What we did on our holidays

As a result of writing this blog, we cannot avoid seeing everywhere through a Brockley prism. So, while in France last week, the main thing we wondered as we traipsed through town after town is: why are there so many shops while we in Brockley fret over the viability of a tiny handful of independents on our high streets?

The British economy is the one supposed to be afloat on an ocean of consumer debt, the French barely know which way around to hold a credit card. And the French have embraced the hypermarket with greater relish than us - Carrefour is bigger than Tesco and every French town is surrounded by US-style commercial sprawl. Despite all this, even the most deserted French town seems to be able to support a range of shops that would be the envy of a UK town twice the size. In Paris, high-end furniture shops outnumber high-end furniture buyers by a margin of at least two-to-one.

Due to Brockley Road's ongoing challenges, we spent a disproportionate part of our holiday pondering the question. The only explanation we could come up with was inertia - for a country founded on revolutionary fervour, France is almost immune to change:

Fiddle with the car radio for more than 10 minutes and you can be sure of finding Phil Collins, UB40 or Dire Straits. Johnny Hallyday is always on the cover of Paris Match. Some variant of the Crystal Maze is always on TV. Girls dress the same way now as they did when we were trying to pull them. Lucky Luke is still being used to sell junk food to kids.

The shops are there because they always have been. And no hypermarket, internet retailer or banker is going to tell them it should be any other way. It is a nation of Sounds Arounds.