True Gripes: The main drag: Glittering Oxford Street is the pits

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The Independent Online
A decade or so ago, it all seemed very different. Oxford Street, to a bumbling Bristol bumpkin, was the works.

This was where, I'd been informed, you'd probably glimpse Pat Jennings. Better still, the HMV stocked records by The Chords.

Now, not quite so wide-eyed, I can see where I went wrong. Jennings, then Tottenham's goalie, seldom shopped on Saturdays, while outlets which flogged mod bands should by rights have been closed down. And Oxford Street? If this is London's nucleus, then what price dear old Deptford being twinned with Beirut?

Come on, you say, it's not that bad. Sorry, but it is. Crossing the road,

courtesy of the endless stream of taxis, is more dangerous than a dawn raid on

a crack den in New Cross. At Oxford Circus, forced to walk around those barriers, you're fortunate to reach the other side within two years.

None of which would matter if the shops were any good. Sadly, they are rubbish. And too far apart. From

Selfridges to M&S you cross different time zones. Even seasoned ramblers have been known to flag down cabs.

Not that you can blame them. After all, such is the glut of bodies, no one walks. At least not in a straight line. And not to HMV. Once the only place to buy black plastic, it is now less hip than a Kevin Keegan perm.

Naffer still are the new breed of skips-cum-market-stalls-cum-shops. A typical hoard: a goldfish bowl, an old transistor radio, a Seiko watch (with one hand) and a dodgy car alarm.

Never mind, eh? Console yourself with a nice cool pint of lager. Where? The only pub, a good day's march away, reeks of sweat.

And if all human life does congregate here, where the hell's Pat Jennings?

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