'Tis The Season
Good god. What's the rush? August 9th and Bing was crooning White Christmas piped out onto the street, mystifying those in flip flops and sunglasses. A Santa Claus wrapped in red with a pith helmet and an actual zebra welcomed in the season at the tourist haven/heaven, Harrod's. Christmas had come to Knightsbridge. Their Christmas shop was officially open.
Wait. The semi-annual sales were winding down to '5
items, '5,000 Mulberry bags a steal at '4,500, school
supplies filled shop windows, autumn was only a passing
thought and mincemeat pies were hardly on the horizon.
Christmas stress and pressure a week after the end of
The much trendier department store, Selfridge's, refused to be out done; they opened their Christmas shop the very next day. What are they both doing? I thought Florida was the only place on earth that began the festive season in the beginning of August; no explanation required there'.beating sun on balding heads 365 days a year'no surprise there. But where's the Dickens tradition? Little iced cakes, snow flakes, mulled wine, Gregorian chants, plaid.
Admittedly, while Christmas in London can be surpassed by a host of other cities, including New York, Selfridge's can't be. They do have the most brilliant objects of extravagance to fill your prolonged season of merriment. Every year I promise myself only one new ornament. Promises, promises. Cleverly, I do hold back until their pre-Christmas half-price sale to rationalise my indulgence.
I dragged myself to see their new shop first hand, for research purposes of course. Oh my; a veritable fairyland. The whole atmosphere was a sort of vortex of glamorous excess-enticement- entitlement. While the whole world is in constant chaos, global warming promises our imminent demise, we have been granted four months to celebrate the superficial. I wanted to move in.
The walls were covered in a sort of three-dimensional plastic hedge, sprayed with a light touch of gold paint, dotted with tiny, tiny yellow lights. Gold and forest green flocked wallpaper filled in ' very Victorian meets post-modern. I crossed my arms to prevent my wallet from springing opening. I made mental notes: a 4' chartreuse chandelier bauble in the 'green section' next to the 'blue section' along the wall. I'll be back.
Catering to every taste: the whimsical, the twee, the
handmade, the modern, the graphic, the Victorian, the
trendy, the gauche, the Philip Starke devotees. Whatever
your Christmas mood, Selfridge's is there to satisfy it,
months before you even know what it is. What a relief
when 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' filled the air.
The most gag-reflex producing Christmas song ever
written. Fearing Celine Dion singing Santa Claus is
Coming to Town could be next; I was out like a flash.
Now Harrod's was another Clement Moore story. A monument to over-the-top; indulgent, flashy, vulgar, ostentatious, garish, gauche, gaudy, glaring, gold, glitzy and glamorous. Everyone must go there at least once. And they do. The aisles were jammed. Their pre-pre-season Christmas shop was chock-a-block with people and seasonal accoutrements. I went all woozy with claustrophobia. Curiously devoid of atmosphere, even with all those beaded, feathered, flocked, shiny, twinkling objects of desire. When did stark white walls elicit I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas?
Hark! All was not lost. Harrod's is offering a new service as well as Christmas to its well-heeled customers. The 'Anything is Possible at Harrod's' initiative in 330 departments from 10 September to 21 October. On offer is: an official dog wedding ceremony'a cookery lesson with the first chef of the Ritz, Paris'a bespoke suit made from an actual scan of your body'a '12 food tasting tour through their glorious Food Hall'if Christmas is becoming just too, too tiresome.
Pity those poor mothers who now have to don elf aprons, assisting their little ones in baking Christmas cookies for the next 3 ' months, while being slowly driven mad listening to All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth'. 'I want to lick the bowl!' 'No! I want to!' 'Muuuuuuuummmmmmmyyyy!' Ho, ho, ho. Halloween must be right around the seasonal corner.
About the Author:
Maggie is from Manhattan, where she was a painter, then designer of clothing, objects, textiles, interiors while writing for various publications and her own webzine. She is permanently based in London, the city of irony, where she writes regularly to her gal pal Lulu in New York.
You can read her amusing tales about London's daily life, people, current events, politics, fashion and culture at her website www.lettersfromlondon.com.