Saving Britain by Shopping

At last, back in London where some 2 months earlier I began my little European tour. I never tire of this place. It is, in fact, my second most loved metropolis after, of course, my home – Sydney. London has everything I need: the arts, the few thousand watering holes, parks, a whole world of beautiful women and, despite their occasional pestilential ailments, a metro system that is far superior to that of any Australian version. The only things of note that are missing are good cafes with good coffee.

I’m staying in Piccadilly Circus just behind the much photographed neon signs.

With the possible exception of Hong Kong (where I’ve been) and New York (where I’ve not) – no other city tickles the instinct to spend like London can. As I strolled along the trafficless Regent St, on Saturday it seemed like the whole of “W1” (this part of London’s postcode) was more crowded than usual. There were large hordes in almost every store and perhaps the most impressive was that outside of Hamley’s – a toys store. You wouldn’t think that this was the country, no – the city, that’s presently in the midst of the “credit crunch”. But with plenty of street theatre and fancy lights to dull people’s senses, it’s easy to forget a crisis of any kind.

As it turns out, the weekend’s shopping frenzy had a perfectly rational explanation. Encouraged by the UK government with cuts to interest rates and the VAT plus aided by big price reductions from retailers, Londoners, along with their EU neighbours, turned out in hundreds of thousands. But are sales actually up? Well, apparently not, said the GM of John Lewis. While stores are busy, people aren’t necessarily spending more than last year. That is, except myself.

In the midst of this craze I couldn’t help it. Even basic maths went out of the window. Looking at the prices, I totally ignore the pound symbol and calculate the numbers back to Australian Dollar based on the euro! My brand new coat is ahecofalot more expensive than I thought it was.

And so, whatever economic recovery Britain may have as a result of consumer spending, PM Gordon Brown can at least thank silly tourists like me.

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