Woolnough braves the throngs of London shoppers.

lt‘s been an embarrassing while since

i l sauntered down King's Road. ('hclsea on a December Saturday

alternoon trying to look cool ((‘hristmas shopping'.’ ) amidst the sex eral thousand other Sid Vicious ‘n‘ Nancy Spungen lookalikes. 'l’hen.

('hristmas or no. the rey'olting

.\lalcoltn .\lacl .aren's shop was packed out with desperadoes intent

on buying extortionately-priced

ripped 'l’-shirts. designer sal'ety-pins and Sllshades ol' hair-dye. 'l'hose halcyon times of two-hundred hole Doc-.'\lartens. lots olgob. white lace-pow der and zip trousers are

long gone. Alas. the idyllic pastoral

' days of youth and innocence are tied.

[it Kings Road today. you can still

sec male Sids and the new

androgynous female Sids. .‘\‘ancy has unfortunately been discontinued. She is to be found wearing jeans. with two Benetton kids. shopping in Oxford Street. But ('heras is hardly showing its lace here and that. not sighing nostalgia. is the hunt of today.

()utw ith London's main shopping stt'eeis there is no sign ot'(‘hristmas reputatable establishments near Brick l.anc like Nina's l‘ancyUoods are holding lire. Noyember is still [twicttl‘ly

()slot'd Street at the crack of dawn on a l’t‘iday morning is iust stretching itsell awake. 'l‘herc is much ( 'hristmas here. with shop windows heay-ily bedecked in tinsel and batibles. In the broad light ol day. it all seems a little limp and premature. (‘hristmas certainly starts earlier in l.ondon than anywhere else (otlicially on 4th November): last year I sighted my lirst tree just oil 'I‘ralalgar Square at the beginning ol' September. Indeed. the (‘hristmas lights were in place in Oxford Street

by May.

l)own each side of the street small

trees. which year-round struggle

against lead-poisoning. are now

threaded through with fairy lights. Alternatingtinsel-and-light trees

' and stars are fixed to the lamp posts.

'l‘he exterior of' the Plaza shopping centre is a bit more liy'ely large green garlands and wreaths. woyen with twinkling lights. lift the shopping spirit. (‘oy'ent (iarden (ieneral Store has emigrated (the original is still in place) and is stuffed with giant crackers. Various types of loo~paper for various types of socio-economic bottoms. and mock-Victorian baubles.

Santa is hard to locate. ln Littlewoods. there's a mechanical one shaking a soundless bell. (‘ardboard cut-out Santas are plentiful. but the only real one is in Sell'ridge's. As brownies. we used to go on a coach trip to London to see the (‘hristmas lights. Apart from the non-stop singing of ‘On the first day ol‘(‘hristmas. . .' all the way there and back. Selfridge’s windows were always a highlight. Today I am not

disappointed. [iach window houses ely'es with wiggling gossamer wings who are up to all sorts of mischief. Inside. I queue to see Santa and ain deal‘ened by the caterwauling children who whine in chorus ‘Mummy. I want . . ‘Mummy canl hay‘e‘.’ . . ‘\\'hy not.” We are about to enter a display called ‘( )ut ol the Nursery Into the Night'. Sadly Santa isn't handing out presents. l-‘or £3.50. you can get an instant photo ot

Many thanks Ir) British.-lrrn'u_\1yj/m

their us‘s‘tslunt‘r' it'll/t this trip.

yoursellon Santa‘s knee. I manage to restrain mysell. lnyariably most parents are l'orced to giy e in to

strident demands. 'l‘o quieten things.

l‘ree badges are distributed. ()ne child pt'icks itsell and how ls. .'\nother blithely pins the badge on next to her .’\cid l lotlse one.

The display consists of tnoy ing bears in different scenes which enact cuddly-toy dreams. A y erse chums each window display : ‘.v\nn swims


Useful Information

For not much more thanthe cost of an APEX return flight. British Airways operate a London ForYou package. You can select from four grades ofhotels. with one or two nights‘ accommodation. continental breakfast. private facilities. and return BAtlights foras little as £85. You can travel on any flighton Saturdays and Sundays. and on weekdays. on anyflight between 103m and 3.30pm and after7pm. Departures are from Glasgow or Edinburgh. The 13 hotels on offer are all very central: I stayed inthe Hotel Russell. Russell Square. which proved to be very luxurious and within walking distance of Covent Garden. Leicester Square and Oxford Street. One night in a twin room inthis Group 3 hotel would setyou backa mere £104 (this includes flight and breakfast). A Saturday-night stepover would allowafull weekend's wandering. For further details. contact your local travel agent.

Getting There

8y plane: British Airways Super Shuttle Early Saver return flights cost £79 return from Edinburgh and

Glasgow. You have to buy the tickets 14 days before your departure date. tickets are valid forthree months and you don't need to make reservations. You can go on any flight between 103m and 3.30pm and after7pm. Flights depart on the hour most hours between 7am and 7pm from Edinburghto Heathrow and 15minutes past the hourlrom Glasgow. Journey time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.

By train: With a railcard (not for travel on a Friday) the return fare to King‘s Cross is £33; ordinary return fare from Edinburgh and Glasgow (not for travel on a Friday) is £50. Journeytime is about 5 hours.

By coach: Stagecoach is currently the cheapest bus deal. at £15forastudent return; £23 for ordinary return from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Journey time is about eight hours. For more information. phone 0738 33481.

Where to Stay and What to Do

You can book accommodation through the tourist information offices in London. Contact them on 01 730 3488. The offices also have information sheets on shows. Christmas shops and shopping hours. London by night sightseeing etc.

i Getting Around

A £2 daily travel card will give you unlimited travel on the underground and on the buses on the specified day. Availablefrom any underground station. The ticket system is currently being replaced—new machines are being installed which require you to press a button stating yourdeshnahon.The machinetells you the correct fare. then you have to move on to another machine which. when you have paid it and specified the kind of tare (Adult. return etc) will give you a ticket. It's always worth carrying sacks full of change with you to avoid queueing at ticket desks.

Useful Pubncahons

The insight Cityguide to London (Harrap Columbus £8.50) contains cultural and historical background. maps. colour photos and a very useful pink section at the back which gives you the low-down on everything else. London Atlts

Best (Harrap Columbus/ Passport Books 25.95) is by American Robert S. Kane and tendsto be slanted towards American readers. Itdoes. however. give an unbiased appraisal of hotels. restaurants and shops.

w here her l'eet should be .-\ treasure

hunt‘s what she likes best l'iol' Pieces of eight in a treasure chest‘. ()r ‘ls'imberley goes to the penguin coast ller pockets stull'ed with bitsol toast". l’inally . you get to Santa. who is. needless to say . a ( 'ockncy in a wig.

In the streets around ( islord Street. c\ ltlclice til ( ~lil islntas is y ariable. .-\rgy ll Street is coy et'ed top to toe in scal'l'olding. liberty's takes as its theme I'lie Nit/cracker Suite. large plastic soldiers stand on duty aboy e the entrances and round the outside ol the building while ballerinas lift and lower a leg apiece in the window s. In search ol' ('ltt‘istntas goodies. l head lot" the decoration department. ()lde worlde knick-knacks ( tnade in ‘l‘aiwan ). Swedish tartan hearts and tie-on. ready-made bows are this year's lestiye thing. .-\nd plastic gold-sprayed cherubs conl'irm one's suspicions while l'imuit'iu/ 'l'i'mt'y-wrapped crackers raise the tone.

South .\lolton Street is clinging on to autumn— it is still autumn-sale time there. At street corners. the sellers haye barrow s piled high with tinsel and infinite sheets ol w rapping paper at Slip l’or ten. .'\s night draws in. the atmosphere changes with a snap ol' the lingers, ‘l‘hen ( ‘hristmas comes into its ow n. Shops look warm and l'estiy'ely w elcoming instead of commercial. '1 he street lights are magical not grim. l lot chestnuts are sold lrom glowing bra/icrs. ln Regent Street. w hat by day looked like giant tasteless silyet' baubles now llash and crackle with blue static electricity (courtesy of l)anie [.{dna‘s switching-on eltorts). ’l'he liye-storey toyshop l lamleys is a hiy'e of wanting. packed with children and parents sury'ey'ing the possibilities. (‘hildren are squee/ed out ol the picture as adults sltoy e lorw ard to test otit remote-control cars. talking dolls and barking. walking dogs.

In Knightsbridge. l larrods is awaiting the imminent arriy'al of its Santa. w ho is. we are told. sledging down Brompton Road at Want the lolloyy ing morning. .'\leanw hile. the lidw ardian ('hristnias theme giyes plenty of room for slightly superior marketing. 'l‘heir ( ‘hristmas department is undoubtedly the best (it the most expensiy'e) in l.ondon. ()nly there did I find something more than glitter in the unpretentious Scandinay'ian wooden decorations and red wooden heart candlesticks.

Beneath the jolly ( ‘hristmas wrapping. London has in recent w eeks been sul‘l‘ering from some sey‘erc shocks to its confidence. 'l'here has been a jellied-eels health scare: people were ady'ised not to eat more than seven pounds of them a year. A smog. the first since W71. suddenly descended. necessitating a no-jog warning. .'\nd cyclists are currently wearing gas-masks. Perhaps the warm hum and glow as ('hristmas approaches will help Londoners to put their troubles behind them.

78 The List 9 22 December 1988