SEAN MONCRIEFF: What kind of crowd are we?

“IT’S absolutely fucking jammed down there.”

The security guard pointed towards the swirling masses on Henry Street like a man recently returned from a war; for whom words would never communicate the horrors he had witnessed. His colleague nodded gravely, as if he had feared a day like this would come. Both wore Santa hats.

It’s best to have some sort of plan for pre-Christmas shopping. List your objectives, sketch out the quickest route, secure the goods and get out. That’s what’s best, yet it seems as if few do this. Most roll out of bed a bit too late, still dazed from the drinks the night before. Their ‘plan’ is little more than a declaration that they’ll go into town to ‘get a few bits and pieces’: an excursion that they imagine to be casual, even rather jolly; as easy as an afternoon snooze.

But just like last year and all the years before that, they remember too late what the reality is like: the streets are far too narrow to accommodate the thousands of bewildered souls shuffling through, trying desperately to remember what it is that they came in for; suddenly attracted to the idea of getting the wife a One Direction mug from the street hawkers. Once the shopper is caught in the strange tidal pull of the Henry Street crowds, the most sensible course of action is go with it.

The further you penetrate into Henry Street, the more druggily befuddled the people seem: they queue in Argos to look at the directory in the hope it contains a section called ‘what she told you to get her and the kids for Christmas’. It doesn’t, and finally the stupefaction transforms into anger.

One man dragged his sniffling 10-year-old out of the Jervis, telling her to hold my fucking hand and don’t wander fucking off and don’t be crying when we find your fucking mother, for fuck’s sake.

Parenting standards slip.

And then the rain came.

Huge globs of it pelted the ground. The shoppers crowded into doorways and watched the hawkers fight with tarpaulins or try to protect the boxes of suspiciously cheap Dr Dre headphones.

The sky turned inky, yet for a few moments the mood seemed sunnier on Henry Street. People simply stood, temporarily relieved of the need to forage for Christmas cheer.

But then the rain stopped, and everyone wearily moved off: into shops playing ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day.’ Oh dear God, No.


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