This is how you can tell it’s Christmas: I’m going into Harrod’s rather than sniggering from outside at the Russian billionaire wives leaving the store with their new £5000 dogs.
But a successful Harrod’s run is mandatory if we’re to be serving the -sigh- obligatory Christmas pudding this year. (And we are.)
Avoid school holidays. It’s possible I only managed this for the UK as the place was crawling with adorable French schoolkids.
Go on a Sunday. The place opens for browsing at 11:30am and buying from 12pm. If you do this right you can get everything you need and be passive aggressively standing right beside the till when they open.
Get off at South Kensington rather than Knightsbridge. Walk across the road and start your day with a Starbucks Gingerbread latte. Then hold some Kensington lady’s little dog while she goes inside to pick something up. (It’s possible this won’t happen to you.)
Make the ten minute stroll along Brompton Road. You’re heading into town rather than away from it so you won’t get caught in the sea of foreign visitors who appear to have only learned to walk in a straight line earlier that morning.
The closest entrance to the Christmas section is the second one along Hans Crescent. When the doors open, take the escalators immediately on your right and head up two floors. You should get a few seconds of relative emptiness to orient yourself before the place fills -literally fills- with tourists. Comme ca:
Split up while there is still room (you have about 3 minutes) and grab things to show to your shopping partner. I wanted this. The notion was immediately kyboshed for financial reasons/James isn’t insane like me.
In retaliation I kyboshed whatever the shit he was looking at here:
Grab a basket as the hordes arrive. Take one last look around.
Then fuck off down to the food hall to get the Christmas pudding. Harrod’s sells two of them. One for a tenner and one of exactly the same size with the addition of ‘rum’ or some shit for £18.95 which is usually the only one you can find in the Christmas section. I am perfectly willing to walk down two flights of stairs to save £9. I have my own damn rum at home. (M&S is doing an amazeballs Gingerbread rum this year as it happens. Get in.)
By now you are lost. As you are paying, ask the attendant what the quickest way out is. Then make a beeline for it, stopping only to take a photo of the seafood bar and remark to yourself that you probably wouldn’t hate Harrod’s if you came here at any other time of the year but Christmas.
Walk back to South Kensington. Next to the original Starbucks from this morning is a Pret where you can buy a Pret Christmas Sandwich. (I disagree with the Guardian’s assessment of Pret vs Eat.) Stop at the Tabard on the way home because you really need the bathroom. Then you “may as well” have an ale.
Come home and immediately set up your tree, remarking on the fine additions to the ornament portfolio your little mission brought back.
Include the tartan angel you bought in Edinburgh’s Old Town earlier in the year which seemed like a good idea at the time, only to realise upon deployment that she matches the genuinely hideous curtains in your poorly decorated, rented crapshack.
Take and send a final close-up photo to my mother in Australia for maternal approval.
Wait for the sun to go down (3:30pm) so you can have some mulled wine while staring at the tree. Pass the time by working out how many places the various ornaments have come from: New York, Auckland, London, York, Bristol, Edinburgh, Paris, Rome, Florence, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Dublin, Galway… feel like I’m missing some.
Blog about it in the meantime.