Middle Class Problems: Discount shopping

I needed some new clothes.

No, that's not true. I wanted some new clothes.

So I went to a discount-shopping mall. You know the type, on the outskirts of town, all stock reduced, hurry or it'll go.

This particular centre had styled itself as a cutesy village, presumably to counteract the flood of materialism that swilled torrential down its faux high street. Shoppers shuffled along, arms weighed down with clusters of crisp cardboard bags, many holding a smaller cloth bag, which in turn swaddled a tiny leather pouch, a kind of designer Russian doll, empty at the core.

Ugh, I thought. This is disgusting. It's consumerism gone mad. It's… Then I spotted a sweater, just the kind I'd been looking for, reduced by 70 per cent. And that was it. The mist descended, lust overcame me, and I took my greed off to the changing room where it could get as naked as space would allow.

We've moved beyond the rapaciousness of the 1980s to an uneasy place; it's not the done thing to be seen to be spending money – there's too little of it about. In this climate, buying reduced stock feels like a natural extension of "make do and mend", although, of course, it's the complete opposite. In these centres, the sales are eternal, yet the atmosphere is as frenzied as Oxford Street on 1 January.

I came home with my purchases, at once guilty and exhilarated. "They're nice," said my husband. "Did you have a good time?"

"I don't know," I said. "I just don't know." 1

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