I can't breathe. Not a metre into this place, and I can't breathe. The smog here is so suffocating that in under a minute I feel nauseous, I have minor stomach pains, and a slight headache. It's so dense, so heavy with the sweaty stench of expired chocolate and new plastic that you could carve up the air and sell it as military ration packs.
It's honestly difficult for me to pin down exactly what I should call this place. The colossal signage without suggests that the proper nomenclature is “M&M's World!” which raises an interesting point, but the precise nature of this world remains ambiguous.
The walls are all covered in antiquated pictures from marketing campaigns and various assorted logos, each with a date underneath as if this is some kind of fucking museum, as if the production of bland confectionery somehow justifies historical records. As if we should somehow be awed at the notion of chocolate, and take or grandchildren to go and see this place as some kind of cultural education.
This bizarre world stretches five stories deep, each level more baffling than the last. And the place is bustling with activity – even at ten pm on a friday night. Apparently this is a major tourist attraction. People travel half way across the world, to London, of all towns, to see this monstrosity. Forget the globe theatre, pay no attention to St Paul's cathedral or portobello road. Ignore Foyles bookshop completely, sirs and madams, and don't spend a single day sitting in one of the thousands of parks on a sunday afternoon watching the ducks swim past, no no. When your family and friends ask you what you did in London town, M&M's World! Should be the focal point of your sojourn.
Just imagine that, please try. I am still encountering issues with this mental picture. In envisioning a world where people flock to a place like this in a city with so much to see as London, I hit a complete mental block; and yet, sitting here on the offensively neon steps of the place, these very same people swarm around me, defying what I had previously thought to be a rational outlook on life.
Just ahead of me is a man standing next to a statue of one of the M&M men so a woman can take a photograph, forever etching this revolutionary, monumentous occasion in their memories. I couldn't say which of the two looks less animated – the statue or the man. Both have empty eyes, devoid of thought or feeling. Each of them bear the same hollow, almost comically pathetic smile which speaks nothing of happiness. Neither of them seem, to my mind, like they could exist elsewhere other than right here, in this disgusting world.
Lest I forget the music, dare I call it music. These are songs in the same sense that – well – in the same sense that a chocolate is something deserving a five story building to celebrate it. You've heard all of these songs before, and so have I, but even if I wanted to I couldn't tell you a single piece of information about any of them. They're the same relentlessly, disgustingly upbeat tunes you hear in all of these temples of banal commercialism. The kind of white noise that's presumably designed to put you at ease and make you happy, but with so little substance, so little meaning that they become exactly that – white noise.
Of course, in a building designed to bay homage to a chocolate, there is no shortage of opportunities to throw away your money. There are rows and rows of shelves bulging with the chocolates themselves, all in reviling packaging. That isn't where the merchandise ends though, oh dear me no. There is practically every item you can imagine emblazoned with the M&M imagery. Teapots, doormats, lamps, posters, bathrobes – fucking bathrobes – it doesn't end. And neckties, oh the neckties. If this was a fair and just world then the designers of funny neckties would be subject to the worst punishments our judicial system can subject them to. This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a funny necktie.
I've been sitting here for thirty minutes now and I still don't know what this ridiculous, offensively stupid construction is. There are things for sale, but it doesn't feel like a shop. There has been an attempt made at historical records, but it damn well isn't a museum. Tourists dominate every level, but if this is considered a tourist attraction, I don't want to live on this planet anymore. Statues and monuments have been erected hither and thither as though this is some kind of historical site, like the Roman ruins dotted around the city.
No, this place resembles none of these things. As I enter the portal to this uninviting plane, I feel only like I am standing on one planet and peering into another; as though I have somehow gotten lost and found my feet on entirely alien soil. This is not a place where people should be, not humans. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. All that lies within is misery, plastic, and photos of men with dead eyes and empty souls.