Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Sophie Heawood: Here's where I can be the suffragette of Christmas shopping

The thing is...

The thing is, I never meant to fall in love with a shopping centre. A "mall". I grew up safe in the knowledge that consumerism was for the rudderless, shops were just dumping grounds for endless plastic stuff, and the endless plastic stuff was made by Third World children with stumps for hands. Chain stores were corrupting and the only places you should shower with your pecuniary affection were local shops powered by wind bicycle and gruyère.

Or so I thought, until they opened a Westfield 10 minutes from my house in east London. And the winds of change took me there and I saw the light – all of the lights – sparkling at me from TopShop and Wagamama and the Apple Store and one hell of a big old whopper branch of Boots. Twinkling at me like friends I hadn't put on my credit card yet. Reader, I married them. (So did my friend Grace, although we haven't told her husband yet).

People complain about shops getting ready for Christmas too early, but who knows how early it is in Westfield? This is a republic uncluttered by common notions such as "Wednesday" or "November" or "rain". When you enter the great halls of Westfield, which answer only to their own micro-climate of warm, you cast aside your mundane need for the Gregorian calendar, your seasonal affective disorder, your daylight savings.

You eat pho noodles from Vietnam, enchiladas from Mexico, accidentally spend 27 quid on a pair of navy tights and suddenly feel that all those "storage solutions" in Lakeland really are the answer to all the problems you used to have, once, back when you lived in the outside world, that place you sort of remember, full of Muggles.

Christmas shopping may well be a pleasure but the day itself can come and go, as I'll be there with Grace, at Westfield. Oh, they may pretend to be closed or some such tokenistic nonsense, but I'll move in on 24 December and refuse to leave.

Like suffragettes, Grace and I will chain ourselves to the railings. In fact, Grace has already declared herself Lady Mayoress of the place, and despite a small administrative kerfuffle when it transpired that Justin Bieber would be turning on the Christmas lights instead of her, she still refers to it as her "sacred place in the east".

Westfield is Hogwarts for the soul (that learns about magic from a stripey top and a spare iPhone charger lead). You might suggest that we need to get a life. But what finer place to get a life than the mall, when there are so many nice shops to choose one from? I believe they have an extensive range at Lakeland.