But even I have my limits. Yesterday I spent most of the day recovering from a trip to Brent Cross, the epic-centre of everything evil in shopping. Somehow a group of architects, planners and retail folk all came together to create a place that saps every last inch of your will to live out of you while surrounded by lovely things that mock you by being out of stock or expensive and hundreds of incredibly badly dressed people who bump into you, make a lot of noise until your head hurts, or, in one extreme case, throw up on passers by (admittedly the thrower upper was about three). And the worst thing is that these incredibly badly dressed people can actually afford the things that you can't.
This all in a grey faux-marble artificially lit environment that breeds a herd mentality of the kind that makes you queue for the supremely mediocre Wagmama's rather than just leaving as quickly as humanly possible with a bag of Waitrose's finest to scoff in the car on the way home feeling pleased with yourself for having escaped but supremely drained of all mental energy.
It's even worse at the weekends. Especially in the run up to Christmas.
Being a rare native north-west Londoner, I grew up with Brent Cross and have seen it evolve into its full Dante's-seventh-level-of-hell-like current incarnation. When we were young it was a good place to go and hang out after school because it was indoors and no-one would tell us off. Now it just gives me nightmares.
How could they do this to something as good as shopping?
I was forced to enter its horrid halls yesterday because my Mac suddenly froze and needed to be taken immediately for treatment at an Apple Store. But of course London Transport being the wonderful thing it is and me living on the Jubilee line, there is no tube to take me to the Apple shop in town at the weekends. So I girded my loins in the manner of Orpheus setting out to rescue Eurydice and drove through the pouring rain willingly into the underworld.
Look at how they've tried to decorate it for Christmas to make it seem almost cheery;
This is the best picture I could get of the nicest bit of Brent Cross. The roof in the central bit actually looks ok. Shame it only covers a small fraction of the shopping pit and none of the actual shops.
It's not even like the place would be useful if there was a zombie invasion (too many vulnerable access points). In fact, if anything, it's the place where the zombies are most likely to spawn.
Not everything about Brent Cross is bad. It does have both a Waitrose AND a John Lewis which means I can buy yummy cheese, Touche eclat, sewing supplies, Family Guy, Vogue and have a diverting rifle through Topshop all under one roof. But Sunday was horrific.