gosh. i have to prepare myself for this one, look you see, for i hope that this is the blog post that i am ultimately defined by. i shall, with my limited skills and abilities, attempt to illustrate and emphasise the reverence and respect the subject of this post dictates. do bear with me.
my priority on my excursion to london was to see Shaun and Spiros. my second priority was to procure and secure teddy bears dressed as Beefeaters or Queen's Guards for the boys. my third priority, however, was to ensure i made a visit to Fortnum & Mason; to both inspect their provisions and to potentially purchase an item or two.
strangely, i was able to combine priority one and priority three. here, in all of its glorious majesty, is Fortnum & Mason on an evening, with this picture being taken as Shaun and i strolled the streets of london.
yes, dear reader. i really was there, right across the road from their long established premises. how long established? my understanding is that Fortnum & Mason has existed longer than the versions of America and Australia we know.
one often hears of new york spoken of being the city that never sleeps. in respect of london, if Fortnum & Mason is considered a suitable gauge or measurement, london is the city that likes a jolly nice line in of a morning, and then is in its element to be home in time for an early tea. Fortnum & Mason operate on restricted, but not restrictive, hours. they are, after all, Fortnum & Mason, and so they are entitled to conduct business at times they find to be most agreeable.
i discovered this when i arrived the following morning not long after 9am and found that Fortnum & Mason only opened their doors to selective members of the public at 10am.
why the big song and dance, if not fuss, about Fortnum & Mason? mostly it is due to an off the cuff, improvised mention by Peter Cook during his legendary swansong, the much celebrated Why Bother? recordings. also, however, it is what people around the world assume and take Harrods to be.
Harrods is a many fine a splendid thing, make no mistake. the idea around the world, however, is that it is the elegant, sophisticated provider of goods which are used by the aristocracy and the elite of london. this is not the case. for many years it has in fact been Fortnum & Mason who hold the appointment of supplying provisions to the nobility and indeed to royalty. i wished to have a taste of such things in my life.
what would, for those unaware of the prestige of the place, Fortnum & Mason be most widely renowned and celebrated for? undoubtedly their tea.
oh yes, those are indeed clear glass teapots, rested upon the regal red carpet of the nature that royalty would walk upon, featuring a choice selection of the teas that Fortnum & Mason make available to the purchaser. i believe the idea is that the footman or senior servant of a household would, in a suitable morning suit, go along, inspect the differing blends and scent and purchase a blend which would not offend the master of the house to which they are presently conscripted.
a picture of humble me inside Fortnum & Mason? the idea i got was that the proprietor of Fortnum & Mason did not particularly care for clients taking "selfies" inside the store. we are, after all, talking about a premises in which the gent who makes you tea is dressed in top hat and tails. i, however, decided to take the risk and proceeded to take an image, accepting full well that arrest could quite possibly be how the matter ended. it would have been, as the saying goes, a fair cop.
fortunately, as i remain a free man and thus able to write this, arrest did not follow my exploits. and unfortunately no, i did not purchase one of the most splendid hampers you see behind me.
for what reason did i elect not to purchase a hamper? a partial barrier, admittedly, was the pricing of such a splendid thing, with costs of them commencing at around £60 for their most modest, with the invitation to spend somewhere north of £300 on one being readily available. mostly, though, i did not particularly fancy my chances of moving with ease with one of them either on the tube or on the train back home.
i did, however, make a most merry purchase. several, actually, but only two shall be revealed here; the third was a gift for someone and i have no wish to invade upon the privacy of that.
a particular highlight for me was this most splendid of sets, priced at a reasonable £12.95.
the above are three selections of the different forms and blends of marmalade which Fortnum & Mason make available to the gentry. they are of a size intended not so much as samples, but rather to be presented upon a breakfast tray to the lord of the manor by a suitable servant.
if one sought value in bulk, there was a rather rudimentary sort of strawberry jam that they made available for £2.95 per jar, and a much more conventional size jar it was too. i took the price, and the lesser quality of Fortnum & Mason label upon it, to be a sign that it was rather intended for servants and peasants.
i went with what would seem to be the most first class of the selection i have, which is of course Sir Nigel's Orange Marmalade.
how was it? capital, dear reader, simply capital. it is without any shadow of doubt, with no further question or argument, the single finest and most splendid marmalade that i have ever been permitted to taste in this life of mine. it was a distinct honour and pleasure to be allowed to taste it, and in many senses my life is now all but complete.
i have not, alas, sampled these yet, but i propose to do so in the very near future.
do i have a regret about my visit to Fortnum & Mason? only a single, solitary one. i was unable to take advantage of their most splendid dining facilities to enjoy a cup of tea and a bit of seed cake.
Fortnum & Mason, you see, have as you would expect a very strict dress code in place for patrons that express a wish to be seated within the premises. whereas i dressed in a manner that Fortnum & Mason would, at the very least, have tolerated, my companion, Spiros, was not. he had elected, for the day, to wear several items procured from Sports Direct, which included but was not limited to some shorts and a t-shirt with a slightly aggressive, passively threatening message emblazoned upon it. such attire is not tolerated within Fortnum & Mason beyond the barrier between their provisions store and their dining area.
it's a bit disappointing not to have rested within Fortnum & Mason, as i was looking forward to enjoying their afternoon tea for £50. perhaps on my next visit Spiros might be persuaded to dress in a way that they consider appropriate, but as he said, as things stood they can consider themselves "f*****g lucky" that he had any sort of pants and strides on at all.
yes, more london images and words shall follow further still. for now, however, i am very pleased to have fulfilled my ambition of conducting business with Fortnum & Mason, and i am indebted to you, dear reader, for sharing select highlights of the experience with me.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!