Tag Archives: money

The next boat back to Tuvalu

FIFA has certainly had a rough patch of late. Dodgy deals behind closed doors, confederation presidents handling suspiciously overstuffed briefcases, botched bribery attempts from the chronically awkward Brits (bless them), more expensive Swiss watches than even Salvador Dalí would know what to do with and a couple of incredibly misguided venue choices for the next two footballing extravaganzas. Could it get any worse?

Amazingly, yes.

Continue reading The next boat back to Tuvalu

The Russell Hobbs stampede

Well, we’ve made it. We deployed the stiff upper lip, the fearless spirit that has seen Britain endure three plague epidemics, two world wars and a Margaret Thatcher, and we’ve survived Black Friday for another year.

About three years ago, the biggest shopping day in the United States migrated to her little cousin across the pond. The lack of a Thanksgiving Thursday over here would no longer stop us elbowing our fellow Britons in the jaw in a bid to secure the best deals on massive TVs on Black Friday. Videos of snarling housewives showed the lengths we’d go to for a good deal, dependable consumers that we are.

This year was no different. There were 14 arrests after a mass brawl at Tesco Extra in Watford, and six staff were treated for smoke inhalation as furious shoppers reacted to the Solihull John Lewis selling out of Dell Inspirons by setting fire to the Customer Service counter. A man died in the Russell Hobbs stampede at Lakeside.

Only none of that actually happened.

Continue reading The Russell Hobbs stampede

A gay old time

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones, they’re the modern stone age family. From the, town of Bedrock, they’re a page right out of history.

Let’s ride, with the family down the street, through the, courtesy of Fred’s two feet. When you’re, with the Flintstones, have a yabba dabba doo time, a dabba doo time.

We’ll have a gay old time.

Had that fucking tune in my head all day because, in a truly world-summed-up moment, I saw a man yelling it into a traffic cone this morning.

Continue reading A gay old time

One or two assignments

More young people than ever are deciding that they would like to go to university to improve their career prospects – or, as I highly suspect, to delay actually having to get a real job and contribute to the society that has spoon fed them up to this point in their lives.

With university comes study, and also the need to live alone; probably for the first time in the lives of the majority of people who choose to go. This is an excellent opportunity for young people, and a true chance to let their hair down before they have to cope with the real world of work, taxes and other pressures. Yet, what do most students decide to do? Fucking moan about it.

You only have to look at Facebook to see it. Things like “Wow, I have SO much work to do” or “I have to get up SO early tomorrow” or “I’m SO broke, I don’t think I can afford to eat for a month”. The problem is that these students don’t appreciate the luxuries they have while they’re young, and while the Bank of Mum and Dad is still wide open for business. They’ll be in for a shock when they drag their sorry little asses to a proper job – one that requires genuine commitment – and have to work for a living with no way out of it.

“Wow, I have SO much work to do!”

No, you don’t. You attend lectures for maybe 30 weeks out of the year, if that, and do pretty much fuck all in between. You might have one or two assignments to complete during term time, and a few exams at the end of the year but, all in all, that is not a lot of work. Not to me, a hard worker in the real world. The problem is that you’re so fucking lazy you’ll leave everything until the last minute – you always have work to do, but you don’t actually spend very much time doing it, because it seems like a better plan to go out and get pissed, or arse around doing “crazy shit” round campus. If you stopped being so fucking bone idle, you might actually get work done before a deadline, and be able to chill the fuck out for once.

“I have to get up SO early tomorrow!”

Again, no, you don’t. Unless you’re an idiot who’s decided to get accommodation a million miles from campus the earliest you’re going to start is 9am. Which, newsflash, is not early. I’ve seen university timetables, with your 12 hours of teaching a week, plus several late starts or whole days off. You’re going to be in for the shock of your life when you actually work shifts that mean you have to be there for 7am, getting up in what must now seem like the middle of your night. So you know what, enjoy your fucking lie ins, because once you graduate you can kiss them goodbye.

“I’m SO broke, I don’t think I can afford to eat for a month!”

Okay, so this might be true. But the sad fact is that it’s your fault. University students get money for free. Money that hard-working taxpayers have paid into the system, or money that your parents have given to you – despite the fact that actually, you’re no longer a child, can successfully tie your own shoelaces, and really shouldn’t be relying on hand-outs any more. What’s so bad about getting a job anyway? In my day (how ancient does that make me sound, for fuck’s sake) we all had jobs alongside study, there were no parental hand-outs, and help from the government was minimal. And, to be honest, I remember being grateful for it.

So yes, your lazy attitude and lack of job doesn’t help, but what about your spending choices? You don’t have enough money to spend £10 in the supermarket, but yet somehow you can spend £30 on one takeaway meal, or the same on drinks on a night out. You need to sort out your priorities, and if you don’t, it’s your fault.

Ultimately, students need to get a fucking grip, or they’ll be faced with a very serious reality check when they leave their protected little bubble and enter into the real, scary world of adults. Student life is the most cushioned existence ever created – all of the freedom of choice of adulthood, with none of the real responsibilit. And still they fucking moan about it.

Just to survive

You only have to walk into any UK pub to overhear a conversation bashing benefits these days. It’s something that splits opinion all over the country. With the growing trend in what media experts are dubbing ‘poverty porn’, it seems as though people on the breadline are being made out to be the lowest of the low, the dregs of society, the absolute worst human beings you could possibly encounter. And that generalisation annoys the fucking hell out of me.

Sure, there are some people who are living on benefits because they either don’t know or don’t care about what happens in their lives, and they genuinely think that the best way to live is to effectively steal money from people who’ve worked seven days a week for the whole of their lives. Don’t get me wrong; I think people like that are absolute idiots – because they give the rest of those on benefits an incredibly bad name. But that isn’t the full story.

You see somebody who isn’t working. What do you think of them? If you’re anything like the majority of judgmental shitheads in the country, you’ll immediately jump to the conclusion that they’re lazy scroungers who are good for nothing. But have you stopped to consider the fact that they might actually have a disability? You might not be able to see what this is, it may not be obvious to you, but there’s every chance that it’s there. They may spend the whole of their lives in pain, waiting until they are able to take their next dose of medication to ease their symptoms a tiny bit, without even having the positivity to hope that things could get better.

They might crave normality in their lives, and might spend every waking hour wishing they were able to get up and go to work, but knowing that they may never be able to. Instead they have to rely on other people – which might lower their self esteem even more, and will never be able to “contribute to society” in the same way that some people believe every human being should be forced to – no matter whether they’re physically able to or not.

You should also be aware of the actual statistics with regards to benefits claimants and the proportion of money that the government has to spend on them. The way it’s portrayed in the media, you would be forgiven for thinking that most benefits payments are given to the jobless, but this isn’t often the case. A lot goes towards the state pension, which is for people who have worked their whole lives and paid more than their fair share into the economy. So, do you seriously think that they should be made to hand back their pension and go off to work? I don’t think so!

And then there’s that lovely group of middle-class earners who take ‘child benefit’, because it’s their right to do so. They don’t need it but they take it anyway. And they’re often the ones moaning longest and loudest about scroungers. Lovely folk.

So, before you sit in the pub, talking shit about what you “believe” or what you think you “know” about the economy, benefits, and the way things work, just remember that really, you probably don’t understand even half of the full story. And, by tarring everyone with the same brush, you’re probably ruining the lives of people who need these benefits just to survive day by day.

You never know – you might be reliant on “the system” at some point yourself.

Peston’s children

Between the stories of lunatic Islamists on the rampage all across the world and John Noakes going missing in Majorca – unrelated as far as I can tell – a significant news event has snuck quietly between the gaps with virtually no fanfare. A whole country, and a famous one at that, has been banned.

Greece is done, finished, no longer allowed to exist. If I were hilarious I’d make some reference to the Monty Python parrot sketch at this point, but I’m not hilarious. A country that has done a fair amount for the advancement of humanity has been told by a selection of economists that it must now shutter up its tavernas and quit that stupid bloody dancing, because they’re all now to be scattered to the four corners of Europe and their lands shared between Bulgaria, Turkey and, controversially, Chad.

The day they officially run out of cash, which is either yesterday, next weekend, some time in August or a date chosen at random by distracted suits in offices in Washington, heavies will be dispatched to recover debts using whatever menaces are necessary. Old women queueing in incredible heat for hours for tiny pensions will return home to find men with bats removing their furniture in order to send it directly to warehouses in Brussels, Luxembourg, Berlin and elsewhere, where it will be burned as a health hazard with the resulting CO2 emissions blamed on Greece. No more plates will be broken because there will be no plates left to break.

That seems to be the result of the doom-laden reports plastered all over every press outlet because, yes, I was being sarcastic. The news is taking on the story of Greece’s financial woes with the vigour of a teenage boy offered the chance to mount his fit 20-something geography teacher before blaming her for grooming.

There is one single group of people who give a half-hearted toss about the situation in Greece: economic journalists. Their topic, as they themselves must admit, is as exciting as the tea cup ride at Lithuania’s top theme park, Stalin World. Even the Greeks themselves are done with it all, given they’re about to confirm in a referendum that their creditors can come and get it if they think they’re hard enough.

But economic journalists are wet with excitement that their news is the news, and that they get to tell us the most important details of the day rather than that boring ‘Muslim correspondent’ in France banging on about Herve Cornora’s disembodied head in a selfie. Chief among their number is Robert Peston, a man with a voice that sounds like he alternates breaths between nitrous oxide and opium. It’s virtually impossible to understand a single thing the man says as he drawls slowly along 14 words a minute before evidently being told by a producer to get on with it and speeding off on an unlistenable tangent, as thousands stare confusedly at radios with milk and cornflakes dripping from their open mouths.

The jist of Peston’s bonobo-like babbling seems to be that Greece must be blamed for getting itself involved with one of the world’s most despicable mafia-style organisations, known as the IMF. This is a group that helped to create the system in which countries are left to flounder unless they follow a very specific set of rules designed to propagate that system, the system which causes money to flow from poor people to rich people, because that’s how things are now, just deal with it. Take a look at the IMF’s Wikipedia page – their current list of ‘Executive Directors’ names 24 people, and all but two of them have a red link to their name, demonstrating no-one knows a fucking thing about them. The exceptions are Hazem Al Beblawi, a former Prime Minister of Egypt, and Rakesh Mohan, an Indian economist who probably wrote his own page.

While our economic journalists wheeze and whine that Greece are causing the world’s markets all manner of bother with their prevarication, perhaps they might turn an eye to the system that’s caused this. Bankers get slated for causing the calamity that’s affected every country in the world for the last seven years, but bankers didn’t create the system, they just broke it. We live in a world where the idea that the richest countries might let the poorest countries off a wee bit of debt, that they’ve absolutely no need to be repaid, is seen as a bad thing. Do we hear Peston, Hugh Pym, Richard Edgar or whichever scaly fuck Sky have doing their economics reporting explaining why the IMF, World Bank, OECD and the rest have turned the world into one massive market to be exploited by bastards for their own ends?

One of the main problems in Greece is their over-generosity when it comes to society’s chief unwanted burden: old people. Peston’s children will tell you that no country in the EU spends as high a proportion of their funds on pensions. This makes other countries look bad as they allow their old people to freeze and rot having outlived their use to capitalism. These other countries therefore demand Greece reduce their pensions spending, which currently amounts to less than 700 euros a month. That’s below the poverty line. Bad, bad Greece.

Just because economic journalists periodically demand their time in the spotlight doesn’t mean a whole country should pay the penalty. Greece spent when they could, suffered the same crisis not of their making as everyone else, went to the wrong loan sharks to sort it out and are now about to get their fingers broken for their troubles. None of that is fair, and little of it is their fault given the system they have to work within. It can hardly be a surprise that they’ve had enough, just like the rest of us have had enough hearing about it.

People just want to get on with their lives and the majority couldn’t give a shit about markets, currency fluctuations, debt defaulting, GDP or whether Angela Merkel herself is on her way right now to knee them in the balls. The story of Greece’s financial difficulties is meaningless to almost everyone on this planet who simply want to do a job with some purpose, spend their leisure time how they wish, enjoy friends and family and die with the minimum number of regrets.

At least when the repo men come to take away everything Greece owns, having no radios, TVs or houses to listen to them in will spare Greeks having to hear heartless ‘Executive Directors’ chuckling in amazement that there’s no uprising to put a stop to all this, or indeed the simpering economic journalists who make hay while the world cracks and crumbles. Perhaps Greece will be declared bankrupt, debts will be cancelled and they’ll be kicked out of the Eurozone, only to proceed to live on their means with the things they produce from the land within their borders, like normal countries used to do back when the world wasn’t run by wankers.

Maybe they’ll end up showing us how it was meant to be done all along. It’s the only way I can think of we might be able to handle Peston’s ear-splitting vocal somersaults and the pointless prattle of his kin.

A clock in reverse

The mind of the master is as clear and focused as in any of his finest paintings. The bleak yet characterful lives of the women of Algiers are explored deeply just as their bodies are thrown onto the canvas almost neglectfully, Picasso’s binary view of the human female creating a vivid portrait of the dualism of 20th century life.

A hundred and fifteen million quid? Are you taking the piss?

Les Femmes d’Alger by Pablo Picasso was recently purchased for upwards of a bob or two by a former Prime Minister of Qatar. They’ve run out of football tournaments to buy so they’ve moved onto paintings by a man whose artistic talents resembled those of a 14-year-old boy with all life’s enthusiasm driven out of him by a job on a paint pot production line. If corpses could laugh there would be a constant low rumble in the graveyard of the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, and yes I did just look that up.

Apart from religion there’s probably nothing I understand less than ‘art’. I specifically mean art as in the type they tried to make me do at school, wherein I was told to draw a bowl of fruit using crayons and I proceeded to draw a bowl of fruit, using crayons, unspeakably badly. I don’t mean film, I don’t mean music and I don’t mean literature. I mean paintings, sculptures and the various other forms of creation you’re told to look at, have no interaction with and admire because somewhere down the line someone’s decided on behalf of everyone that it’s fucking brilliant.

Perhaps my biggest problem with art is one shared by all who’d be called philistines. Who gets to decide what constitutes good art? If I see a painting, I’ll evaluate it based on whether it looks like it took talent to produce, whether there’s a good idea behind it and whether it makes me happy when I look at it. This, apparently, makes me an artless wanker because I can’t see hidden meanings, I can’t claim to see the true motivation of an artist in their work and I can’t be fucking bothered spouting nonsense about it involving words not heard since Dr Johnson made them up.

The finest recent example has just been unveiled at a station I pass beneath most days of the week. St Pancras includes a pleasing statue of its saviour John Betjeman, a plain, non-art clock for people to tell the time with, and a statue of two lovers entwined. The latter looks fairly dreadful to my eyes, but it does have an idea behind it, and obviously took a degree of talent to make it. Fair enough.

But now it has a new rival. Another clock. A black and white version of the original clock – identical to the current clock, right down to the manufacturer’s name on its face – sitting a few metres in front of the real clock. And this is art.

“A terrible, schmaltzy, sentimental piece of kitsch” is how the two lovers sculpture was described by a man the newspaper called a ‘senior Royal Academy of Arts figure’. In the same breath, Tim Marlow described this new clock as ‘beautiful’. “It makes you think of all sorts of things: time being synced, being eclipsed. The shadow side of time, a clock in reverse, the mirror image.”

Meanwhile, back on Earth, it makes me think of someone who has spent the decade since they left art college wearing a questionable hat and scarf throughout the baking summer months, looking wistfully into the middle distance in cafes, panicking internally while failing to have a single idea for anything approaching inspiration. Someone has written ‘artist’ in the occupation slot of airport landing cards without irony, in the interminable build-up to the crowning glory of their creative endeavour: a replica of a clock someone else built so people wouldn’t miss the 12:58 from London to Lille. It is described by the man from the Academy as ‘amazingly simple on one level’. The level of downright cheek it exhibits, presumably.

Paintings fly off the auction house shelves for millions and public art gets commissioned that makes no sense to man nor beast. Anyone who chimes up that these works are of dubious quality is met with the sneers of those who thrive in an industry that feeds on its perceived intellectual superiority. I have no doubt that critics who raise a solitary objection to a lauded artwork are gradually shamed into retreat or acquiescence and eventually learn that their future in the business depends on protecting the huge secret that art is basically an absolute bloody pantomime.

Who decided that the Mona Lisa is such an amazing painting? Christ knows, but if you disagree you’re just wrong, simple as that. Dare you admit you know Monet from Manet, but reckon they’re both bog average? Consider your National Gallery membership revoked. Think the bloke doing sketches outside Baron’s Court tube is easily a match for Rembrandt, Rubens or Renoir? Wait three centuries and someone might agree with you, but until then your critical opinions are as welcome as a paintbrush up the Aris.

What constitutes good art is something everyone should be able to decide for themselves, safe from the malignant influence of a collection of chancers without a single objective, factual or indeed consistent idea to base their views on. There is not one single reason an art critic’s opinion of a piece is more valid than anybody else’s. Whether something is worthy of praise is utterly in the purview of whoever is looking at it – but of course it’s damnably hard to make a multi-billion pound industry out of something so flaky as personal opinion.

Most galling of all is that the £115m Picasso was actually ‘inspired’ by a painting of the same name by Eugene Delacroix a full century earlier. Picasso took someone else’s painting and cartooned it in his usual risible fashion, and poor old dead Eugene was from then on fated to be remembered only as a footnote in the catalogue at Christie’s.

Whichever random clockmaker tossed off the design for the original at St Pancras, they must be fucking fuming.

First injection free

Coming from a country that generally bankrupts its citizens if they find themselves in an emergency medical situation, far be it for me to talk smack about the NHS. How can anyone argue with free health care? Sure, the US of A has free speech (sort of), but free health care? That’s for Socialists! Health care in the U.S. is something of a luxury, like a free beer on the airplane or a mint on your pillow in a 3 star hotel paid for by the company account. That is, people who can afford it, get health care.

I understand that the NHS isn’t perfect; what system is? It seems nothing short of backwards that doctors here only prescribe the drugs that you actually need for your condition, and refuse to write you largely recreational prescriptions. Medication is given out like candy in the U.S. –  it’s like Halloween for grown-ups all the time! Provided you have health insurance, or enough money to pay for private doctors, prescription drugs are plentiful for folks looking to make themselves more balanced, motivated and confident, or at least to sedate themselves to the point where they don’t give a shit.

You don’t have to prove you need medication either. In fact, random samples of drugs are offered to patients, pick-and-mix style, thanks to the young, attractive college students working part time for drug companies. Endless gaggles of chatty, blond 20 year olds in their mothers’ heels wheel suitcases full of drug samples into the doctor’s office day after day.

Never mind you don’t feel depressed; you might as well take some antidepressants home for your friends to try out! Finding it difficult to concentrate on writing your Masters dissertation? Here’s a prescription for ADD meds! Don’t smoke? Who cares – try a few handfuls of smoking cessation samples anyway! They have a hallucinatory effect while you sleep, and turn your otherwise boring dreams into Technicolor erotic escapades! The best sex you’ve ever had, the doctor quips with a sleazy wink as you redress. As you hasten to leave, the good doctor offers a course of Botox to remedy that furrow in your brow, with the first injection free as an incentive. (Botox, by the way, is generally extra; no one’s health insurance is that good.) Yes, medication is the American way.

However, if you are unfortunate enough to be like the millions of New Yorkers without health care, you are all but screwed. If by some stroke of terrible luck you end up in the back of an ambulance, the $850 ambulance ride is only the beginning of your financial woes. In your sorry state you might be taken to a hospital (hello lifelong financial bankruptcy for you and your family!), and if you’re supremely unlucky you might be taken to a Brooklyn hospital made famous by video footage of an ER nurse repeatedly stepping over a dying woman (who had collapsed on the floor of the waiting room) with as much concern as for a mop that had fallen over.

If that is your situation, then you’d be better off doing what some churches advertise in a desperate and defeatist attempt to increase their congregation numbers: try praying. Apparently simply dying in the middle of the floor isn’t enough to get you noticed; indeed, even multiple stab wounds to the head might be treated as a you-can-wait-your-damn-turn scenario. You have to be haemorrhaging out of each eyeball, have a knife lodged in your throat and half your brain spilled on the floor for an ER nurse to admit you, and even then you might have to wait your turn because there are countless other bleeding patients ahead of you. This is New York, after all.

So I find it fairly incredible that I can simply go to a UK health center and leave my wallet in my pocket. Not only that, I receive real and timely treatment. Recently, after hanging upside down on a trapeze, I had a brief spell where I couldn’t distinguish between objects of the same colour, and experienced an odd numbness in one arm. So off I went to the GP.

The GP’s extraordinary caterpillar eyebrows furrowed closer together as I talked. He ordered a taxi to take me to the hospital, informing me gravely, “it sounds as if you have a hole in your heart.” Having been in a New York hospital, I prepared myself for the worst. Would I croak on the floor of the waiting room like that poor woman in Brooklyn and my loved ones would have to find out about my tragic demise from video footage on the hospital security cameras?

My worries were assuaged when I didn’t see anybody dying on the waiting room floor. Speedy medical assistants and nurses ran a slew of tests on my eyes that left the world blurry, and then seen by the neurologist who asked if I spent any time upside down. “The trapeze explains it,” he said. “It sometimes happens. There’s no hole in your heart.”

And that was that. Sure, I was temporarily blinded, no one had offered me even an ibuprofen to ease my pain, and the GP was obviously an idiot, but my heart and wallet were intact. I was free to continue ignoring bills and credit card payments without the establishment encroaching on my god given right to ruin myself financially. Instead, I was given a pair of disposable sunglasses (free!) and sent out into the bright light of the day, wholeheartedly grateful to stumble home.

On safari in the land of the dead

Poor judgement led me to be swept away into the stream of bug-eyed, gut-swinging, make-up plastered humans that inhabit the West Quays shopping centre of Southampton. It was by far and away the most harrowing experience of the month so far – and I live in London. London’s a carnival of inhumanity orchestrated by a confederacy of subterranean dunces, and yet still the unending misery of life here doesn’t quite match up to the deranged experience in Southampton’s premier cattle market.

It was like waking up in a zoo, hemmed in by some unique specimens with no clear exit route. I found my trigger finger itching for the blunderbuss – I was on safari in the land of the dead. If this is mankind’s endgame then perhaps we’re due a meteor of extinction proportions. Something large, violent and destructive is the only feasible way to cut through the smog of apathy, gluttony, blind hatred, glum joy and the general victory of all that is smug, artificial and mindless in this consumerist society.

Shopping centres are for people who have nothing to do. Spending your weekend in these air-conditioned hells is essentially declaring to the world that you have no interests, no passion – just a lifetime to waste fawning over shit you simply don’t need. Like people whose favourite crisps are ready salted or like a bit of everything when it comes to music, these ones will be the first to be harvested for organs when the sun implodes.

Watching people clamber over one another in the name of Black Friday is a bit like turning a stone over to see a heap of maggots feasting on one another in the absence of sustenance. How quick we are to debase ourselves for a TV that we can download porn onto. Watching it on the news, I couldn’t tell if it was the beginning of a SyFy disaster movie or just another collective lowering of the bar – pretty soon we’ll dispense with the pleasantries and just get back into hacking one another to death in the pursuit of property.

Conjure up an image of shopping centres and you’re probably seeing fat middle aged goons jostling one another to be first in line to buy household appliances that can tie your shoelaces and teach you Mandarin all at once. Still, it’s probably good training for when they’re wading through charred skeletal remains in search of the last uncontaminated hunk of bread following the inevitable collapse of our consumption-orientated society. It’s just more meaningless shit to put in that tomb you paid a mortgage for so you can sit and stare in horror at something other than one another as you both desperately try to find something to talk about that isn’t the crushing hell of it all.

To what kind of dribbling ape is a shopping centre supposed to have meaning? Given the amount of hours of life lost to these time-vampires we may as well put the bastards on the board of culture and tourism. Perhaps at some point we actually started believing the guff that advertising farted into our minds; maybe we really thought we could get all we’d ever dreamed off at 0% APR with free home delivery and that the terms and conditions might not cost us our collective souls.

It’s all part of this aspirational living that has us all bobbing up and down on steel conveyor-belts like well-groomed cattle to the slaughter. West Quays is an abattoir run by Philip Green that’s free to the credit card-toting public. If the threat of the nuclear bomb rendered death a senseless, causeless event that could sweep us away in a moment, then shopping centres, malls and the like have left life just as meaningless. Judged on the merits of these places, humanity just seems like an awful parade of pampered, farting meat-slabs that are all too impressed with the latest shiny toy that smells like a used car air-freshener.

These emporiums of commercial dreams aim to regurgitate the ambitions of others down our throats, as though happiness is just a new television away. Replete with all the glossy posters of unfeasibly attractive people flogging perfume made from cow semen, indicating that you too can be as happy and as beautiful if only you smelled like a bovine ball-sack. It’s probably got some pheromone-fuelled potential to arouse in others the same level of sexual desire as you’re supposed to feel for the swaggering, pouting chumps that adorn the windows of these shops.

So we walk around shocked and baffled into submission under the barrage of images and claims that your life can only be improved through buying more and working harder to buy some more. Whether it’s the sculpted Hollister models sauntering around topless outside the store like grinning wads of flesh, or nude celebrity endorsements for jewellery, water or whatever else needs to be sold – the whole place helps to reinforce the notion that you have failed in some way, that success is attainable, but only with the guiding hand of money.

It’s as if we should be grateful for the existence of shopping centres; where else could we find so much progress in one place? Everything you’ve ever wanted is there – health, beauty, youth, comfort and happiness – it’s all yours for the taking, provided you can pay for it. Perhaps this explains the gormless look of hopeless despair that’s splattered all over the faces of these wretched souls as they trot up and down the farm of dreams and realise that they can’t afford it all, that they can never attain true nirvana in this church because it all costs too much. In six months’ time it’ll all be out of fashion, out of warranty and the uselessness of it is revealed; so onwards they march, hopeless in the knowledge that they can’t afford to hold onto their happiness and so they go to the food court and wash all that shame down with a Big Mac and watery cola to try and escape all this defeat.

Why do we do it? We run ourselves through the gauntlet of comparable living when we know full well that we can’t afford it, and we don’t really need it. You can’t lose a game you refuse to play, but still the rules ensnare so many people who drag their tired, bloated carcasses around in the hope that maybe there’ll be a sale that allows them just another taste of ‘success’. Come friendly bombs and free us from the scourge of the great British tradition of worshipping weekly in the church of the damned, the fraudulent and the smug.