28 May 2012, 10:21pm


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  • 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.

    [audio:http://simple-living-in-suffolk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/120527_westfield_massage_LS100601.mp3|titles=Hello sir, would you like 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

    29 May 2012, 4:59am
    by hotairmail


    A man after my own dark heart.

    Thinking about it, I don’t actually think I’ve stepped inside a shop this year yet. My wife does the supermarket shopping and everything else comes via the post when we need it.

    that place sounds truly awful. And now I am left wanting to feed Mr E a proper meal and give him something a little more wholesome to drink! And as for who drinks coffee by the pint… where’s my pint mug gone? But not from Starbucks, thank you.

    If you were an archaeologist studying all those photos I think your best guess would be that you were looking at some sort of shrine of devotion to some great God. It does look a wonderfully attractive place though… so much colour light and sound.

    It’s so true, it’s incredibly difficult to survive a shopping centre with your wallet still intact. I haven’t got anything like the will power Ermine displays here, especially not when hungry. My only defense is to try and avoid them, otherwise I will wind up with a stupidly big beverage and at least one widget.

    Nice try Ermine at making me feel bad for wearing a watch, but I’m not buying it.

    How on earth is one supposed to surreptitiously check whether a meeting is over-running using a phone?

    As for shopping centres, well I occasionally stray into the Metro Centre (the UK’s biggest dontchya know) and nowadays feel completely overwhelmed by it. Since becoming more frugal myself, I somehow find the consumerist bombardment more tiring.

    the uk economy is dependant upon people who buy watches they don’t ‘need’ (they are status symbols which settle subtle differences) and that third, fourth, fifth and sixth pair of trousers (made in the Republic of China) – the awful truth is that it the system depends on consumer spending growth beyond what was once rational to generate positive GDP (economic success)- but the middle classes depend on it more than most

    To think, people travel all the way to Dubia to look at there shopping malls and you just went to London.

    Look what you saved on the air-fare and hotel accomodation.:-)

    Trouble is as the globalisation of the world continues all shopping malls and most high streets are starting to look the same and sell the same high/low class tatt.

    Have you got your tickets for the Olympics or are you staying well clear?

    Hi Ermine, its not related to the above blogg, but to the one about the Banking Crisis.
    Here is a link that you may or not find interesting.


    29 May 2012, 9:57pm
    by Salis Grano


    It was Galbraith who pointed out the manufactured nature of consumenr demand in the early 1960s and he may well have had predecessors.

    As one who is resistant to the temptations of shopping malls, I do quite enjoy them on my occasional visits. My preferred tipple is Bond Street/Picadilly, though.

    Wait wait wait.

    You are earning your daily bread from working on the largest UK white elephant project in recent history … a project which exists to only to service that lowest of all wants … “watching sport” … and you are complaining about being able to buy a delicious-sounding M&S/Waitrose lunch for £1.75?

    Geez. You could just say “thanks, what an awesome economy we have going here.”


    30 May 2012, 12:29am
    by Soviet Traktor


    You Poms need to chill out a bit.
    Westfield is the greatest thing since canned beer and we all have fellow Aussie Frank Lowy to thank for it. But he’s not on his own in that regard… there’s all the Westfield shareholders who are in on it as well. Nice to think that Ermine’s drink & sausage roll are directly profiting a large number of Aussie Westfield investors. I know you’ll love that! If I had any shares in Westfield I’d probably thank you. But then I probably wouldn’t be reading this blog, eh.

    But think of it a little further… as a retailer in Sydney, I know that Westfield’s tenants need you to buy their products in increments of 100, in order to generate enough cashflow to support the extortionate rents Westfield charge. And on top of that there’s the garnishing of your profits each quarter, and your need to completely refurbish your store every three years (at your cost) so the centre always looks hip, fab and groovy. And God help you if you feel like not opening for the 48hours leading up to Christmas Day… the centre is open and your store is bound to be as well. Ah, nothing like a little Christmas spirit for your staff. So, for you to have the pleasure of the Westfield shopping experience, you need to cough up as described.

    You don’t like London’s latest attraction? You’re a bit late in the game to complain there, as its one of 124 other Westfields around the world. And the name? Westfield comes from the fact that his first one was opened in Blacktown in Sydney’s west (noice) after having bulldozed a paddock to do so…

    That open space, you could run for miles…

    > How on earth is one supposed to surreptitiously
    > check whether a meeting is over-running
    > using a phone?

    That’s drone-speak. Non-drones walk out of unproductive meetings regardless of what time it is. Or stay on if a meeting is actually productive. 🙂

    George – what should this drone do if she is in a productive meeting, but has another meeting about to start?

    Does one do a quick analysis of estimated productivity from the yet-to-be-started meeting?

    I’m thinking there must be some maths ….. and I’m guessing it would support moving to the new meeting, as a large proportion of benefit should have already been gained from the existing (over-running) meeting. 😉

    Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate

    That’s how I feel entering any shopping centre, or ‘mall’. It’s just totally alien to me, like I’m on the wrong planet. My eyes glaze over, my palms start to sweat, and waves of incredulity wash over me. Forget the gore and the lurching gait – the zombie apocalypse is here and now.

    It’s full of stuff I don’t even want, never mind need. My pocket gets off lightly – unscathed in fact – it’s my entire will to live that gets drained.

    I must say I was surprised when you did actually find food and drink-like substances for under £2, though 😉

    As someone who hates physical shopping, I agree with your sentiments. I always enjoy your rants even if I don’t always agree.
    But I’m guessing you own shares and surely if the majority of people “saw the light” and stopped buying overpriced,useless tat, then the companies whose shares you own would die and there would go your dividends and future financial independence.
    Hope your shares are Waitrose and M&S 😉

    @Deb – It’s likely impossible to determine in advance if the next meeting is going to be productive. What is calculable is whether your presence will be missed/needed.

    Managers are never missed unless it is a meeting that they’re leading or they have a presentation to give.

    And there’s the old adage to never schedule your meetings back-to-back unless you’re meeting clients, in which case closing a sale is the only important item.

    […] Westfield shopping centre on a £1.75 budget – Simple Living in Suffolk […]

    It’s so true that generally speaking, you don’t need anything a shopping centre. The evidence comes in the fact that once you stop ‘hanging out’ there with teenage friends, and adopt a working life, you could easily never step in one ever again.

    […] pretty much any of the rest of the stuff on offer in the Westfield shopping centre? Breitling watches? McDonald’s? Massage Angels? Previous generations of Londoners managed […]

    […] on shit that won’t deliver value for you, even if the sum is trivial”. I struggled to find anything fit to eat in Westfield, Stratford – because it was all overpriced junk, not because I had insufficient cash in my […]


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