Burlington Arcade review
Burlington Arcade is famous for its Beadles: they look like doormen dressed up in top hats and tails and are supposed to enforce a load of dopey rules like No whistling! No singing! and No holding an open umbrella! But if truth be told they are just a couple of old geezers who stand there staring at the traffic. When I was in there today, for example, a couple of kids tried to whistle a few tunes for a laugh (which is totally against the Burlington commandments), and what did they do? Absolutely nothing. Nowt. I was very disappointed. I thought they were supposed to come charging down the aisle with machine guns blazing and blow the kids to smithereens, but they didn't even break their gaze off the buses. But I bet if I whistled a tune, though, they'd beat the living daylights out of me. That is the kind of luck I have.
As for the shops, they're all posh and expensive boutiquey-like places. They are so expensive that even rich people can't afford to shop in them -- that is how expensive they are. I saw a cotton scarf on sale for seventy quid. No joke. And it wasn't even made out of wool! How is that supposed to keep you warm in the winter? Only rich people would buy a scarf that's made out of cotton. You can get second-hand Rolex watches (still ten grand a pop), five grand fountain pens, silk ties, bow ties, and the kind of pastel hats that women wear to Ascot. They have impossibly shiny bottles of perfume -- they look like toffee coloured whiskey in a crystal decanter. Pearl necklaces with beads the size of onions. Wallet-sized handbags that cost more than a house. Hand stitched leather shoes. Umbrellas with carved handles. Don't bother going in there for your groceries because the only food on sale is chocolate. The famous sweet shop at the end is decorated in gold -- all over. Every wall, shelf and spare inch of ceiling is covered in gold leaf -- and that is not an exaggeration. It's the shiniest shop in Britain.
I don't bother going in the shops anymore because they're the same size as shoeboxes, and I like to flit through life like I wasn't there -- I like to remain anonymous. I don't want to start up a conversation with the shop staff. As soon as you step through the door you are practically standing tiptoes with a saleswoman who will greet you with a cider-like 'Hello, Sir', or 'Hello, Madam', or 'How can I help you today?' Obviously you can't admit to her that you're only there to be nosey, so for the next two minutes you basically have to pretend that you have a spare five grand to spend on a Rolex watch. She totally knows that you don't. And you know that you don't. Even the Burlington Beadles know that you don't. But this is the game that everyone plays down Burlington Arcade. She probably only gets one real customer each week, and she knows darn well that you're not him -- you're just another in a long line of nosey tourists who have come in to ooh and aah at the shiny objects on her velvety shelves.
The only thing that I can afford to buy is a tin of boot polish from the shoe-shine guy. He looks like one of those old-fashioned shoe-shiners you sometimes see in sepia-tinged photos of the steam train station. He's got a pot full of brushes and a chemistry set of oils and unguents, and you are supposed to sit there in the middle of the arcade whilst he buffs up your loafers and makes chit-chat about the weather.
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