Wednesday, March 31, 2010

GB Shops: a Teeny Update

Apparently a little guilt (and a formal written warning) does wonders for my female bipedal attendant's ability to locate things she's responsible for. Behold ~ my Harrods' bear penny!

Monday, March 29, 2010

GB Shops

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me but, besides travelling the world and performing humanitarian acts of weighty significance, I like to shop. After all, before I became a Freelance Goodwill Ambassador I was an international fashion model for the House of Alfred Sung. I don't believe that being a Humanitarian and an Avid Shopper is contradictory in any way. I'm sure my female god-bipedal remembers fondly our almost wild goose chase through the winding streets of Venice searching for just the right mask for Carnevale. I know I do.

So when we were in London (y
es, I'm still "in London" at least in spirit), I absolutely insisted that we all take the tube to Knightsbridge and pop into Harrods for a few hours of window shopping. After all, anyone who is (or was) anyone is (or was) a patron of Harrods the likes of Oscar Wilde, Sigmund Freud, A. A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame), Noël Coward and members of the British Royal Family (to name a few) passed through its doors regularly.

Sitting on a 4.5-acre site, Harrods is the UK's largest department store with 330 departments, and is in fact almost twice as large as its biggest competitor. That's pretty impressive since it started out as a wholesale grocery store (specializing in tea) in Stepney some 175+ years ago. It even has its own Latin motto: Omnia Omnibus Ubique — All Things for All People, Everywhere, which is nice and all, but there's no mention of bears. And Harrods has bears!

While we were browsing about (I saw a lovely smoking jacket which cost £1249.00 but since I don't smoke I decided against it), I was able to visit some friends who call Harrods home. For some reason which escapes all logic, Harrods houses its massive family of bears in the basement. In the basement! With the souvenirs! Souvenirs! At least I was able to spend a bit of time with them because my bipedals wanted to drop by the Green Man, (Harrods' pub, named after their green-coated doormen) big surprise, eh? so while they drank, I made some friends. Of course they all knew me because bears follow my blog religiously, but it's always nice to put a (bear) face to a name.

Before I left (sadly without the smoking jacket), I made my very own commemorative Harrods bear coin. They had a nifty minting machine and all I had to do was pop in a penny and turn the handle and voilà! my own bear penny! My female bipedal took it from me to "keep in a safe place" and I haven't seen it since, which I think means that she's already lost it. I could be angry with her but it does give me an excuse (not that I ever need an excuse!) to go back to London for a weekend and swing by Brompton Road.

I think all in all, we spent half the afternoon at Harrods - and even I stopped for a pint in their pub - but I could've stayed all day. Harrods has had a pretty colourful history: it premiered England's first escalator in 1898 and calmed its jittery patrons by offering them a glass of brandy at the end of their "ordeal". In the 60's, Christian the Lion (a cub) was "on display" (you humans!) at the store but after escaping from his cage at night and tearing up the carpets in the furniture department (good for him!), Harrods decided to sell him. Happily for Christian, the people who bought him had George Adamson (of Born Free fame) reintroduce him successfully to his natural habitat in Africa where lions belong! In 1983, terrorists - members of the Provisional IRA - set off explosives outside its doors killing 6 people. Shopping just shouldn't be dangerous!

Of course, many people automatically think of the Al Fayed family who have owned Harrods since 1985 (it came with a
£615 million price tag), and the untimely deaths of Diana (Princess of Wales - not Whales) and their son Dodi Al Fayed. You can visit the shrine there but, in this bear's opinion, it's a mite tacky it even has a wine glass bearing (bearing!) Diana's lipstick smudge from her last meal. But I admit that the Egyptian designs throughout the store are pretty nifty. In 2002, Harrods had a real Egyptian cobra stood guard by a pair of £62,000 ruby-, sapphire-, and diamond-encrusted sandals. I hope the cobra was paid well. I don't know what snake lobbyists felt about that but these day animal rights advocates are angry because Harrods still sells fur and it's the only department store in the UK to still do so.

That make
s me sad. Maybe when I return I'll get my penny (unless "a certain someone" finds it) and join the protests that are regularly held outside its doors. I mean, if people are happy wearing fox and mink, are bears really safe?

Monday, March 15, 2010

GB @ the BM in GB

I know I've been remiss in keeping everyone up-to-date with my many adventures, but it's been hard for me to get a Certain Someone (see my bear paws making imaginary quotation marks in the air) to maintain my blog these last few weeks - for that reason, I've just rolled up my shirt sleeves (not really - I don't wear shirts much any more) and I'm blogging myself. Now, if you look at the photo (left), you'll see me and a very blurry but awfully famous landmark. Where am I? - yup! - that's me in front of Big Ben, so I must be in London!

At the end of January, on our way back to Turkey from Spain, I managed to squeak in a bit of a layover in Great Britain. My bipedal attendants and I took the train into "the City" for the day. We were pretty lucky, what with the deep freeze and all the snow dumped on Britain over the holidays (well, a Canadian bear might have said "dusted" Britain) because the weather was quite fine while we were there - although cold enough that a Certain Someone (see my bear paws still making imaginary quotation marks in the air) complained. A lot.

So: London in 24 hours! We started at the British Museum - known as the BM by those in the know (hence the title for this blog posting) but I don't really like calling it that anymore because my male bipedal kept sniggering (BM = bowel movement) like an 8-year old every time I said BM. Some people just need to grow up. After 250 some-years, I think the BM demands a little respect. Between Her and Him, I bet there's a lot of grey bear-hair under my grey flannel.

Anyway, I saw lots of amazing things there, including mummified cats from Egypt (phew - no bears at least!), the colossal statue of Ramses the Great, the Rosetta stone (which Champollion used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs), the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!), the Portland Vase, alabaster reliefs from Nineveh, Hoa Hakananai'a - that big statue of a staring fellow - from Easter Island, the 7th C Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo treasure, and of course, the Elgin (or Parthenon) Marbles.

my International Incident in Athens, I was pleased that the highly professional security team at the BM had no problem with me having my photo snapped in front of the Marbles. I know that Athens really really wants these reliefs back (they once graced the Parthenon) - after all, they were sort of stolen by Lord Elgin around 200 years ago. In fact, the BM is full of lots of priceless treasures (like the Rosetta Stone) whose countries of origin understandably want back. In this case I'm inclined to see the Elgin Marbles just stay put in London. I guess I'm just being spiteful which, I know, doesn't suit me very well - being a Freelance Goodwill Ambassador and all. Still ...

Goodness! There was so much to see at the BM - and we did see a lot - that I can barely (bear-ly!) remember everything. We were there for hours and hours, and naturally - after all of that walking and all of that culture - the bipedals started whining to beat the band. To shut them up - and in spite of the fact that I really wasn't ready to leave - I generously suggested that we pop across the street for a traditional English lunch (which naturally included a pint) at the Museum Tavern.

Being a vegetarian bear, I couldn't have the fish & chips - which really does seem to be a when-in-Rome thing to do (or a when-in-London thing to do) - but the staff there whipped up a vegetarian alternative for me: haloumi & chips. Haloumi is a goat and sheep's milk cheese from Cyprus and can be battered and deep-fried because it has a high resistance to melting. I won't say that it tasted 100% like fish, but with the beer batter (and the pints of Old Peculiar) it was pretty close.

The pub has been around forever (although it's current state dates to 1755) but from the 1600's, it was known as the Dog & Duck. Too bad it wasn't the Bear & Duck - or the Dog & Bear. Mind you, bear baiting was wildly popular in so-called Jolly Olde England (Henry VIII was reportedly a huge fan) and one account left by Robert Dudley (a "favourite" of Queen Elizabeth I) says that "... it was a sport very pleasant, of these beasts, to see the bear with his pink eyes leering after his enemies approach ..." Honestly - you call us animals? You humans are so barbaric! Maybe it's just as well that we leave my fore-bears alone.

I think that's all I can manage for now - my bear paws are getting a bit sore and if I make a habit of typing out my own blogs then I'll be paying you-know-who to do absolutely nothing at all. It's not that I'm not without compassion, but I think it's time a Certain Someone (see my very sore bear paws still making imaginary quotation marks in the air) learns the dignity of work.