Christmas comes but once a year, and so today I made my annual pilgrimage (with the emphasis on the 'grim') to Westwood Cross. You see, I was in need of a department store, and whilst Debenhams doesn't even do a pale, Les Dennis style impersonation of John Lewis I wasn't prepared to pilot the G Swizz up the M2 to Bluewater and then remain there for 10 hours while it charged up for the journey back.
Needless to say parking was at a premium, unless you're one of those lucky blue badgers who pop the old permit on the dashboard of their 7 Series Beemer and then gaily hop, skip and jump the few yards to the shops. Even the grass verges had been colonised by cars.
Curiously, the centre itself has been colonised by potting sheds. An interesting choice of Christmas present, but one that will no doubt be more appreciated by Auntie Mavis than the traditional delight of a glass bowl filled with silverised Minstrels. This year every shop you enter is bedecked with posters of a gurning Harry Hill, but he seemed to have missed a trick with Vision Express which was empty when I nipped in to have the old glass eye serviced. Surely the sight of a larger than life Harry in his finest NHSers would have pulled in the visually impaired punters?
Now I do understand that I might be sounding a little 'Bah! Humbug!' by now. To be honest, it was nowhere near as traumatic an experience as I was expecting. The Ile de Thanet does need shops such as Debenhams, Next, HMV, Waterstones and M&S if it's going to compete with the likes of Canterbury. Trouble is, in the pre-Westwood past these shops would have been in our town centres where they belong. One north island, blogging doctor/councillor (no names mentioned) seems to think that despite Westwood detractors such as myself, the people have 'voted with their feet' (or perhaps more appropriately 'with their wheels'), a phrase much loved by Tricky Dicky Nixon in the 70s. But if I had the choice, I'd be shopping in Margate or, even better, Ramsgate this Christmas.
Still, I hear the Ramsgate Society has put forward a plan to erect an 'anchor store' on the Staffordshire Street car park site here in the Ms' P. What a splendid idea! Maybe in a year or two I'll be able to toddle down the road and buy Auntie Mavis a bilge pump and a couple of galvanised shackles for Crimble!