So after a short nap I headed out for shopping. I have it in mind to buy a sweater. My favorite sweaters were ones I got in New Zealand several years ago, and they’d sprung holes and had to be retired last year. I’d like a nice soft wool sweater to wear as a second layer, preferably dark gray, dark green, or dark brown. And where better to find a wool sweater than London in winter? How to get to Oxford Street where all the big stores are? I was going to take a bus, as Apple maps suggested, but the nearby stop it led me to had a sign, “Buses do not pick up passengers here.” Apparently it’s just for parking? I couldn’t see where the next bus stop would be, but hey: right down the block was a cab-stand. I hopped into the front one and said, “Selfridge’s, please.” Which felt very cool.
I was delighted to find from a sign inside that the cab now accepts Apple Pay! Which it did, and that makes the London cab almost as convenient as an Uber.
Selfridge’s bears no relation to any image you (or at least, I) might have about the traditional British department store. (Maybe another day I’ll take a train out to Richmond and check out Bentall’s, where we used to shop in the 70s.) Anyway, today’s Selfridge’s is just achingly modern. Wide-open floors, brilliantly lit, just shatteringly trendy wares. And crowded with shoppers. We shoppers, almost all of us, looked quite dowdy beside the brightly colored and wares and glass cases. Demographic note: London is at least as multi-cultural as San Francisco. Women whose dress and appearance suggested the middle east were crowding the perfume counter for some kind of demonstration. Upstairs in the men’s department, at least a third, I think more, of the display mannequins represented black men, which quite a few customers were.
All the men’s wear was arranged in areas by designer, familiar Ralph Lauren and Polo and many others I’d not heard of. Open racks with clothes hangers spaced out on them, no place you could go to look at sweaters, you have to search every rack. Nope. I’m not a Selfridge’s shopper. More a Marks and Spencer guy. And the big M&S was right next door. Here the store was more like, say, Macy’s in Stanford Shopping Center — well, brighter and more mirrors than that, in fact I am going to see our local mall hubs as dowdy after this. But at least the goods were more by kind than by brand. Some cashmere sweaters, even, but none with the color, or collar shape, I wanted.
I ambled through a couple more stores before calling it quits. I was at the west end of Oxford street, and there was the Marble Arch station of the Central line. Down; one stop west to Lancaster Gate; and up. Not, however, up the 78-step staircase. I took the lift.
Hung out in the room for an hour until I was hungry, then went out around the corner to The Mitre, which advertises itself as a “traditional” pub. Ate supper there with a pint of… Kronenberg. Yes, German lager, which was the waiter’s suggestion when I said I didn’t like IPAs.