The fact that I know central London more than KL tells me I’ve been here probably too long. I was minding my own business on the 390 bus towards Oxford Circus when memories come flooding by the moment we were caught in the traffic at Marble Arch. On my right was the building that used to house the Virgin (of the Richard Branson variety) Megastore. The building appears empty now, and I remembered a few years ago a souvenir shop was trading in the premises after Branson decided to concentrate the Virgin brand name in telecommunications and finance as opposed to music and airplanes.
My first tee I had ever bought at this Marble Arch store was a Def Lep one with the Hysteria record cover on it, and this was back in 1988, probably just about the second day I was in the UK before the lot of us were bussed over to Bedford for a week. The tee was likely to have been a tenner which was big money at that time especially when one’s monthly allowance was a paltry £48. The one disappointment in the Def Lep tee was the absence of a back print, which is a must- have if you buy an “overseas” rock t-shirt. Heh. This was rectified over the subsequent Christmas term break when I got a Metallica Damaged Justice tee with American dates at the back! I still have the tee, and would be able to wear it if I err… lost half my weight.
Another “overseas” must-have were the music cassettes – they were made of clear plastic, and this included the case. I can’t for the life of me remember what was the first tape I’d bought although I did buy Dokken’s Beast From The East some time. It should be painfully obvious by now that I couldn’t really buy much stuff even with the £6 per day stipend given to us during term holidays.
Next to Virgin was C&A, a European-based fashion department store akin to Mark and Sparks albeit cheaper (‘Cheap & Awful’ was a moniker allegedly coined by our Bruneian counterparts who obviously got more monthly dosh than us). For me, cheap it wasn’t. I think I had one pair of trousers from C&A which I wore to death with my brown brogues at school. I wasn’t into fashion at all, and all I did was emulate some of my more sartorially-inclined batchmates (thanks, Mirul. Hahaha). If one thinks shopping at Next for clothes is a luxury, you know how tight things were! C&A has gone the way of the dodo (it’s still there in the Netherlands last time when I was there), and now in its place, is Primark. The building was, err… probably earmarked for similar business ventures, but I jest.
My reverie then ended when the bus began to meander its way in the parallel backstreets (Oxford Street has got some major work being done since last summer) as I began to figure out whether to do Denmark Street (and not buy anything), or just drag my feet along Regent St. and Carnaby St. (and not buy, err… anything either) before heading off to a quieter North.