The Porcelain Gentleman

A definitive guide to the land of lavatories

The Westfield – Stratford

Westfield phone 7

The Setting:

The ‘donut effect’ occurred in cities in the UK during the 70’s when the growing bourgeois decided they weren’t places to reside but instead dull grey monstrosities full of immigrants. Retail was sucked out and recreated in large indoor shopping centres, the high street died and ‘Zone 2’ became a lawless swamp where people got by using incoherent slang speak to procure plantain.

But the pendulum swings both ways and the next generation grew up to view the suburbs like a white, culturally barren waste land and longed to speak in urban slang and incorporate plantain recipes into some overly contrived multi ethnic palate. Back everyone came.

The high street however, never came back as it had been slain by the mighty beast ‘’  by then so what was left was a combination of: high street pretension – muffin shops run by bored bankers wife’s, high street degradation – chicken shacks and bookies, or quasi urban shopping experiences such as the Westfield. The Westfield being a self reflexive shopping mall in that it tries to distance itself from suburban shopping centres and recreate the high street with outside space and probably most depressingly, lots of photos of the charismatic east end slums that were demolished to make way for it.

This gives the feeling one can imagine you would have if your wife ran off with the milkman but let you keep the house. You still live in it. But you gotta live with it.

Westfield phone 1 Westfield phone 2 Westfield phone 10

Westfield phone 5

The Establishment:

The Westfield is like an astronauts cliché about the universe – when you look at it you realise how insignificant you actually are. Upon approach every entrance, of which there are infinite, is like Morton’s fork, it makes no difference – you are going in.

Once inside, one is hit by an almost Christmas like atmosphere; (the Christmas theme coincidentally starts late August and runs for 6 months) a few souls struggle immensely, missing loved ones, on the brink of suicide until it’s over, but to the masses, there are palpable levels of enjoyment. This is consumerism at its most potent – no pound shops, no pubs, no homeless people, no rain, no reminders of the hovel you live in, no reminders of your neighbours new convertible, no reminders of how life is in effect a tangled web of direct debits slowly strangling your limbs like Japanese knotweed.

I unfortunately didn’t have the stamina to stay until closing but from what I could gather, around 10, when they stop pumping bliss endorphins through the air vent, security have to use cattle prods to get people out.

westfield 1

The Toilets:

The toilets at the Westfield are of significance to the Porcelain gentleman because they are treated with little significance – i.e. they are shared by all establishments and thus all the same. This is toilet communism. No shop, no matter how fancy or self involved, can complete its experience with a well heeled and decked out loo – because they don’t have one. Every loo is ‘down there, up the escalators, 4th on the right’ or ‘past the food court, by the lifts’.

It’s on this point that it really hits home where you are. There is no toilet graffiti, no sketchy behaviour or semen in the urinal – there is no broken loo seat, nor is there some ostentatious marble, or some charismatic idiosyncrasy. Some people really believe in such middling, establishment neutral efforts, but these are the same people who discuss the merits of emigrating to Canada. Yes, everyone is probably a bit happier and yes, the standard of living is probably higher, but at what cost? Sub cultures…? Creativity…? General human idiocy?

To the Porcelain Gentleman this journey is akin to a modern day meander into the heart of darkness.

I raised this point to a chap by the door of the loo’s and bemusement was followed by a very articulate counter argument based on the fact that this was logistically, economically and environmentally the most viable solution. At that point I felt like a dinosaur, like some chap holding an iPod and asking someone where the hell I insert the cassette. Is toilet sharing an attribute I should be commending as opposed to castigating?

Through the conversation a level of rapport and trust evolved so I decided to seize the moment and tell him had a website that reviewed toilets. He exited hastily.

Westfield phone 9 Westfield phone 3

With a new perspective and revitalised vision I re-entered the toilets to find a pleasant and sanguine atmosphere and, most importantly, some excellent attention to detail. The walls were gold, the stall’s immaculate, all remnants of pipes and electrics ushered from sight. The hand dryers, rather than jut from the wall, were under the mirrors – all one had to do was lift hands from the sink and the water was thrust from my skin like they were in a tiny hurricane. Magical.

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The Porcelain Gentleman:

Up until the aforementioned conversation I was ready to vilify this cathedral of consumerism for a lack of imagination, for removing the foundations of actual choice and replacing them with some badly acted pantomime masquerading as choice, but then I realised that it was indeed ‘choice’ that arguably got us into this mess.

Perhaps choice is a paradox, one assumes having more is better, but actually you are only left with the headache of what to have and the regret of what you didn’t choose.

So in this respect, what with hundreds of shops already clawing at your patience, a singular place that leaves you no choice is of comfort. And indeed the loo’s themselves – were excellent 7/10.

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Westfield phone 4

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2013 by in Retail.

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