I have a very dear friend who I love very much. Whenever I spend time with him it’s lovely, regardless of where we go or what we do. This friend came down to visit me in London a while ago and we had a great day wandering along the river, around markets and drinking in the sunshine in Covent Garden. I’m always determined to avoid the shops whenever people visit since our fine capital is literally chock full of amazing things to see and do. Spending money in the ubiquitous emporia that fill high streets up and down the nation is really not a priority. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, despite my best efforts, we finished up in Burtons on Tottenham Court Road.
I told this little anecdote to some British friends and they chuckled. I told it to an Australian friend and they looked at me blankly.
So Burtons is the next piece of cultural shorthand.
People who live in London know that Tottenham Court Road is far from the most glamorous place you can hang out on a visit to the city. And most British people will understand that Burtons represents your lowest common denominator, generic menswear store, remarkable for nothing except functional and reasonably priced polyester suits. British people know that ending up in Burtons is a bum end to a day. So they laugh knowingly because if you’re going to end up shopping on a day out in London you should finish somewhere cool (and to be fair we did go to the only Abercrombie and Fitch in the country too, which was a surreal, disconcerting and almost upsettingly unsettling experience involving male models and dimmed lighting) or trendy. Not Burtons. Unless you’re Australian, or Kiwi, or Canadian or some other Commonwealth traveller. In which case you probably don’t know enough to really care.
And you’re probably better off for it.