Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Zoo, Harrods, Sunday Afternoon at Elthorne

Chronologically this post is a little out of order, relating to events that happened on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. The last post ended Saturday night, so this might be regarded as a postmodern twist to the usual narrative scheme of things to make sure everyone's paying attention.

We've managed to accommodate our three guests quite easily. Benedict is happy to have their company, a distraction from the usual father-directed activities.

Dinner with Karin, Michael, and Ruth.

Meeting sheep and imitating meerkats at the London Zoo on Friday. I stayed home that afternoon. Word is that the zoo is pretty good. In Regent's Park, I believe.

Saturday afternoon we all met at Harrods. This was our third visit to Harrods. Masses of people made the sidewalks in the Knightsbridge area around the store as crowded as a tube train during rush hour. The area is famed for its shopping and people were either eager to spend money or watch other people spend money or wish they had the money to spend.

Harrods is a hilarious place. Really. Quite funny. The prices of some of the accessories will make you laugh. This is the place to visit when you are depressed because one's mood will instantly lift at discovering  that people exist in the world foolish enough to pay, for example, outrageous sums for diamond encrusted ipods. The model Lamborghini in the picture above is the size of a ordinary model car and its price is really modest compared to some the cost of other items. Still within the budget of most working families, isn't it?

Harrods's fame is the ability to acquire anything in the world for its customers. One of our SU tour bus guides told a story, which he claimed is true, of some newly minted Eastern European billionaire seeking a gift for some important member of the English aristocracy and asking a clerk whether Harrods sold elephants. Without batting an eye the clerk--undoubtedly dressed in black--asked back, 'African or Asian?' Harrods sold him an elephant as requested.

Some of us were content to have our picture taken with a bearish Beefeater in the Toy Department.
The store occupies over 4 acres and over a million square feet (90 000 sq m). It's massive. There must have been hundreds, nay, thousands of customers and tourists coursing through its aisles and hundreds of clerks to serve them. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of boutiques and galleries, each could be a separate high-revenue producing shop, entice shoppers to consumer excess. Restaurants dressed in all sorts of decor tempt those with discriminate, and not so discriminate, taste buds (extravagant roses fill the Georgian Room to contrast with its elegant pinkish understatement). We saw the poshest Londoners shopping and paying cash, some of them smartly dressed Russians with their glamorous and mini-skirted wives (girlfriends? mistresses?), Arab oil men with wives covered entirely in veils, Sikhs in pastel turban-wrapped headresses whose wives wore exotically-designed saris; their parked Ferraris, Rolls, Bentleys, Jaguars, and other similar family sedans waiting for them near the shop. I'm not kidding.
Sampling one of the remote-control vehicles.
This red car in the Toy Department is powered by a small Honda engine. You can't see the price tag clearly, but if you want to get one for your toddler it will only cost 10,000 pounds. That's the equivalent of only about 16,000 dollars.

Below are a couple of photos from different angles of a memorial to Princess Diana and the man who died with her in that fiery crash in Paris 13 years ago. The companion was Dodi Al Fayed, whose father, Mohammed Al Fayed, until recently owned Harrods, selling the store for 1.5 billion pounds this past May. The father believed their deaths the result of a conspiracy, which may be why he has never been given a UK passport despite living in England for decades. In the upper right hand corner of the top photo you can see a pile of flowers with notes and a man signing a memorial book. The Cult of Diana remains alive.
In the stairwell facing the statue of the pair is a modest memorial to the employees of Harrods who lost their lives in the Great War almost a hundred years ago. Just a large plaque with names. Next to their names is the regiment they served in--Royal Marine Artillery, 4th Cameron Highlanders, 22nd London Regiment, 2nd Wiltshire, and so on--and the Harrods department they served in--bedding, Gent's boots, grocery, optical, linen warehouse, and so on. No one paid attention to this memorial to forgotten, ordinary men who died in an unnecessary war. No flowers for them, no romantic statue to 'ooh' and 'aah' over. No book to sign. No cult to keep their memory alive beyond this plaque and perhaps some seldom seen photos pressed between the pages of a family's bible. Maybe there is another plaque with their names on it in their home counties. Will Diana and Dodi suffer the same loss of memory in a hundred years? Who will care about them? Diana's great grandchildren, one of whom will likely be King or Queen of England? Will Harrods shoppers wonder why this couple deserved such an over the top display while the three dozen or so dead soldiers did not?

It took longer to get to the south side of the river than we expected. Benedict, Erika, and I were headed for the Globe for the second part of Henry IV. We just had enough time to slip into the Tate Modern Museum for some hot tea in the restaurant before taking a stand among the groundlings.
On Sunday we enjoyed what even the English call an Indian summer's day. I don't know how or why they picked up the term. On gentle warm day we walked to Elthorne Park near the high school we had hoped Benedict would attend. This climbing structure occupied Ruth and Benedict for a time.
Next to Elthorne Park we walked along the banks of the River Brent. If we had walked south we would soon be in Boston Manor Park, where we enjoyed the large festival under the motorway several weeks ago. And walking further south along the river we would soon find ourselves where the Brent joins the Thames in Brentford.
The simple joys of bourgesie life: family, friends, and a carefree sunny Sunday afternoon in the park.

No comments:

Post a Comment