The London Only Tourists See Pt 2

London

There are quite a few huge buildings off Piccadilly that appear derelict now, like this great gas-lamped wall of warehouse-type buildings that look as if they belong in Shad Thames. The block that contains the Hard Rock Cafe (is that even still there? Probably long gone – it’s another place nobody but tourists visit) was owned by Cubby Broccoli.

Shepherd’s Market is not an area I ever have need to pass through. The former Mayfair red-light district for up-market sploshers is now a weird enclave that manages to look both European and absurdly English. The pubs aren’t bad, though.

From here it’s down to Piccadilly and the world’s most pointless store, Fortnum & Mason. Nobody from London ever goes there, so I thought I should remind myself what it was like.

All I could think was that it was a shop for people who don’t like food, as it consists largely of the things you get in corporate hampers that sit in your cupboard for a year before being thrown away. The fish and meat counters are sad and depleted, with less fresh produce on sale than the average branch of Waitrose. I didn’t venture up to the menswear, as anyone who decorates in red velvet and tassels probably hasn’t got my favourite brands

I felt like going up to tourists and telling them to go to other places where they would get good food and wonderful clothes, but most of the F&M shoppers seemed to be buying tiny pots of jam as souvenirs – a sure sign of decline in my book.

But now that most of the great department stores in London, like Marshall & Snellgrove, Gamages and Bourne & Hollingsworth, have gone, Fortnum’s has taken on an iconic quality that makes it a passive figurehead, as pretty and vacant as a footballer’s wife, trapped in an idealised tourist image that prevents it from selling anything remotely interesting.

2 comments on “The London Only Tourists See Pt 2”

  1. BangBang!! says:

    They also sell the most hideous Christmas decorations you’re ever likely to see.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Why do I feel that “taste” and “Fortnum & Mason” don’t belong in the same sentence? Could it be that garish lighting and the overly ornate windows?

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