Thirty Thousand Streets

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I went to West Hampstead last night, to Will and Sam's, along with Ade and Rachael, where we ate Jewish food (chicken, bagels, chicken liver pate, pickled cucumbers) drank (red wine, beer) and stood smoking on Will's Balcony staring at the rainswept glory of London at night below us; the London Eye in the distance picked out in the red and blue colourways of BA, trains shunting through Kilburn aglow.

Crossing the river to north London was a quest of epic proportions however.. a bit like Escape From New York minus eyepatches. Having encountered complete gridlock, we eventually gave up trying to drive at Victoria and ditched the car, plumping instead for the tube, which was itself fit to bursting. Perhaps inevitably, the Victoria Line was down, which entailed jumping on the District Line to Sloane Square, thence north on the Picadilly to the Jubilee at Green Park. All in all a journey that should have taken forty-five minutes probably took the best part of two hours.

The journey back was much less frought however, and we managed it in something around an hour. Disembarking the tube at Green Park, and walking past Buckingham Palace to the car. I got in, read, and went to sleep.

Today I went to consumer paradise.

Today I went to Sainsburys in Dulwich. More out of curiosity than anything else.. I was walking past and thought I'd have a look in.

It was a revelation. Wheras the Somerfield(s) of Camberwell are some of the bleakest places in the UK outside Hull, the Dulwich Somerfield is almost utopian in its allure. Vast and suffused with light, it resembles how I imagine the hangar of an Ian M Banks starship might look, and I could, upon entry, all but pick out angels with strollers cavorting at the extent of my vision, in the aisles untold miles away.

Taking a walk round Dulwich feels a bit like walking round the interior of an 80gb iPod, everything is so pristine and aspirational. Sometimes in the Somerfield in Camberwell in the evenings, you're lucky if you can locate a single potato and some cheap, bloodshot chicken goujons to fight over with knives. Here all matter of wonders were on display. Want Oak Veneer CD cases?: Check. Want glass and chrome finish soap dispensers?: you got it.

I wandered agog, not knowing where to look, in the midst of this grocery porn. The meat counter was futuristic, a fog bank of super chilled air rolling across the morsels on display like dry ice. Further along, I paused in front of a rack of Jamie Oliver's own brand merchandise, noting the sparing design, left aligned sans-serif typeface* and bright optimistic pantone swatches that denote a socially ambitious brand.

Across the way: A wall of Pasta, imported from Italy. But no ordinary pasta, for it was so hugely outsized each individual pasta shell resembled a Claes Oldenburg sculpture.. they were like giant clams, and probably cost enough to warrant the inclusion of individual pearls, but no matter, the spectacle itself sated certain appetites I had long forgotten.

I bought relatively little.. some yoghurt, fruit juice, corn-fed chicken and some Laksa Paste by Ruben Solomon, which I never see anywhere, and consequently revere. The checkouts were like runways, moving walkways for food.. the transaction itself painless. I stumbled out onto Dog Kennel hill feeling like I'd participated in a promotional tour of a shopping centre in Rivendell. It even has a Starbucks ferchrissakes.

I'll be going back at some point, I should think. For all its self-conciously dowdy personna, Somerfield is brutally expensive, so there's little to choose between them there. It's a little further away, true, but then so is heaven, and here Sainsburys has the advantage of actually existing. The gates of this consumer paradise are open to all who can afford it, and it looks reassuringly expensive.

*Lubalin Graph, I think.

1 comment:

Ade said...

Yes, it is considerably less grim than Somerfield SE5. The checkout assistants don't look like they should be on suicide watch, for a start.