Sunday morning, some time near Christmas, some place still held in red. 2019, three sore days after the General Election. We're holding out so hard for no one to come.
Northumberland Street runs between Grey's Monument and Haymarket, Metro tracks rattle underneath its series of chain retailers, a Roman Road running above between London and Edinburgh. Each square metre costing roughly £1,742, now dislocated from ancient histories, a straight line into boring futures, serial routes, rows of shops stratifying expectations, a frictionless encounter from W H Smiths to Primark to recognisable high street jeweller to ubiquitous coffee shop to prefab leisure to car park to office to home. A tightly packed system, eliminating any crevice for contingency to exist.
Gig economy booming: hot cider, German sausages, artisanal soaps, blocks of cheese priced like blocks of gold, melting chocolate; everything is organic, parading as natural facts, like the folk working on commission, like the man with a sleeping bag over his shoulder, the casually contracted young people taking it in turns to lie down round the back of the portakabins wrapped in the piles of coats, their futures slapped into the cracks of the pavement, as Durham Miners Gala takes place in a Tory seat.
The tannoy locked into an infinite loop above, it's the most wonderful time of the year, and the reversed Gregg’s sign reflected back in the Fenwick’s Christmas window, coercing the two things into a regional consciousness. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.
The high street and its copy and pasted commerce, too simple a metaphor, especially whilst other more muted configurations of capital lurk undetectably and intangibly in immaterial structures. But right now, with the unfolding Christmas market in full full swing, and the carousel of repeated sounds and sights and smells, I feel locked into its concrete.
Another Sunday, this one, Easter. We're in lockdown week three maybe and the city is evacuated. The opposite of emptiness is not necessarily fullness.
The high street's shops, all but the essentials, are closed. Notices in windows, stocks have been cleared, no cash on the premises. Police loitering. There is absolutely nothing where there should be something.