Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Welcome to My Town

One day you go into a Town, a Town in a London suburb whose shopping centres and high streets you have wondered around either aimlessly or with purpose for most of your adolescent and adult life. Prior to that, you were probably pushed around this town, kicking and screaming like some kind of demonic midget in a pram. And every other time you've been there you've been quite content. You've trudged from shop to shop with the masses and never really noticed what's happening.

Then one day, you'll go into Town because you're back from travelling, unemployed and want to get a football that will survive more than five minutes in the jaws of your saber-toothed Labradors. And you'll realise that your Town isn't actually a Town in it's own right. It's strangely familiar. Too familiar. In fact, it's a carbon copy.

You sit in a cafe that was once Italian before it was everywhere, drinking a mango frappacino thing you chose out of a fridge. It's served to you by a girl who couldn't care less, and you drink it at a table that hasn't been cleaned yet, on an armchair that's seen better days. But it's by the window, so you avert your eyes from the inoffensive brown interior and turn your attention to what's outside.

The occasional office worker rushes towards Marks and Spencer, dismissing a clipboard carrying charity worker who you've watched smile unconvincingly before approaching tracksuit-clad passers by. They clutch phones, develop a sudden interest in their iPod, shake heads and raise hands, doing their utmost to avoid the spiel.

Barratts, Claire's Accessories, Sport and Soccer. Monsoon, Accessorize. Behind the glass, River Island's usual selection of clothing, liberally littered with diamante studs and careful rips; the odd splash of luminous pink. Jane Norman's overpriced selection for those who prefer their boobs and bums covered in tacky, floral Lycra. Primark and it's hoards of careless shoppers, trampling on the clothes they'll buy tomorrow. Faith has closed. La Senza's windows show the same deals as they did in 1990, for underwear that always comes up that little bit smaller than everywhere else. Screaming children flank bored parents in Starbucks. JD Sports: for people who don't play sport, but watch it in pubs. Phone shops for every network. WH Smith for magazines. British Home Stores trying to be cool, again. Debenhams. Oh, God. Debenhams. Catalogue shopping at it's best, it's Argos: listen for your number, then come on down.

Welcome to the Town High Street. You don't need to know the name; it's the same as every other British High Street in the UK. You'll know when you've arrived because there's not an independent store, cafe or restaurant in sight.


Bloody depressing.


The Unbearable Banishment said...

How much do you credit (or blame) your recent world tour with this new perspective? Your town was always this way but now you see it a bit differently, yes?

jman said...

It's the same everywhere regardless of country. Just in the other countries you're not familiar enough with the ubiquity to realize. And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read this blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Avril Hakkinen

miss*H said...

ah that's what travelling does to you. I loved my home town before I left backpacking and when I came home I saw it as the most depressing place on earth. Luckily that's now passed and I’ve moved 10 miles down the road to a little market town with only a Boots and Superdrug with the rest of the high street comprising of independent coffee shops, restaurants and tea rooms. I must be getting old!

London-Lass said...

Isnt it?

Remember going to an exhibition at the Tate where they touched on something rather similar (but from a residential perspective instead of retail).

The depressing thing for me is that everything being the same/average seems to appeal to the majority. Much like that godawful advert for some low fat spread where it preaches `yes, being in the middle' is the best.

Charlotte said...

Hi I haven't commented before but read your blog. I am an English girl (Essex/London) now settling down in New Zealand and have struggled with missing home and getting used to a different way of life.

I just wanted to tell you that this post made me smile and think 'hell its' not so bad over here in little old New Zealand' and that I really am not missing a whole lot back in blighty!! (not including my family of course)

So thanks for putting a smile on my face and making me realise I am actually pretty lucky to not be living in the UK anymore!!

Have you thought about working on the yachts? I have a friend that does it and she travels the world while being paid for it - sounds like your perfect job! :)


Grump said...

I have a theory. When you have been travelling, [away from your clan] you find a new persona, to survive while in 'Strange' environments. So when you get back to 'Home' what was familiar and OK before, looks different, because you have learnt to look at things through the eyes of your new perspective.
If you do nothing about it, you go back to being within your clan and accepting the norms that you are observing through the cafe window.

When you get back from a fortnight holiday in Spain, you think I wish I lived in Spain. A fortnight later you are back at work and any thoughts of moving to Spain have receded.
Maybe we are programmed to be nomadic and the our minds need the stimulation that comes with a changing landscape.

Anonymous said...

Hey - love reading your blog but haven't commented before!

Travelling and spending large amounts of time in new countries always makes you feel like this. Jman is right though, it's just the 'foreign' country is new and exciting to you - stay for 20 years and you'rd realise that people and places are indeed the same the world over!

You'll feel less jaded soon - or may be you'll decide to go work more permanently in one of the countries you visited? I spent a year working in the US then 10 years later another year working in NZ, then a couple of years later a year in Oz - comes highly recommended, it's so exciting to make a home in a new place ; -)

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Unbearable - Yeah there's that, and then there's the niggling thought that my Town has always been a little bit crap, but now it just seems worse. Like there are NO independent shops anywhere, just a load of rubbish.

jman - You're right, it just annoys me that when so much is getting better (technology, healthcare etc), the places people are living and spending their time are getting no help at all.

Anon - Thanks for liberally straying my blog with your spam links.

Miss H - Yeah, I hadn't thought about it being because I'd been travelling, but it does make sense. Although this town has always been rubbish, just not this bad.

LondonLass - Yeah, people seem to just settle for this crap. The people are just carbon copies too because they all buy stuff from the same shops.

Charlotte - Glad I could help in making you realise you're not missing much at all! Oh you're living in New Zealand? Which bit? I thought it was beautiful there, but there's more tourists than London in even the quietest places, and I'm not sure I could handle that! As for yachting, I know people who have gone down that route and they have a blast...but I do have a habit of getting a little bit sea sick when it gets choppy which puts me off slightly :D

Grump - I like that theory a lot, it makes a lot of sense. We DO adapt to our surroundings very quickly, and it's only fitting that we then return to our normal home and have to do it all again.

Anon - Ahh, yes, well relocation has been something I've been considering, especially while feeling a bit downtrodden about being back home. Australia would be on the cards, and the Boyfriend's keen to go back there too. It's just a matter of saving up more money. But I did love Oz.

AFC 30K said...

It is all bollocks isn't it! Clone town UK with only secondary locations available for the independents.

The best place I've found to avoid it is the Laines in Brighton

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Love the Lanes. Was so taken with that area of Brighton when I visited for precisely that reason.


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