2017 minus 70: Wandering and wondering

Posted: 23 October 2016 in 2017 minus

I’ve been for a wander in Central London this afternoon. 

One of the reasons I love London, particularly Central London, is that it’s never the same place from month to month, from season to season. Oh, sure, the geography is ostensibly the same – though even that’s not always guaranteed –  but the ‘feeling’ you get walking around London in June is very different from that in March. 

London in January, in the depths of winter, is an entirely different place to London in the Spring, and it’s different again to London a couple of months before Christmas. 

Only the last of these, though, is when London is just flat out weird. I’m used to London – the London that I know, anyway; I’ve been living in and around London for thirty-odd – some of them very odd – years. But I’ll never get used to this time of year, especially walking along Oxford Street, around Soho, and Kensington, in late October.

It’s when “the shops”* want you to think Christmas is around the corner, instead of some sixty plus days away. 

(*Every so often it occurs to me to wonder again at British idioms and metonymy vs those of America. I’m guessing the appropriate American equivalents would be “the stores”?)

Never would I believe that shops feel guilty about trying to see you stuff, at their attempts to get you to buy things now rather than later, but now – right now – is the time that I start to wonder. 

It’s that time of the year when some shops have swallowed the Christmas kool-aid and are in full blown festive frenzy, yet others appear to be entirely unaware that Christmas even exists. The battle between the two attitudes for the passers’-by soul, and their wallet, has not yet entered Defcon 1, but Defcon 5 was months ago, if it ever existed. Somewhere, in a boardroom, people have met and decided that today is not yet the time to roll out the bunting and the christmas songs and the paraphenalia that they think people expect. While in another similarly sized room, similarly attired people came to a different decision.

And I’m seeing the results of those decisions today.

So, anyway, I wandered, and wondered. 

I wondered what London would be like if Christmas truly came earlier every year, if it wasn’t limited to 25th December, and then I realised that I didn’t have to wonder too much, because several years ago, as part of that year’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction, I answered the question. (No, you’re not getting Twelve Days of Fast Fiction this year, so I’d click on that link if you want to read one. Or this link if you want to read more thank one.)

So I continued wandering and wondering. 

I wondered what the residents of London past would think of the shops today; would they even be recognisable as shops to them? Would things we take for granted nowadays – neon signs, sliding doors, no-smoking insignia – be recognisable as ‘the current standard of the day for retailers’? Or would they look at all of them and ask themselves when speciality stores became the norm? Would shoppers from 100 years ago see the fashion hoardings outside Miss Selfridge and think the shop must be a sex-shop? Or a gadget shop and think it was a magic ship for children? 

What would they think of a Disney shop? Coffee shops every hundred yards or so?

Or am I being horribly parochial, and they’d adjust quicker than I give them credit for? 

I don’t know. I am struck by, as I’ve mentioned before, London being filled with the ghosts of memories, with spectres of recollection. I wonder whether I’d even recognise the person I was that walked around London thirty years ago.

Maybe it’s me that would have more trouble adjusting than them?

And, wondering that, I continue wandering.

Something different tomorrow… See you then.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

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