GOING to the Dundrum Shopping Centre is our new pilgrimage.

On the Luas there is the same unity of purpose. Particularly on a Saturday.

The tram comes to a stop and 96% of its passenger get out. The crowd is so female that it's essentially a type of Mum's Army. Then, contrary to what you might have been led to believe, it is quite a walk to the shopping centre itself. Tramp, tramp, over featureless roadway; everyone going in the one direction, and kind of enjoying it.

Of course, you can go to Dundrum Shopping Centre by car, but then you are bound to get lost. Although the car parks are most impressive . . . they have fantastic lino flooring . . . there are quite a few of them and of course the interior ones have no natural lighting at all. There is outdoor parking available for smokers.

On, I think, Level Minus One . . . Doctor Who has not just been revived in Britain, you know . . . there are helpful people from eastern Europe who have come over especially to show us round our own car parks. One of them cheerfully agreed that it was rather like being in hell. "Yes, there are several different levels, " he said.

Then, really, it is all a blur. It seems impossible to go to Dundrum Shopping Centre and spend less than three hours there. No one has really explained why this is . . . although you can bet that a lot of thought has been put into it. One minute you think that you might go and have a look for a pair of shoes. The next minute you've lost two hours of your life. You have gone into full Consumer Drift.

Consumer Drift. It's a common phenomenon in our world. A lot of money is made from it. Consumer Drift. Your feet make no sound, but your brain is twitching like a Pavlov dog. Consumer Drift. There is a lovely pair of shoes in Zara. H&M is very crowded. Could you bear to go in? Okay, they're yellow, the shoes in Zara. But everybody needs a pair of yellow shoes. And a green shirt from East. Everybody needs a green shirt.

Maybe just pop in to H&M to see what all the fuss was about.

There are many strange things about Dundrum Shopping Centre, and Consumer Drift is not the strangest of them. After all, Consumer Drift is available in any shopping centre, whereas in Dundrum Shopping Centre the supermarket is on the top floor. I don't think that this has been emphasised strongly enough. For the claustrophobics amongst us, it is very bad news. You have to bring your shopping trolley down to the windowless car park in a glass-sided lift. I was very brave.

Of course, Dundrum Shopping Centre is no fun for agoraphobics either. The crowds are overwhelming. It is like being in an airport during the school holidays.

Strangely enough, it seems to be like that during school time as well: black with white people. So what if some of them are local mothers meeting for coffee . . . there are far too many of them.

The thing is that Dundrum Shopping Centre, besides being a tourist attraction for the majority of us, is actually town to thousands. I don't mean that it is a town, I mean that it is town. There are many people on Dublin's southside who don't go into Dublin city centre except tof well, they just don't go in there at all. Now they never will.

In all shopping centres, the supermarket is the clincher. In Dundrum Shopping Centre, this is doubly true.

That part of the southside, remarkably, seems to have lacked a substantial supermarket. Or at least a supermarket which has been able to grow as fast as the surrounding population, their incomes and their expectations. Parking at the other shopping centres is always tight. In the older centres, the supermarkets are small by modern standards, and so can't display the full range of their stock. All these factors are now going to hit the supermarkets which are closest to Dundrum like a sledgehammer.

Not that anyone should feel sorry for supermarkets, of course, what with them grinding small producers into the dust, wrapping cabbages in plastic and not marking on their trolleys the denomination of coin you're supposed to put into them. But that's enough about me.

Whatever about supermarkets, you still had to go in to town to buy your clothes and your kids' clothes. This is no longer the case. Dundrum Shopping Centre is really Henry Street with a roof.

Plus House of Fraser and H&M. We Henry Street girls could be tempted to abandon our old haunt altogether. But we like a bit of sky.

Besides, there is half a city on the north side of the river. Although most of them, along with country people, now seem to be on the M50, on a day trip to have a look at our new wonderland. Warning: the M50 comes to a very abrupt halt right about Dundrum. The signs are inadequate. Carry a copy of this newspaper with you.