Putney. It’s a happening little suburb in south-west London. It’s got a cinema. It’s got a shopping centre. It’s got cafes and bars. It’s even got a Waitrose, where you can buy mince pies that smell like a Christmas tree. And at the top of the high street, on the corner of Putney Bridge and Lower Richmond Road, it has a neglected retail unit which, bafflingly given its prominence, has been unoccupied for at least a decade. But do not shed a tear for this lonely runt, because its façade has been spruced up to promote an amorphous concept which the burghers of SW15 have termed “the Putney experience”.
By studying this repurposed shop window, we can see what The Putney Experience amounts to: groups of rowers and competitive bicyclepeople, the latter apparently racing in flared trousers.
It’s a cause for rejoicing that cyclists now seem to be considered a vital part of Putney life, even though the representation of our clothing isn’t entirely accurate. But I’m not quite sure how Joe Public is meant to react. Maybe a visitor to the area will think to himself, “Well, I was going to watch a film, have a latte in the Caffè Nero down the road and then pick up a box of those Heston Blumenthal mince pies, but screw it – this is Putney, and I shall now experience its Putneyness to the full by becoming a competitive cyclist on this very day, even though I am not appropriately equipped in the trouser area.”
Maybe that will happen. I kind of doubt it, though. But if it does, I’ll be ready to welcome them into The Putney Experience.