Shopping for Britain

I wouldn’t normally venture to Oxford Street this close to Christmas. For most of the year it is a mildly uninspiring, too large but reasonably convenient shopping venue, but in mid-November something strange happens and it seems to be taken over exclusively by mad people on a mission to buy horrible things for people they hate, barging everyone else out of the way in the process.

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Of course, John Lewis stands out as an oasis of calm in the midst of this festive lunacy, and I was there only last week exchanging my broken phone – easy peasy and it took only a few minutes as I timed my visit to get there as the doors opened and was out by 10.30.

So, when the lovely John Lewis PR folk asked me along for a special Christmas shopping tour yesterday, starting at the late hour of 11am, I was a little tentative  –  was it really safe? But curiosity, of course, got the better of me. I couldn’t resist finding out more about one of my favourite shops. And I was dying to meet some fellow bloggers.

Uber mummyblogger Sally from Who’s The Mummy brought her beautifully behaved daughter, Flea, Metropolitan Mum came with her baby who wore the most adorable ickle-bitty Uggs, we nearly lost glamorous 40 not out in the shoe department and I discovered a near-neighbour in Sparx from Notes from Inside My Head.

We toured the store from top to bottom, taking in toys, the Christmas shop with this year’s white scottie dog theme, the lingerie department, where staff will discreetly come to the aid of dithering men, and the cheese room in the basement. This, particularly, was a revelation to me – for some reason I hadn’t noticed John Lewis had sprouted food and the cheese was fantastic. We sampled one which tasted like mince pies – extraordinary.

In the midst of all this, fascinating John Lewis facts came thick and fast – did you know that a cashmere jumper is sold every ten minutes in the Oxford Street branch? Though I’m not surprised as they are £40ish and the colours are great. Did you also know that Uggs are made in China, but Emus, which I thought were from New Zealand, are actually made in Australia? Or that John Lewis does wish lists for teenagers, so baffled relatives don’t have to make the dreadful faux pas of buying JLS instead of Jay-Z?

Meanwhile, the store was getting busier and, as we jammed up the aisles to talk, one of us did get a swift kick from an outraged shopper. It was definitely time to leave. I got home in one piece, and with only one regret. I had been in John Lewis for over two hours, and yet I had somehow managed to leave without buying even a single cashmere jumper.

I may just have to go back.

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