Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Old Town Steeples

DEAD MALLS DOT COM. Now that is a cause I can support, wear a ribbon for and donate generously to. Ugly, ubiquitous and impersonal; our civilization has become culturally mauled by the "mall culture". Let us - quickly now, for Christmas is fast approaching - raze them to the ground and scorch their parking lots. It is the festive season.

As if it needs saying, we need to escape the strip malls and find a way to return to the traditional main streets of our towns and cities. Not so, writes Brad Edmonds, who points an unjoking finger In Defense of Strip Malls (there's always one!):

As we drive along the large highways through a city, it is all too easy to wave one's hand and say: "look at all these unseemly strip malls that make this place look like every other!" But if we are looking for a hardware store, need a cup of coffee, or need some engine repair, our tune changes: we are grateful that we can easily spot the Home Depot, the Starbucks, or the Buick dealer. The locale saves search costs, for which we are glad indeed, and we demonstrate this feeling by voting for them with our own money. That's why they appear. That's why they stay.
Mr. Edmonds misses the point: the consumer will shop where he needs to, and if this means driving to the nearest strip mall and box store that anchors them, so be it. But malls largely exist because they have monopolistic protection from local governments through large-scale zoning and perverse tax incentives, incentives that encourage urban sprawl and pervert the market. Not so little Stalinist triumphs of state planning.

But thankfully may be indicative of a small Christian triumph of our own that is in the making. Getting back to Main Street means getting back to our churches, or at the very least, in view of them. As David Warren wrote last week:

A mall is an environment in which a church would be out of place; and were there even a chapel, it would be in some discreet glassy enclosure like the chapels in our airports. That is, designed for people “on the move,” to visit in response to some transient panic.

Whereas, on Canada's old Main Streets, there were churches built of brick and stone. Protestant Canada had churches of many denominations, rather than many parish churches as in Catholic realms, but the outward effect was the same. In driving, riding, even walking towards a town, the first thing you saw was steeples. And what you heard, on a Sunday morning, was the most beautiful symphony of bells.

Indulge me for a moment, all you younger people. Consider this contrast for a moment, and what it tells you about the “progress” of our national life. Consider alone, the effect of warmth upon the human spirit; and compare the interior of an old-fashioned church to that of the latest mall. And now walk along our sad urban streets on a Sunday, and feel in your bones the cold of winter.

Which is not to say that the person determined to find a church will not find one today: they are still there, embedded in the gums of our older neighbourhoods, like an old man's remaining teeth, many of them not yet turned into discount furniture outlets. They have made their own accommodations with the cold world. Parishioners now drive in from across town; almost every church I know has a parking problem. Few have the luxury of walking to church any more: in their Sunday finest.


Ginro said...

Completely off topic, for which I must apologise, but I just found this Youtube video -

"I am Canadian!"

Don't know if you've seen it or not, but I think it's excellent.

Meggie said...

I love your blog! The English Literature links are great. I can't wait to check out the Dorothy Sayers society!

Excellent post, by the way. I see some department stores as an exception to the malls-are-a-scourge rule (Liberty of London, Harrod's, Holt Renfrew in Canada, tc.).

Krys said...

I am not a Christian, so I can�t really say about the churches, but I agree completely about the malls. Malls/Shopping Centres destroy everything. They are not designed specific to the culture and style of the cities they take over, and no where is it more clear than the O2 in London, for it is nothing more than a glorified (and I use that word in the broadest possible sense) shopping centre. It is not a symbol of the glory of the city at the millennium. It's like going to Croydon high street with canvas on top. These malls are shaming. The cities of the UK will loose their culture to them, not because the idea of an indoor shopping centre is wrong per se, but because I truly thing the blueprints for these places are just photocopies time and again.

The Bullring (Birmingham), The O2 (London), Victoria Place (London), West Quay (Southampton), Churchill Square (Brighton), The Cascades (Portsmouth), The Mall (Birmingham). Which one are you in? That's a very good question, my friend.