Wednesday, 7 December 2011


I've just finished reading Big Babies Or: Why Can't We Just Grow Up by Michael Bywater, a witty but barbed indictment of 'the infantilisation of Western culture.' He argued on this New Statesman article that the Baby Boomer generation is guilty of being "greedy, trivial, venal, cosseted" and wrote in the Telegraph that we are "patronised, spoon-fed, our responses pre-empted and our autonomy eroded with a fine, rich, heavily funded contempt." The reason I thought I'd mention it is I couldn't help but think of local plans to build a Tesco superstore near Arlington House when I read a passage in the book in which Bywater writes about Tesco 'bespoiling another town' and jesting that:

"Store chains offer 'loyalty' cards, as though a giant corporation run by megalomaniacs is worthy of 'loyalty' (merciful heavens, what sort of arse is loyal to Tesco?)."

Quite right. My 'loyalty' was certainly tested when the Arlington House blog reported that an 'independent' heritage report commissioned by TDC on the upgraded listing of the Scenic Railway was authored by Dr Chris Miele, a partner in the legal firm Montagu Evans, which lists Tesco Stores as one of their main clients. Unsurprisingly, given the 'independent' nature of the report, it concluded that the Scenic Railway would not be affected by building a Tesco superstore. I wonder what helped Dr Chris Miele reach that conclusion? Oh well, never mind, just think how pretty the seafront will look with a giant Tesco staring back at us, eh? 

Anyway, why is it that Tesco deserve our loyalty? Is merely offering us cheap food and the promise of 'more jobs' an honest way to win over hearts and minds, or is it just a confidence trick? If you ask me, the expansion of big corporate behemoths like many UK supermarkets bear much resemblance to the growth of Attila the Hun's Huhnic Empire, invading all walks of life until we are forced to submit to their ubiquity. And let's face it, if the Huns turned up on your doorstep and set up a military outpost in your front garden, would you welcome them? I doubt it. For that reason, I see the "Big Four" supermarkets as being no different to the Empire builders of old. A good bit of Celtish resistance is healthy.

Don't get me wrong, supermarkets do have their place in society, but it sure as hell shouldn't be slap bang on the seafront, in the hope that it's the first thing tourists see the moment they arrive at Margate train station. What sort of postcard for the town is that? And another thing, don't Tesco have enough bloody supermarkets on our doorstep anyway? They already have a big one in the heart of Thanet - at Westwood Cross - not to mention the little Metro in Cliftonville and the small ones in Ramsgate and Broadstairs. Why build more? This isn't a case of business expansionism, it's an incursion, and it'll only make local businesses on the seafront suffer, from Margate's shops all the way along to those in Westbrook and Westgate. And they expect us to be loyal?!

Anyway, I recommend you buy Michael Bywater's book. What could easily have been a one-sided nanny state diatribe makes some very thought-provoking points about how a mixture of needless government policy-making; a PC brigade which often borders on the absurd; obsession with fashion, celebrity and consumerism; a belittling PR industry spin machine which mollycoddles and hoodwinks the public into herd-like conformity; and the condescending nature of mass media advertising have led to an absurd state of affairs in which grown adults take permanent flights from maturity and expect to be treated like Big Babies. I think it's about time we all grew up, don't you?


  1. The benefit of a supermarket to the consumer is the fact that we get cheaper products, however recently those products are getting more and more expensive and Tesco (and probably all big supermarkets) are using offers to hide their big increases in price. I dont like the idea of shopping with them but where we are, we only have a Tesco store because all the little local stores cannot compete and most have closed. It does feel that we are indeed forced to buy from them and they know this, so can get away with pricing things higher than they need to be. It is frustrating to feel we are being forced to buy in one of the big supermarkets but what else can we do?! I will definately be taking a look at Michael Bywater's book.

  2. Or put another way its about the continuing Americanisation of our society.

  3. Thanks for the mention, Luke. Whatever anyone thinks of Tesco, we should be assured that TDC planners are checking that whatever is proposed in our town fits with the town's needs and stated policies. Sadly, as the files in the Thanet Gateway show, they allowed themselves to be ridden rough shod over. Margate's existing businesses and people deserve better. Freshwater, Tesco and TDC are like an unholy trinity. Hopefully people power will prevail.

  4. And don't forget the Tesco that is due to be built in Westbrook, just a short walk away from the proposed Margate seafront development. Why do we need so many Tescos?!

  5. The Westbrook one is already being built (I walked past there today & they're making excellent progress). I too find it odd that there's one opening so close to Arlington House, though ironically this will be Westbrook's first opportunity to buy fresh fruit & veg without leaving town in years (apart from the odd lettuce or oranges in Spar's fridge).

    Of course, most of the local shops disappeared long before Tesco & Westwood Cross (thanks to competition in Margate). I lived in nearby Garlinge in the late 80s, & back then the high street had a post office, 3 small supermarkets, 2 greengrocers, a butchers, a bakers & a large diy / household goods store. Now none of these are there, with many of the properties residential.

  6. But don't you realise us Consumers (not Subject nor Citizen) want more Tescos! It brightens up an otherwise dull existence: somewhere new to go, somewhere else to park our cars and stroll around. We don't want the inconvenience of walking (yuk! did I say walking!) around and going into different shops! We don't want to think about anything like that goddamit!

    We could do with another McDonalds while they're at it. Or KFC. How about another Nandos too! I also propose turning that Eyesore Shed in Margate - you know the one that has that awful art stuff in it - into an XFactor Karaoke Palace, with a Pizzahut where the cafe is and you could also have another Tesco in Droit House.

  7. The kind of arse that uses loyalty cards has no qualms about his/her personal data being gathered by the enemy.

    The same type of arse tells facebook his/her life story.

    The IBM corporation provided the third reich with the punch card system used to collate information on the jews.

  8. As a kid I used to walk with my mother the three miles into our nearest High Street and back, three times a week because she could only carry about two days grub at a time. Sometimes in winter I recall crying with the cold.

    Hence, I love Tesco, car parks, cash points, loyalty cards and money off vouchers. If you want to go back to walking, queueing at David Greigs, then the butcher, then the baker, then the greengrocer and then the newsagent, please be my guest.

    Oh, and in case you had not noticed, the 4th reich is giving the rest of Europe its orders in Brussels today.

  9. That's why kids were fitter in those days Tom...

    I personally can see the pros & cons of both of them, & indeed I use both of them: the supermarket for my main fortnightly shopping, & smaller shops / high streets for bits & pieces in between. I do generally prefer to buy fresh fruit & veg from proper greengrocers though (despite there not being one here in Westbrook), & they're one of the few small stores that still often undercut supermarkets in price (check out the one in Birchington if you don't believe me!).

  10. There is a really good greengrocer in Broadstairs High Street along with three butchers, a fresh fish shop and a baker. David Greigs closed some years ago and was roughly where Iceland is today only smaller. Tesco used to be a cinema.

  11. i used to live in bracknell and they really have sold their soul to tescos there. there are no other shops and tescos have the monopoly for the entire area with 3 big stores within a few miles.
    consequently there was no choice but to accept their prices and same sterile blandness of every cloned store.

    i was happy to come back to live near whitstable and find i could get a whole bag of local cherry tomatoes for the price tescos charge for about 10-15. supermarket prices are for some reason way higher for fruit and veg than what you can get locally. the bread is never that nice either compared to a proper bakers.

    i never want to live with supermarket monoculture again. the 10p slimey dohnuts and expensive veg take the joy out of life.