Ermine in the City – Westfield, a Cathedral to Wants, not Needs

Did some work on the Olympic Park today, while it was hot. It’s the devil’s own job to get a pass to get a vehicle on site, so we ended up carrying a load of test gear on site by hand. Now on TV it doesn’t look that big, but on the ground it’s very spread out, there’s a good 10 minutes walk from one venue to another. That probably isn’t an issue for the public, as you’ll be going to the venue for the sport that you’ve got a ticket for, and there will be a shuttle bus from the entrance direct to the venue.

But after carting a load of gear for a while, it was time for an Ermine to get some refreshment. And what indeed is that before my eyes, but Westfield, shopping centre extraordinaire. Not just any shopping centre, but Official Shopping Centre of London 2012, I’ll have you know.

Westfield, welcome to the Pleasuredome

Okay, so I don’t actually need a casino at the moment, but a bite to eat and a drink, perhaps, at less that £2 together?

Official shopping centre of London 2012, apparently

I’m chuffed that centre is still spelled centre and not center, Westfield presumably paid good money to say it’s the official shopping centre. Just in case you’re too dumb to spot it’s right outside the Olympic Park. Addles the brain, too much shopping does.

When I got into Westfield I realised why nobody in Britain who has got a credit card has got any money left. The place was a cathedral to manufactured wants and solutions to problems that had to be created to exist.

Does anybody use a watch these days? So how come theres a stall selling just watches

When I ask DW if she knows what time it is, she looks at her phone. So does every other person I know. With one exception, which is me, because I don’t generally carry a mobile phone with me. So how the hell does this stall, and the many other brand-specific watch shops like Breitling and DKNY make their money?

Presumably by parting fools from it at a brisk pace. Take Breitling for a moment. Nobody in Westfield needs a chronometer to go to the Moon. We haven’t been to the Moon for 40 years. It ain’t happening any more, because the economy is shot and the fire of innovation failed under the load of too much shopping so we can’t be arsed to invent anything any more. It mattered 50 years ago, but it doesn’t now. Hey, even Neil Amstrong would probably use his iPhone if he wants to know the time now.

Shoppers of Westfield, you ain’t going to the Moon. Just use your phone

You don’t need a watch, shoppers of Westfield. Think about what you do if you want to know the time. And while we’re at it, DxGF who did use a watch in those pre-smartphone days had a nice dainty thing, ‘cos she was a girl, y’know, with smaller wrists than mine. So WTF is up with all these whopping great big gauche things nowadays, even for the gurls? Extravagant exhibitionism is the hallmark of ill-breeding and a lack of any sense of aesthetics, chavvery, indeed…

Onwards in the quest for the essentials of life, the needs, not the aspirational wants. Unfortunately The Firm has screwed down on T&S for its staff, and since this is on the ermine’s dime I am still looking for something to eat and drink for under £2 all in.

Meet Peppa Pig, exclusive wristband only in advance extra. Click to enlarge if you feel the need to meet Peppa the Pig

I look up, drawn by the soft London sunlight. Ah, another advertising opportunity here – apparently, should I so wish, I can meet Peppa Pig. Was it the Jesuits that said

“Give me the child till the age of seven and I will show you the man.”

well, it seems that Mammon has barged in on the action. Get ’em into branded merchandise early, and you’ve got ’em hooked for life.Ah, talking of branded merchandise

Apple Store with adoring fanbois and iGroupies ogling the gear from outside

here’s the Apple Store, with a few of the punters basking in the reflected glory of all things Apple. Sweet, don’tcha think? Almost like a pilgrimage to The Source of All Joy and Coolness. At no other altar to Mammon did I see the cognoscenti gathered outside to pay homage like that.

Why do I need a network of brands in a cathedral of brands?

So red. So gaudy. What exactly is a network of brands? WTF do they sell, anyway? Or doesn’t it matter, just cut a few tenners loose from your flexible friend and you can get an essence of brandness? And a debt you can’t pay off.

Food. Overpriced and aspirational next to overpriced and junky. I’ll pass on that, thanks all the same

Of course there are plenty of eateries, to cater to all tastes, aspirational and clean-living-ish, or good honest junk.

Brands stretching as far as the eye can see

The Ermine is beginning to suffer from anomie, now. Looks like the Massage Angels have that taped, only chillaxed shoppers in this Cathedral of Wants, please. Does Sir want a massage treatment?

God knows how much that was, indeed, there’s a theme to Westfield that hardly anyone has prices clearly on show. I was brought up with the maxim that if you need to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it, but the credit card can fix that round here.

Do you need a massage, sir?

Here in this brandfest I see happy smiling people in thrall to Consumerism. I’d be nicked if I took a wet fish and slapped a few round the chops and said hey, there’s a real world out there, can’t you see this is the road to Debt Hell. Maybe I need to invoke Mr Money Mustache over from the States to deliver some good Mustachian Punches to the Face but then he’d get nicked. And I’m still hungry and above all thirsty.

Starbucks – hits you right in the face as you get off the station at Stratford

There’s the evil Starbucks, the trouble with that joint is it’s hard to get both a regular filter coffee rather than some poncy confection that has half a ton of sugar in it. And then their cup sizes are so huge. The last time I used to drink coffee by the pint was at university. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Jamaica Blue Mountain, if you serve coffee in a frickin cardboard cup it tastes of waxed cardboard first and coffee second. And you can’t get anything for under a pound in Starbucks. I guess for cost by volume it’s not so bad, but even two thirds of a pint of coffee is a bit much.

I spot a shop that sometimes sells needs, not wants, WH Smith. Look at the evil heart of darkness that stirs in the pricing structure of drinks.

How often do you drink two sodas in a row, eh?

Once again I see why we are all getting so fat, as the evil God of Consumerism decrees that chilled sodas are sold in Twos. Let us ignore, for the moment, the fact that nearly all of the stuff in this cabinet is basically chilled sugar water (or aspartame flavoured water) which costs about 10p to get here, and is stupendously unhealthy. The Buxton mineral water (a Coca cola franchise now ISTR) is okay, but you’re still being rushed at £1 a pop IF YOU BUY TWO. It’s the Starbucks problem again. I don’t want two. I want one, to drink now. Two would make me go looking for the toilet, and if I hang on to it the chill will go by the time I want to drink it. No wonder that we are all getting to be fat bastards, if we have to buy two sodas because the marketing is such that you buy one for £1.50 and two for £2. No. On yer bike, WH Smiths.

I consider going to the toilets at the other end of the mall and cupping my hands under the tap, but it’ll taste of chlorine. I take a gander at M&S, who are selling ginger beer (yes, I know, sugary crap but I quite like it). Once again the Starbucks doctrine holds, 90p for one and £1.50 for two. I stick with one. Then go to Waitrose and get a sausage roll for 85p. So the Ermine managed to get out of Westfield without being fleeced, but boy, did I see an awful lot of other people being fleeced.

When you boil it down to the essence, there’s nothing that you can buy in Westfield that you need. Everything is a want, and most of these wants you didn’t know you want until you got there. And there are loads of happy people running up loads of happy debt. It’s called retail therapy, making yourself feel good by buying Stuff. No wonder Damian Thompson, channelling Paul Graham, claims that addiction will be the leitmotif of the 21st Century. I have seen the addictive future in Westfield, and it ain’t a pretty sight. I got out just £2 poorer, I’d imagine most of my fellow shoppers would have been skinned for at least £200 by the looks of the shopping bags 😉

Ermine 1, Westfield Cathedral of Wants 0