Harrods was Mum’s favourite shop before her death – now I live 15 minutes away, I get to see it through her eyes, writes Notebook columnist Melanie Blake
After nearly two years of Covid hell, it’s finally beginning – as the song goes – to look a lot like Christmas.
Because I’ve been so busy working from home and supervising my house renovation (which is so far behind schedule it’s not going to be finished till next spring, but that’s a whole different story), I haven’t really had a chance to get out and explore the new area I live in.
I have, however, made the 15-minute walk to the world-famous Harrods department store, a place that’s always held a special place in my heart.
I remember as a kid how obsessed my mum was with Harrods. For a woman living on a council estate with no money, the store was the epitome of glamour – a window into a world she could only dream of.
She did, however, get to visit Harrods once when she won £1,000 at the local bingo (which was a fortune in the 80s). She chose to spend her winnings on a trip to London to visit the store.
I’ve still got the little Harrods teddy bear that she brought back for me, and I can remember the expression in her eyes as she told us about her trip. You could see just how much she’d loved a walk in someone else’s shoes during her brief escape from our meagre lifestyle.
As I reached the store and took in all the beautiful Christmas-themed windows, I wished she was still alive so that I could have FaceTimed her and shown her what it looks like these days.
Inside it was still as posh as ever, with the staff in designer outfits and the famous food hall filled with people drinking champagne while planning what they were going to buy from the floors above. Having been out of the loop for so long, it felt a bit like I was watching a goldfish bowl.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not my first foray into the land of expensive tastes. When I was at my height as a showbiz agent, making quite frankly a fortune every year, I would think nothing of popping into a Chanel store and spending £25,000 on five bags in one go. But after the global pandemic made us all reassess our priorities and the value of people over possessions, that sort of memory of extravagance and waste makes me feel sick as it’s something I would never do now.
Before you write me off as some sort of self-indulgent shopaholic, let me confirm for the karma banks that I actually gave four of those five bags to friends who couldn’t afford to buy them. But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve changed a lot over the past few years – and one of the biggest changes is that I’m facing my first Christmas single in over a decade.
As I watched the couples weaving around the festive-themed halls and eyed them merrily stocking up on hampers, I realised that this year it would be just me. I used to have a joke with my female friends about how every year I had a different man taking down my Christmas tree and as I watched them return it to the basement in my old home I’d look at their faces knowing that they were expecting to be the one bringing it back out the following year.
But with me still reeling and healing from the disastrous wedding that never was, I only ever saw all those men as temporary.
Historically, nobody wants to be single at Christmas and looking back I realise that I’ve fallen into that trap of making sure I was always with someone for the big day. But as I left the store to make the short trip home I realised that this year I was happy to break that tradition.
For the first time I don’t feel the need to couple up to avoid being alone when the sleigh bells ring. I think this is a great sign of growth and makes me excited about the future – if I change my mind and want to be with someone again, then I’ll know I’m doing it for the right reasons.
I haven’t completely changed though, because I couldn’t leave the store without treating myself to the most fabulous Balmain dress, which could easily cover the cost of four mortgage payments. But hey, I only bought one, so that’s progress, right?
Do you need a partner to be happy at Christmas? Email Melanie at email@example.com.