Everyone has different methods to cheer themselves up.
Some people go in for gooey, creamily-centred chocolates and hot, salty chips, consumed en masse. Others favour lots and lots of lots of booze, consumed in a short period of time with little thought for the hangover waiting for you. A certain kind of person goes shopping.
Personally I go in for all three - I've never met a chip, drink or shop I didn't like, or at least been on civil terms with. But lately I've discovered a new weapon for the arsenal, something quite ingenious to be taken out immediately next time I'm feeling bad about myself: Morley Galleria.
Only here, in this semi-distant shopping centre is the full length and breadth of all that is detestable about humanity on display every which way you care to turn. By which I mean not, of course, that anybody's getting fed into a gas chamber or practicing racial segregation. The abhorrence of this place is nothing to do with anything Proper or Serious. There are just a LOT of improbably unattractive people. Mother. Fucking. Everywhere.
Here, among waves of undulating arm fat, screeching sticky-fingered children and obscene teenagers concealing unfortunate faces behind hoodies, ill-advised headwear and masses of over-processed hair with the all the appeal and approximate texture of steel wool, you can but stand and marvel.
Trudging in front of you are the slowest moving people in the southern hemisphere, wobbling on their over sized flesh stilts in search of a new appliance to do this or a new top to conceal that. Scampering at your sides are the doomed progeny of the slow-walkers, their faces already beginning to twist in the sneers of their parents, their sugary mouths demanding another Coke. Most disturbing of all are the teenagers: not the lithe, gaggles of sniping malcontents you remember from your own high school years but a combination of smug petulance from the 12 year old who dresses like she is a 45-year-old hooker in a music video, and sullen aggression
from the spotty white douchebag wearing a do-rag.
What the hell is this place and where have these people come from? This is what I found myself asking today when, in search of work-appropriate accouterments and only mildly hungover, I stumbled in with Lindsay.
The immediate desire was to protest: this can't be happenning, this is not normal. The impulse to check the space above the glass entrance doors for the words "abandon hope all ye who enter here" was overwhelming. I did. The sign said simply "entry". Which seemed, somehow, even more ominous.
The second impulse was to flee, to put some sort of distance between myself and the people patrolling these gleaming white corridors. Lindsay knew better. "It's okay," she said gently, taking me (figuratively) by the hand. "This is where you come to feel better about yourself."
She was right. I'm going back next week.