We love the West End. The hustle, the bustle, the vibe, the pushing, the shoving, the queuing... Hm. Well, usually we love the West End. But on those days when we end up walking in the gutter 'cos the pavement's heaving, waiting twenty minutes to use an apology of a public facility, and struggling to repress uncharacteristically violent urges towards people ahead of us at the checkout desks, we love it a bit less.
So we were intrigued to learn of the proposed September 2009 launch of an alternative: Near London. Virtual shopping in a virtual Oxford Street and a cyber Regent Street. All the shops, with all of their departments arrayed for your perusal, without the bad-tempered grannies, rude tourists and bolshy teens with whom to contend. The programme has been created by the unfeasibly clever Alex Wrottesley of Near, who seems to be bent on world domination. Or at least the virtual recreation thereof. And it is being done with the co-operation of those forward-thinking marketing peeps at the New West End Company, who are surely the saviours of the West End.
Trouble is, there are two types of shopping. There is the one where you know what you want, the size, the colour, the quantity: clickety-click and it's yours, thank-heavens-for-the-internet. And then there's shopping for pleasure. Trying things on, humming and hah-ing over a cup of coffee, the accumulation of bags, the chase, the acquisition and the fulfilment. The agony and the ecstasy. The only ciggie that this Londonista ever missed upon quitting the weed years ago was the post-payment puff. And you sure as hell don't get that rush when you shop on-line: it's just too clinical. This, coupled with the fact that on-line shopping always leaves you with the niggling worries of how safe the transaction was, and whether the flipping goods will ever arrive, we reckon ensures the future of the real deal for many years to come.
What say you, people of London?