The London Only Tourists See Pt 2
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.