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?


Anonymous said...

Poor G.B.
you sure have all the problems of the world on your shoulders, don't you.
What is presently happening to all the animals must be breaking your heart.

Grey Bear said...

It's bad enough that you eat us but do you have to wear us too? *Sigh* It's a human's world.