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Shopping for Britain

December 8, 2009

I wouldn’t normally venture to Oxford Street this close to Christmas. For most of the year it is a mildly uninspiring, too large but reasonably convenient shopping venue, but in mid-November something strange happens and it seems to be taken over exclusively by mad people on a mission to buy horrible things for people they hate, barging everyone else out of the way in the process.

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Of course, John Lewis stands out as an oasis of calm in the midst of this festive lunacy, and I was there only last week exchanging my broken phone – easy peasy and it took only a few minutes as I timed my visit to get there as the doors opened and was out by 10.30.

So, when the lovely John Lewis PR folk asked me along for a special Christmas shopping tour yesterday, starting at the late hour of 11am, I was a little tentative  –  was it really safe? But curiosity, of course, got the better of me. I couldn’t resist finding out more about one of my favourite shops. And I was dying to meet some fellow bloggers.

Uber mummyblogger Sally from Who’s The Mummy brought her beautifully behaved daughter, Flea, Metropolitan Mum came with her baby who wore the most adorable ickle-bitty Uggs, we nearly lost glamorous 40 not out in the shoe department and I discovered a near-neighbour in Sparx from Notes from Inside My Head.

We toured the store from top to bottom, taking in toys, the Christmas shop with this year’s white scottie dog theme, the lingerie department, where staff will discreetly come to the aid of dithering men, and the cheese room in the basement. This, particularly, was a revelation to me – for some reason I hadn’t noticed John Lewis had sprouted food and the cheese was fantastic. We sampled one which tasted like mince pies – extraordinary.

In the midst of all this, fascinating John Lewis facts came thick and fast – did you know that a cashmere jumper is sold every ten minutes in the Oxford Street branch? Though I’m not surprised as they are £40ish and the colours are great. Did you also know that Uggs are made in China, but Emus, which I thought were from New Zealand, are actually made in Australia? Or that John Lewis does wish lists for teenagers, so baffled relatives don’t have to make the dreadful faux pas of buying JLS instead of Jay-Z?

Meanwhile, the store was getting busier and, as we jammed up the aisles to talk, one of us did get a swift kick from an outraged shopper. It was definitely time to leave. I got home in one piece, and with only one regret. I had been in John Lewis for over two hours, and yet I had somehow managed to leave without buying even a single cashmere jumper.

I may just have to go back.

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  • Rosie Scribble December 8, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Sounds great! I got the invite to go but it was just too far for me to travel. Shame.

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 8, 2009 at 4:41 am

      What a shame! Would have been lovely

  • Anna December 8, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Great to meet you yesterday and glad you had such a good time! Happy Christmas!

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 8, 2009 at 6:48 am

      Thank you and a happy Christmas too!

  • rosiero December 8, 2009 at 6:47 am

    John Lewis has gone down in my estimation and indeed I have a bone to pick with their Oxford Street store. Why o why have they got rid of their beautiful Aladdin’s cave of materials, wools, tapestries and haberdashery that for decades used to take up almost the entire ground floor and shoved it into a minute itty bitty corner of the fourth floor. I used to make a special visit just to gaze at the bales of beautiful materials, finger the cottons and zips and buy unusual things that the average haberdashery didn’t even have. They don’t stock a tenth of what they used to. A few months ago, I went in there to ask if they had some black broderie anglaise and the assistant looked at me as if I had two heads. She then asked me to describe what broderie anglaise was. I then heard her ask her supervisor if they had any black tape. I mean. Come on! Maybe when you go back to to get the cashmere sweater, you might mention it!!

  • Dulwich Divorcee December 8, 2009 at 6:52 am

    It’s true, I was a bit sad a few years ago when I asked for some wool to finish a half-done tapestry (story of my life) and they told me they didn’t carry that brand any more! I eventually found it online, I wonder if you could get your black broderie anglaise at a site somewhere? Burford Needlecraft is a good one. On the plus side, JL does sell Cath Kidston fabric in 10cm lengths, which my girls love for crafty bits, and Liberty (not far away) still has a beautiful needlework department (or did have when I last looked, admittedly some time ago!!). Anyway I will beat up JL on your behalf when I go and get my (10,000) jumpers!

  • Crystal Jigsaw December 8, 2009 at 8:28 am

    A blogging meet, sounds fabulous. Is that really a picture of Oxford Street shoppers? My idea of a nightmare! I haven’t been Christmas shopping for many years, I do it all online because I can’t stand crowds. But meeting those bloggers might have made up for it!

    CJ xx

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 8, 2009 at 1:31 pm

      I know, the crowds are manic! That is a picture of Oxford St last Saturday, where record crowds of people spent £1bn in one day! Definitely also my idea of hell but definitely meeting up made it worth while (and it’s never nearly as bad on a Monday)

  • Metropolitan Mum December 8, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Great to have met you yesterday. I am still sad I missed the cheese department. Little L fell asleep on our way home and slept until 5pm. Shopping is exhausting…

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      Goodness, now you know where to take her when she can’t sleep ….I think it was probably seeing all those big Uggs in the shoe department which knocked her out x

  • Sparx December 8, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    It was lovely indeed – and we are close neighbours, except that you are on what I like to think of as the posh side of the park, whilst we are on the side where angels fear to tread… and I confess I am going back to JL very soon, possibly because some cheese may have been eaten slightly all up…

  • Dulwich Divorcee December 8, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I can’t believe you’ve eaten ALL that cheese!! I’m assuming you had help ….or mice! Have you tried the cheese shop in Lordship Lane? There’s also a very good deli round the corner from me which does some great Italian cheese. Aren’t we lucky with all these great shops nearby?

  • ThatGirl39 December 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    It was lovely to meet you! And I’m truly flattered that you referred to me as glamourous!! Not quite so having arrived home and pulled on the leggings…. and Uggs (made in China!) And I am now kicking myself (after poor Sparx already got kicked) at also not buying some cashmere… and those lovely grey suede boots. But you can be sure I shall return to a nearby John Lewis in the not too distant future!

  • suburbia December 8, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    How could you have NOT bought anything?!

  • A Modern Mother December 9, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Love the headline! And you look particularly lovely in RED this month darling!

    • Dulwich Divorcee December 9, 2009 at 8:59 am

      I beg to differ – YOU look gorgeous in Red, I look, as my daughter put it this morning, ‘deranged’ – but I do look happy, and indeed was that day, it was super fun. Great interview, well done you!