Print Story The Bluewater Experiment
Diary
By nebbish (Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:09:38 AM EST) (all tags)
Bluewater is a suburban London shopping centre just off the M25 in Kent. Unlike cheap and cheerful Lakeside Thurrock across the QE2 Bridge in Essex, it was built with luxury in mind, appealing to a better class of consumer. Inspired by the Trafford Centre at the posher end of Greater Manchester, it boasts a luxuriant architecture of minarets, glass pyramids and point lighting, nestling in the spectacular setting of a disused chalk quarry, the white walls of which are lit blue by roving lasers.


Unfortunately for its designers, the areas that surround the shopping centre aren't quite so salubrious. Dartford, Greenhithe, Swanscombe and Northfleet are old estuary towns; giant cement factories, boatyards full of rusting hulks and acres of cheap housing annexed by the south-east London suburbs. Bluewater might be ideally placed off the M25 and the A20 for wealthy London suburbanites, but it is also within walking distance for the youth of these towns - who descend en mass, having fuck all else to do.

This spanner in the works for Bluewater's owners led to in an unprecedented move which made the British national press: hoodies, the uniform of England's teenagers, were banned from the shopping centre. At this point the owners could make out that it was for security reasons, that shoplifters with their hoods up couldn't be recognised on security cameras. But a later, failed move to ban baseball caps revealed the policy for what it was: old-fashioned youth and class discrimination.

The debate in the press died down, and I wondered whether the restrictions were still in place. There was only one way to find out.

I am quite catagorically, at the age of 31, not a youth any more. But I can look pretty dodgy when I want to and visited Bluewater last weekend resplendent in Diadora shellsuit bottoms, Reebok classics, and of course a hoody. A back-up outfit of jeans and a fleece sat in the car just in case. I might have been embarking on an important social experiment, but Alison who was driving me there wanted to do some shopping.

We parked by the posh John Lewis end of the shopping centre, and with trepidation I walked through the swing doors. There weren't even any security guards. I was disappointed to see gangs of youths wearing hoodies strolling the aisles quite unmolested, and realised I would have to up my game. The hood went up.

Still no reaction. We visited a few shops, I ate some free mince pies. After a while we both needed a wee. Slumped outside the ladies toilets waiting for Alison with my hood up like some loitering rapist, a group of security guards dashed towards me, shouting excitedly into radios - but they were after someone else.

I needed to do something else, look more delinquent. I needed a prop. We moved on to the food hall, where I bought a Macdonalds Happy Meal. Hood up, I slumped back in my chair and crammed a cheeseburger into my mouth.

Still no reaction, although this could have been down to Alison playing with her Happy Meal Narnia diorama.

We managed to get that little guy to carry four chips in the end. I couldn't get a photo though, what with him falling over all the time.

A cheeseburger is one thing, but the real prop of the shopping centre charver is the Macdonalds drink carton. Undeterred by it being a tiny Happy Meal one with Narnia all over it, I strode menacingly up the aisle, occasionally slurping noisily at the ice like Samuel L Jackson.

Seriously though, would you let this man into your shopping centre?

As this final photo was taken, a couple of security guards standing nearby laughed and muttered to each other, and to be honest I think we were rumbled. I was the only hooded person in the entire shopping centre with my hood up, and I was old. I wouldn't be surprised if some thirty year-old twat with pretentions to online journalism doesn't go down there every weekend trying the same shit.

We did some more shopping, the hood still up. In Game I was tempted to elbow children aside to have a go on an Xbox 360 and try and get a reaction, but I'm a nice bloke and I couldn't. We went home.

The results of my experiment, despite a promising hypothesis, were inconclusive.

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The Bluewater Experiment | 43 comments (43 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Hahahaha....heeheheh....snort cough by Phage (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:26:31 AM EST
Bluewater...a better class of consumer...Words fail me. I was there last Sunday (at the Cheaper M&S end) and it was amazing how the smell of McChowder fats eddied around the building and even to the car park. But it was the sheer press of humanity that got to me in the end. Having got we came for, (30% discount on a new bed) we left before the urge to bite the heads off passers-by became intolerable.

Yeah, but have you ever been to Lakeside? by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:30:25 AM EST
Jesus, it's awful. Bluewater is definitely a cut above.

I don't mind crowds at all, actually quite like them this time of year because it makes me feel all Christmassy. Wandered round the West End for a bit last night after work happy as larry.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
OMFG - That's bloody hilarious by idiot boy (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:30:59 AM EST
Nice one mate.

They may have been more scared of the car mind.

Have you heard it by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:33:51 AM EST
when you turn the engine off and the Hairdryer from Hell starts up? People stop in the street and walk over to it.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Well if that doesn't strike the fear of god by idiot boy (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:35:02 AM EST
The driving will. Ahem.


[ Parent ]
She's going to read this by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:37:23 AM EST
EDITOR! SAVE HIM!

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Hmmm by idiot boy (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:38:52 AM EST
Yeah. I might just be in for it....

Redact redact redact!

Someone please break out the black marker.

[ Parent ]
Thought by Herring (4.00 / 7) #5 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:34:51 AM EST
They may not have hassled you because you're 7'6".

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
Heh by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:39:17 AM EST
The number of times I've been tempted to pat a policeman on the head when I've been pissed...

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
He's certainly not Welsh. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #20 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:32:36 AM EST

You can't handle my complete attention.

[ Parent ]
WIPO by komet (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 02:13:52 AM EST
Both - being down with the kids is a mark of sad bastardism...

I applaud your self-sacrifice in the name of research, but where is your control group?

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<ni> komet: You are functionally illiterate as regards trashy erotica.

Bad science by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 02:15:46 AM EST
Didn't think of that. What would a control group entail?

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Japanese school girls in uniform by komet (4.00 / 2) #12 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 02:23:53 AM EST
obviously.

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<ni> komet: You are functionally illiterate as regards trashy erotica.
[ Parent ]
Alternative WIPO by Dr H0ffm4n (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:05:29 AM EST
Meh. It's just a practical piece of clothing. Style or street cred has nothing to do with it.

[ Parent ]
Well said by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #21 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:34:54 AM EST
Was the reason I bought it anyway. That and it only being a fiver.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Absolute genius. by Alice Pulley (4.00 / 1) #13 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 02:42:50 AM EST
I salute you.

--

'But they're adults and perfectly capable of working it out themselves. And if not, well, fuck em.' - Nebbish '06.

+1 FP, Science Friday (nt) by tps12 (4.00 / 2) #14 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 02:50:14 AM EST


Good lord. by blixco (4.00 / 2) #15 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 02:56:06 AM EST
Throwing yourself at the mercy of the public (and a possible beating by the notoriously tough UKian Mall Cops) for us?

If this doesn't make front page, I'll...I'll shoot my dog.
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I am ten ninjas. Ten ninjas with root access. - mrgoat

I remember when by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #17 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:18:37 AM EST
McDonalds was actually exotic and a treat when I was growing up. The prices have stayed around about the same since the mid 80s so it was relatively expensive then.

Avoiding chavs, shop on Chiswick High Road. The only problem is you can only buy million pound houses, Bang And Olfusen stereos, antiques and overpriced snow boarding gear. No River Island or Top shop = chav free zone.

Too far west for me by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #18 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:26:12 AM EST
I'd get a nosebleed.

I remember being treated at Macdonalds every now and again when I was a kid as well, didn't happen often and it mostly friends parents who did the treating.

I was thinking the other day about how definitions of what's healthy and what isn't have changed so much: I remember Macdonalds and Kentucky not being seen as that bad, potatoes, pizza and pasta being healthy and Pepperami sticks (when they came out) being infinitely preferable to crisps. The only things that were really bad were sweets, and in moderation those aren't seen as that bad now. Odd.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Chiswick High Road by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #22 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:46:44 AM EST
Of course, you'd have got swamped by bloody carol singers if you'd been there last Saturday evening.

For some reason, despite the fact that I was singing, people seemed to be pleased to see us.

Oh, and I must apologise to Dr T for failing to invite him. 'twas rude not to at least email him and say I wasn't asking him along because he's too disreputable to meet my friends and cop off with the impressionable girls.

[ Parent ]
I was down there by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #24 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:52:21 AM EST
Last saturday. Didn't notice any carol singers...

[ Parent ]
Narnia Overlord by idiot boy (4.00 / 1) #19 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:30:20 AM EST
I wonder how the white witch feels about the great Narnia Overlord looking down on her from above.

Is she Aslan's real boss I wonder?

Man, if this isn't FP'd by noon today, by MohammedNiyalSayeed (4.00 / 1) #23 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:49:16 AM EST

I swear I will do it myself with dupe accounts.

Also, I might suggest adding a BDU jacket on top of the hoodie in further experiments. I wore one yesterday to the mall, and I'll be damned if I didn't get a little extra special treatment.


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
I thought the USian version of the hoodie by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #25 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 04:05:30 AM EST
was the trench coat full of suspicious bulges a la Colombine, or is that too goth?

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
The trench coat has a small market cap here by MohammedNiyalSayeed (4.00 / 1) #27 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 04:39:08 AM EST

It's limited to the post-goth/post-industrial/metalhead-stoner crowd. The more urbane hoodlums go with the hoodie.


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
[ Parent ]
True that goths aren't urbane by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #28 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 04:45:36 AM EST
Though the fact that some of yours go packed makes them considerably cooler than ours.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

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We keeps it real by MohammedNiyalSayeed (4.00 / 1) #30 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 05:49:21 AM EST

Though packed goths wouldn't last 10 minutes in more urbane settings here. Well, unless they were just dropping by to buy crack, and travelled in packs of 2 or 3.


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You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
[ Parent ]
I prefer "hoodie". by calla (4.00 / 1) #26 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 04:09:29 AM EST
Maybe that's an American thing.

+1FP - great article with swell pics.

"However, for this current diary to be genuine would have obliged her to read my Sam's Teach Yourself Unix Adminstration in 24 Hours, which is both disturbing and super erotic." Rogerborg

The best thing about bluewater by yicky yacky (4.00 / 1) #29 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 05:46:01 AM EST

is that it's in a sunken gravel pit (refurbished, of course) And it has street-lamps with purple glass covers.

Imagine waking up, late at night, heinously herbalized, whilst still above the level of the lamp-tops.

Yes: It is possible to convince yourself that you've hallucinated your way into a nursery-rhyme realm with twenty-foot-tall magical glowing foxgloves. I blame Miyamoto.


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Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
Jesus by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #32 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:32:48 AM EST
That sounds like some story. How the fuck did you end up out there?

Further Bluewater fact: a mate worked as an admin assistant for the firm that built the place, and I have an original commemorative Bluewater mug at home from the grand opening night!

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
I can't honestly remember by yicky yacky (4.00 / 1) #35 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:52:06 AM EST

I used to live in the sarf, not a hundred miles from there, actually, and I was going down to visit people. Some combination of circumstance had left me without a car and getting a lift to Bluewater. I can't remember whether I was going to get picked up there, or get a bus from there the rest of the way.

Anyway - long story short - Fragments: The people giving me a lift were mullered. When we got there it had shut. I had to kill an hour or so (IIRC) and went to grab forty winks up on the ridge near the main road (or maybe I went up there to spot my lift turning up because I didn't want them to miss me - I cannae remember). Either way, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the combination of doziness, perspective trickery and gear gave me the disney version, until I got below the level of the lamp-covers / bulbs and that immediately corrected the perspective and everything coallesced into normal, sleepy Kent.

Part of remembers all that quite fondly, and wishes life weren't quite so normalized now, although I suspect that if I had to do it again today, I'd find it less of an adventure and more irritating-as-hell.


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Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
[ Parent ]
Hallucinating is a young man's game [nt] by nebbish (4.00 / 2) #36 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:55:58 AM EST

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Hey, by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #38 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 08:26:05 AM EST
I said that 3 weeks ago.

[ Parent ]
Sorry to bite your style by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #43 Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 12:34:53 AM EST
I didn't know! (or if I did i've ripped you off subconsciously)

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
I can look pretty dodgy when I want to by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #31 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:17:17 AM EST
IAWTP, <AOL>Me too</AOL>, etc.

Here in USia, at the posh Tyson's Corner mall, a hoodie would be unremarkable. So, for that matter, would BDU's over the hoodie, weird purple hair, etc.

But then, looking dodgy requires more than the clothes. You need the furtive attitude, and the fuck-the-man attitude, which you probably weren't projecting.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

I'm not a very good actor by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #34 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:37:20 AM EST
and being neither furtive nor wanting to fuck the man, I think you're probably right.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Piercings. by DeepOmega (2.00 / 0) #37 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:59:26 AM EST
That's how you rile up the Tyson's Corner people. I'm talking a jungle-gym-hanging-from-your-eyelid piercings.

Or alternatively, just act poor. I mean, Tyson's Corner. Come in with a bindlestick and you're gold.

[ Parent ]
I used to by alprazolam (4.00 / 1) #33 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:33:33 AM EST
love going to the Galleria in Dallas, wearing dirty jeans/shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt. I figure since the first store you saw when you came in was Tiffany's, I'd ruffle some feathers. I never really got harassed or anything though, just glared at.

But it was nothing compared to when I used to roam around at night in St. Louis with a full beard, muttering to myself. At the grocery store, people would get in line behind me and either stay 5 feet back or just plain think better of it and get in another line.

cute girl by 256 (4.00 / 2) #39 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:28:05 PM EST
nt
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I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni
Yeah by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #42 Sun Dec 18, 2005 at 11:51:03 PM EST
and that's not a flattering photo either.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
I have a friend who lives in Sloan Square by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #40 Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 03:29:36 PM EST
who goes around dressed like that. I think it takes some bravery to do that.

You missed one important point. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #41 Sun Dec 18, 2005 at 03:27:18 AM EST
You were on your own.

You alone look cute, almost cuddly.

4 or 5 guys dressed like you, roaming around with no purpose is a different matter.

Specially if they are in their late teens. People fears them , they know it, and as any primate would do, they take advantage of it.

The Bluewater Experiment | 43 comments (43 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback