Sunday, 22 March 2009

Hanging Back With The Joneses

On the occasions my mother brought me to London as a child, whether
it was shoes or books or sewing needles we were buying; we always went to Harrods. In those days, payments were processed through
an incomprehensible system of small brass canisters whizzing
along overhead tubes to some distant accounts’ department designed
by a submariner.
When I first moved to town aged 17, I was so green that when I needed milk or baked beans; that is where I went. In the first months of becoming a Londoner, Harrods was the only place that didn’t frighten me.
It's been years since I went there, but this week my friend Ornella persuaded me to go with her to buy a dog collar.
It felt like the right time to make a sentimental journey before it becomes a crackhouse. 
It's well on the way….

Selfridges, Harvey Nicks & Liberty all reinvented themselves years ago. Even Peter Jones, that sturdy-ankled matron of department stores got refurbished.
Foolish Harrods, smug in its reputation as top dog, got left behind.
For years, its wonderful operatic exterior has been the only thing left to enjoy because inside it had solidified into a brassy, overpriced strictly-tourist-only tat trap. It even has white china elephants in the windows.

Walking through the western doors, the first sight is the mawkish bronze statue of Diana & al Fayed Jr wrestling with a seagull.
At the base is the legend ‘Innocent Victims’.
After costing the taxpayer £12.5m to discover what we all knew all along, ie. drunk driver – no seat belts, al Fayed Snr is still using this ‘art’ to peddle his tired allegations that they were killed by MI6, in league with French & American intelligence, on the orders of the 'Nazi racist Frankenstein' Prince Philip.
Far from persuading us that the royal family are to blame, this unfortunate statue only serves to remind that if there is any culpability - beyond the drunken machismo of Henri Paul - it lies at the door of the person who chose Paul over the regular chauffeur to drive that night: his employer, al Fayed Sr.

We decided against spending £3 on a cup of Harrods tea in the empty cafĂ©, instead we wandered through one Marie Celeste department after another, until we finally reached the lifts. Doors slid back, tumbleweed blew out & we rode up to the fourth floor and the Pet Department.

Here they seemed not to have stocked with the crunch in mind and are still trying to sell three-tiered 'candy canine' wedding cakes & mahogany Napoleonic campaign bed versions of the dog basket. For the pet with an investigative mind, there was a tweed Sherlock Holmes outfit [See Below. Note matching fore & aft tweed hat] that could be tried on in the dog changing rooms. 
I guess if these animals are forced into clothes often enough they eventually get freaked out by their own furry nakedness.

Ornella found an overpriced diamontĂ© collar for The Notorious P.U.G, the gloriously named puppy she is shortly to take delivery of - but whisper it softly – the reason for the new one is that she dropped her last pug out of her car for a run - & ran it over. 
Let's hope no one pops a cap into this one.

We made our escape from Pets through the Toy Department. Again, we were the only visitors & instantly drew the fire of massed ranks of floor-walking demonstrators who swarmed us with helicopters, somersaulting ducklings and giant bubbles in a desperate bid to prise open, if not our hearts, then our purses.

We took cover by a huge table of overpriced E-Z Snow - a bizarre display since everyone is quite relieved spring has arrived after the unusually large amounts of snow this year. If there’s anyone out there pining for more, you can buy it fake for around £350 a drift.

I feinted left and bought a tiny plastic penguin to fend off the ravenous staff, while Ornella barrel-rolled to the right and picked our exit. We fled through the parting hail of yoyos and boomerangs and only managed to calm ourselves after bulk-buying heavenly Prestat violet cremes as we made our escape through the ground floor.

If Harrods is out of step with the times, then what are we to make of the Pope's latest comments?
At the start of his African visit he declares condoms 'are part of the problem' in the AIDS epidemic currently killing 20m people there. His solution? A criminally naive call for 'chastity & fidelity'.
It would have been marginally more helpful to suggest ‘bromide & castration’. Following his line of argument into other areas of life: no Catholic should ever lock their front door, or their car, or anything else they value. Why? Because theft is wrong.
I can't imagine how millions of averagely intelligent Catholics can listen to the old Uncle Fester look-alike without wanting to renounce him. They have as their leader a man who blithely endangers the lives of millions in a place where the majority have precious little other than their health and their faith.
Time for another Anti-pope I think.
The owner of Harrods might be looking for a new occupation soon…and he has some of the required credentials, being already well versed in the dissemination of rubbish.

Games To Play With Teenagers:
The ten-year validity on my children’s passports is about to run out. 
This weekend, we went to update their pictures to send with the renewal forms.
For the most pleasing results, I find it best to stand outside the photo booth & leave them to privately arrange themselves, then just as the camera is about to flash – shriek 'Look normal!' through the curtain.

& One Last Thing....
People discussing the death of Jade Goody keep saying her story is a modern phenomenon, yet her life arc has huge parallels with Zola's Nana, published back in 1880.  The main difference is strikingly more sex in his story than in hers.

[Header Illustration:  Somebody's Watching Me  [Collage]