SEA­SON OF EX­CESS HARD TO SWAL­LOW

Western Daily Press - - Front Page -

WHAT fol­lows here should be whis­pered rather than printed in a news­pa­per, but here we go any­way.

You may have read the glad tid­ings of great joy about a whop­ping new shop­ping cen­tre for Swin­don get­ting the go-ahead.

The North Star Vil­lage project in Swin­don has just got plan­ning per­mis­sion. It will have half-a-mil­lion square feet of shop­ping, eat­ing and var­i­ous leisure stuff. Us­ing the stan­dard jour­nal­is­tic com­par­isons it will be about the size of eight foot­ball pitches, but less than the size of Wales. It’s not a vil­lage (a vil­lage has a church, pub, pond and pri­mary school), but never mind.

Here’s the bit that needs to be whis­pered: do we need more shops and places to eat?

We run the risk of each of us be­com­ing the size of whales (the an­i­mal, not the coun­try, though who knows…) if we keep stuff­ing our fat faces at our cur­rent rate. And al­though shop­ping won’t make us fat, and some­times one needs to shop, such as when one runs out of socks, baked beans or cat food, it’s be­come an ad­dic­tion.

Sci­en­tists have mon­i­tored shopa­holics and found that, as they shop, their brains re­lease in­ter­nal happy chem­i­cals called en­dor­phins and dopamine. The feel­ing is such fun that we want to do it again, and again, and again. It is be­lieved that more than one in ten of us could be hooked in this way. We can, of course, get the same chem­i­cals through other ac­tiv­i­ties, such as ex­er­cis­ing (and the North Star is go­ing to have two ski slopes, so that’s a start).

But if we’re not go­ing shop­ping be­cause we need a fix, then ap­par­ently we need to go any­way be­cause it’s our pa­tri­otic duty.

If project fear/re­al­ity (delete ac­cord­ing to pref­er­ence) is true, then the econ­omy is in for a nasty postBrexit shock, and all we can do is shop to keep the bro­ken wheels of com­merce turn­ing.

We’ll be handed medals as we leave North Star with our bulging bags of things that some of us couldn’t af­ford in the first place.

The shops are packed for Christ­mas, but Rob Camp­bell says the con­trast be­tween the haves and have-nots is stark

Traitors like me will be sent back in­side to buy more, and more, be­fore be­ing al­lowed to leave. Ei­ther way, we can’t stop shop­ping.

It is, of course, at this time of year as pre­dictable as in­di­ges­tion to com­plain about ex­cess, but it’s good to get a moan in early.

Within three weeks we’ll have wrapped and un­wrapped yet more stuff that we might ei­ther want or need but prob­a­bly not both and maybe nei­ther.

We’ll each have eaten a turkey the size of our heads and while we’re wash­ing down the lonely, chewy, yel­low Qual­ity Street aban­doned at the bot­tom of the box, with a pint of value Bai­leys sub­sti­tute, the ad­verts will come on the telly urg­ing us to get out and buy more of what­ever it is we could mostly live with­out.

The ex­cess is even harder to bear this year be­cause the con­trast be­tween those with too much and those with­out enough is so stark.

You can see it ev­ery­where, and now you can see it while shop­ping, which is apt.

At the week­end, smil­ing staff at my lo­cal Tesco, in fes­tive garb, were urg­ing shop­pers to do­nate to the food bank and every­one looked more than happy to oblige. It felt quite Christ­massy, and sat well with the fes­tive muzak in the back­ground about good­will to all men.

Col­lect­ing for food banks is with­out doubt a good thing, but at Tesco it came with the kind of happy-to­help vibe that was pre­vi­ously re­served for help­ing those who had just suf­fered aw­ful bad luck: or­phans, vic­tims of ter­ri­ble dis­eases and ac­ci­dents, lost dogs, re­dun­dant don­keys.

By con­trast, at Tesco, and other su­per­mar­kets, we’re col­lect­ing to help peo­ple who are grind­ingly poor for a bun­dle of rea­sons, some of which are pre­ventable in a bet­ter man­aged coun­try.

Food poverty is not a nat­u­ral oc­cur­rence, like some dis­eases, or dogs run­ning off. Some of it can be pre­vented, and we know that be­cause it didn’t used to hap­pen. In the very or­di­nary street I grew up in dur­ing the 1960s and ’70s some peo­ple were hard-up, but few went hun­gry, and maybe it was the same for you.

Per­haps ev­ery time we hand over a packet of soup to the char­ity we ought to also ask our­selves – or even bet­ter, an MP – how it got like this and why it’s not be­ing fixed.

And fi­nally, if you think I’ve writ­ten all this just to per­suade my wife that I am ide­o­log­i­cally op­posed to do­ing the Christ­mas shop­ping and that she should do it in­stead, then shame on you.

Lon­don’s Ox­ford Street is packed with Christ­mas shop­pers

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