I’ve been fixated on my Christmas window Nativity scene on and off for 8 days now.
So, I issued a stern decree (to myself) that when the whole darn thing was finished, and fixed up on the window for the entire world to see, I would give myself a trip to London.
I went yesterday.*
I took my favourite route in: home – Clapham – Victoria, then walk up past Buckingham Palace, where the sightseers throng, amiably taking photos of one another. The weather was lovely. Blue skies, white clouds. Cold, but warm inside your coat. Circle past the palace and cut up through Green Park. There were police on horses, and the horses had thick blankets on.
Out of Green Park at the top and turn left past The Ritz. On towards Fortnum’s (a quick (expensive) stop in here for something special for Christmas Day). On and on, up Regent Street with the twinkly decorative Christmas angels flying above the road, and the crowds, and the traffic. People with bags of shopping, and music coming from the shops, and if you look up above the modern glass shopfronts, the lovely buildings of London all around you.
And suddenly, there you are. Liberty London. A department store, selling beautiful, artistic, luxury goods. An interesting building. Built from the timber of two ships, I always thought Liberty had been there for much longer. But no, it is 1920s mock-Tudor, which is quite fitting, because inside all is clever conceit; salt shakers that look like antique porcelain dogs, pottery pomegranates, new paintings made to look old, red Silvine notebooks we used to use in school, now re-packaged as highly desirable in the Stationery room.
It’s a fabulous example of the beauty of well-made objects, and sometimes, the sheer cheek of art. I giggled with delight all the way round, starting with an episode in the lift. When I got in, a fantastically London young couple were deep in conference, bemoaning the lack of craftsmanship on a watch one of them owned. ‘Rose Gold! Twenty thousand pounds it cost!’ Another woman in the lift raised her eyebrows and caught my eye. We attempted to keep our faces straight. In any other shop, I’d say that couple may have been actors, but in Liberty, probably not.
But that’s what it’s like. Mere shabby artists like me perusing the ornamental paperweights, the coffee pots, and the leather handcrafted animals, and the dishes hammered by hand out of one piece of copper to a thinness almost humanly impossible to attain. And all the while rubbing shoulders with the socialites and the high flyers and the artistic glitterati.
The people watching is exquisite. My favourite customer was a modern gentleman – bashed up tweed jacket and a wonderful hat, excellent shoes, good looking, older, distinguished. He had with him two black dachshunds on leads, equally charming and both wearing jackets, their claws click clacking on the wooden floorboards. I hid behind a purple wingback armchair, pretending to be interested in the cushions, and listened to his discussion about tea-making paraphernalia.** Despite his commanding air and obvious human appeal, he was very kind and polite to the assistant. Jolly good show.
It was so much fun. I wasn’t shopping exactly, just browsing for inspiration and for pleasure. I’m not big on shopping. I just like to look, and drink it all in. Still, I got the distinct feeling that one day, you never know, my work could be in Liberty. It’s possible. The kind of quirk I come up with would actually fit right in, if you think about it. Well, wouldn’t that be nice (and somewhat staggering)!***
But if I were you, I’d get it from me first, before I get to that stage. Sensible fellows, you all are, saving yourselves a veritable fortune.
After Liberty, I thought to nip across to Borough market for some hipster Monmouth coffee, but after walking millions of miles in the tube tunnels, changing from one line to another, I decided enough was enough, and re-surfaced at the station to go home instead.
What a lovely time it was.
*Which surely means that the window is finished. It IS! Pictures soon.
**I know, tea-making. I was a little bit head-over-heels by this point.
***And also hilarious!