the other stores were struggling to meet demand – in one case, heaps of discarded clothes were strewn across the floor.

I wanted to ask visitors why they were there. Perhaps it was a place for people from the local council estates to keep warm on a cold winter’s day? Though the number of cars parked below told a different story. This is obviously a ‘destination’ – a haven for tourist shoppers, material girls, their friends… and mothers.  Luckily, I managed to find my car and get out asap – thankfully without scraping my wheels. Both QPR and Fulham were playing at home. The traffic was a nightmare.

***

Talking of which, my mother sold an old autograph book in a sale at Bonhams last week. In it were signatures from the likes of WG Grace, along with cricket and football teams from 1907-8. It made me wonder how people choose a team in the first place. Might your favourite colour, for instance, affect your decision to support a team? Perhaps a brand that appeals – like Emirates, Samsung, or Pirelli?

Or, how about a family allegiance?  Mine came from North West London, so were naturally Queen’s Park Rangers supporters. But when my grandparents moved north, they started following Arsenal. So is it location? My father was a lifelong Arsenal supporter, and I duly inherited his football ephemera, including dozens of match programmes. I now live within striking distance of both Fulham and Chelsea – and, because I can see Chelsea stadium from my window – especially at night, when it is lit up like a giant glow-worm, I feel that I should support the blues (even though I’ve absolutely no interest in or knowledge of how they’re faring). But what accounts for the huge global following of teams such as Manchester United?

***

Befuddled by motherly multiloquence, I ended up traipsing to the London College of Fashion for talk that is due to take place in a month’s time. Nevertheless, it provided for an encounter with some curious hats (see above), which could come in handy if your mother is visiting. Later in the week, I fought back tears on a visit to the Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House.  In its final week, the show was almost as busy as Westfield… full of power-dressed women elbowing each other out of the way to catch a glimpse of tulle, georgette and crepe de chine. Some of the handcrafted creations were so breathtakingly beautiful that I came over all emotional. Though, on reflection, it may just have been relief that my mother had finally gone home. 

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

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  1. Mahlerman on Tuesday 5, 2013

    Would it be safe to assume that your mum doesn’t have an internet connection?

    • Susan on Tuesday 5, 2013

      Surprisingly, my mother is fairly computer literate, having been trained in the library she previously worked at. She does have broadband, but her computer is a late 20th century model (HP I think) – its clunky paraphernalia takes up half a bedroom. Not quite as cool as an original Bondi blue iMac (one of which I have somewhere in storage), though probably a collectors’ item by now.

      She’s recently learned how to use a mobile phone too, via a transition period of around 10 years – during which she owned a mobile, but kept it switched off: it was just for emergencies.

  2. Worm on Tuesday 5, 2013

    I’d be fascinated to know what your mother thought of the idea of going to a vintage fair with you Susan – when I suppose that practically everything on offer there from the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s would be the sort of everyday things that she spent her whole life around. Would she think it a bit bonkers? I know my grandmother would. I’m now imagining a strange day in the future where my grandchildren take me to a vintage fair and they all coo over original ipods and macbooks…

    • Susan on Tuesday 5, 2013

      The only thing she would think bonkers, Worm, would be all the things she’s thrown out or given away over the years… I’m not sure I could bear the “I used to have a dress/hat/bag/pair of gloves/necklace/scarf/coat/powder compact just like that.”

      Aren’t kids already cooing over all the original Mac toys? By the time you have grandchildren it’ll be the Wii Fit and those godawful Olympic mascots, Mandeville and Wenlock…

  3. malty on Tuesday 5, 2013

    With you all the way on Valentino Susan, one of the rare instances of fashion as art.
    Our indigenous population seems to have taken to the shopping mall like lemmings to a cliff. For a number of years I used to drive past a large haugh, that flat area of land next to a river. Jammed between a hill covered in sixties semi-detached houses and the river Tyne, the haugh itself spattered with a dead power station and those little concrete roofed buildings that may or may not have had something to do with the defence of the realm in the early forties, rubble dumps everywhere, the view across the Tyne included the Vickers tank works and the corpse of Scotswood road, once a vibrant community, now a training ground for ram-raiders. Desolation alley, Ken Loach would have loved it, rauschenberg should have painted it.
    Then someone said there was to be a shopping complex built on the site “what, you must be joking.” No they weren’t and up it went, finance courtesy of the Church of England commissioners, all railroaded through by an individual called Hall, an alleged architect who had so much faith in the project not a penny from his own purse went into the kitty. And so, like the Lampton Worm, it grew and grew and grew an awful size. Blighting an already blighted landscape, it’s siren call, like a cathedral bell, calling the faithful, come worship at the shrine, it’s twin towers, John Lewis and M&S the first wagons in the circle. I visited it’s hallowed halls once, the parents of one my daughters friends opened a restaurant, we were invited to the opening “give ‘em twelve months” said frau m, they lasted eight.

    So the ball started rolling, the Metro Centre, not the first but probably the kick-starter for the turgid shopping experience, towns within a one hundred mile radius laid on special buses, worshippers flocked, dressing up for the occasion, in flocked the cash, the appropriate Abba soundtrack and Ikea.

    • Susan on Tuesday 5, 2013

      I’m sure many Dabbler readers enjoy the comments more than the posts… and this is a great example! Malticiously brilliant and bonkers.

      • Peter on Tuesday 5, 2013

        More brilliant than bonkers, methinks, Susan. I drive around town in amazment at how the parking lots of our many shopping centres are now full almost every day of the year. The daily news brings word of credit crunches and folks struggling to lessen debt loads, but there they all are. What in the world are they doing? Is this a 21st century version of the stroll in the park?

        • Susan on Tuesday 5, 2013

          Could well be ‘a stroll in the park,’ Peter – whereas the hedge fund managers are jogging?

  4. George on Tuesday 5, 2013

    Team allegiances: my nieces exemplify both tendencies. The younger is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles because she likes the team colors. The older roots for the Oakland Raiders because my brother despises them.

  5. John Halliwell on Tuesday 5, 2013

    I went just once to a newly-opened Trafford Centre in the wonderfully named Dumplington, Greater Manchester. My carer, for that is what she professes to be, said: ‘You’ll love it!’ I didn’t, I hated it – the mock this, the mock that, the masses, the cacophony in the dining hall: was this what lunch at San Quentin sounded like? No wonder Jimmy Cagney went berserk; it was nothing to do with the death of his mother. I don’t think I’d been quite so disturbed since, as a 12 year old, I wandered into the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds, Blackpool, and through a murky green light saw the poisoner, Louisa Merrifield, with rope around neck, stood on the trapdoor, and Albert (‘It’s all in a day’s work to me, lad”) Pierrepoint, hangman, about to pull the lever. I said to my brother and his girlfriend “Can we go into the next room, I feel sick?” We did and found a Japanese soldier with blood dripping from his sword having chopped off the head off someone who had clearly upset him. I shall not be returning to the Trafford Centre, nor, for that matter, to Madame Tussauds.

  6. malty on Tuesday 5, 2013

    Susan’s post and Mahlerman’s comment raises an intriguing question. What proportion of wrinklydom is without the appropriate computing skills. Depends on the definition of a wrinkly, many over the age of seventy five would, I would guess, have missed the boat. Personally, my journey and many others, down the rocky road started in the mid sixties with, gulp, the analogue version and, via the BBC micro in the seventies and Unix with SPARC architecture from the eighties onward leaving me somewhat jaundiced, they ain’t that clever and Gates is the worlds luckiest entrepreneur. So, bright young things working in Currys-PC World, the next time a greying chap or lady elicits interest in one of your laptop wotsits, don’t try and dumb him or her down, they can probably programme in C.

  7. John Halliwell on Tuesday 5, 2013

    ‘It made me wonder how people choose a team in the first place. Might your favourite colour, for instance, affect your decision to support a team? Perhaps a brand that appeals – like Emirates, Samsung, or Pirelli? Or, how about a family allegiance? Mine came from North West London, so were naturally Queen’s Park Rangers supporters. But when my grandparents moved north, they started following Arsenal. So is it location?’

    I suspect very often it is location, Susan, and on that basis I am a follower of Manchester United. But I had a secret as I stood on the Old Trafford terraces as a boy in the fifties, and it rose almost, but not quite, to the surface once a season when Preston North End arrived. They were led by a smallish, unassuming, crinkly-haired genius who could play with great distinction in any position across the forward line. His name was Tom Finney. I always wanted PNE to win and for Finney to turn the United defence inside out, which he often did. And I’d never been to Preston; I would have had difficulty placing it in the right part of Lancashire. But the first footballer I’d read about was the player they called The Preston Plumber and he captured my imagination like no other until Duncan Edwards arrived. These days my heart is with poor little Preston and all because of Finney.

  8. Mahlerman on Tuesday 5, 2013

    So, if your mother is indeed webbed-up, might she already have discovered via your post that her ‘witterings/multiloquence’ throw you into a state of discombobulation, and that your tears of emotion were in fact tears of joy? The internet is a spooky place….you can go in as a pig, and come out as a sausage.

    • Susan on Tuesday 5, 2013

      oops, am I being dim… seems I missed the point of your original comment MM. Shame there’s no inflection of speech on the Internet. Anyways, like most fortunate people I take my mother for granted/she drives me mad/I love her to bits/she is human and has a sense of humour (I hope…)