The pilgrims start arriving early. On foot, by bus, underground, taxi and private car they come in droves.
HARRODS of London was buzzing yesterday. Arriving in the street outside at 9.50, I realised it didn’t open till 10, but there was no shortage of action. People were milling around. From overheard conversations, many were visitors, either foreign or from the country, and we were keen to get inside.
I’d come on a pilgrimage too because the nephew of friends, Nicholas Kirkwood, is now designing and selling shoes. They’re available in Harrods and I wanted to see them for myself.
During the wait, I walked round to Pont Street and spent a quiet moment in that outpost of the Scottish Church in London. Its calming austerity was a sharp contrast to the consumerist worship I was about to plunge into.
Back at Harrods, the performance began when a top-hatted gentleman in the iconic green coat opened the door for me and spoke the first line of dialogue ” Good morning, Madam.” It was to be repeated every time I caught the eye of any staff member. Genuine smiles accompany the words, despite the obvious non-Harrods’ customer costume I’m wearing. Indeed, I have to go into the food hall before I encounter more than a couple of people who are there to buy.
The feeling of being on a stage set is enhanced by the way the shop is dressed and lit, and by the loud upbeat soundtrack of popular, but not heavy, music throughout. People are here for one of London’s free interactive tourist attractions. Only in the millinery department do I see a sign saying ‘No photography’.
The set is salted with shoes. All the big brands have little side aisles, shops within shops, with doors that can be closed. The big clothing brands have their own shoes dotted among their displays. Eventually, as in the V&A ten minutes later, I have to ask for directions. ‘Is there a dedicated shoe salon?’
I find it and spend my own pilgrimage sashaying among the stands of shoes my ankles would not thank me for. Never mind a shoe horn, I’d need the kitchen steps to get onto them.
I don’t spend my pilgrimage to the Nichols Kirkwood display on my knees, but catching sight of a price tag en route, £690, nearly brings me to them. Nicholas’s shoes are lovely colours, electric blue with peacock green, pink and he doesn’t show any prices.
I spend a little time up and down escalators and am bewildered by the stout poles blocking the entrance to all the ups. Notices explain. It is forbidden to take buggies on this escalator. Clearly the management know their cast.