Christmas in London

Fortnum and Mason

Fortnum and Mason’s festive feast

Twenty days to Christmas but no presents have been bought!

It’s too soon to panic but a trip to Fortnum and Mason’s in London didn’t help matters.

Posh shops are great for window shopping but don’t really help with proper present buying.

Inside Fortnum’s luxury emporium, Christmas is in full swing… with one of the most impressive seasonal displays in London.

Festive treats

Festive treats

The food hall and ground floor were resplendent with festive fare and the luxury treats were so good that I couldn’t stop salivating.

The glistening candied fruits, delicate petits-fours and hand-crafted chocolate bears looked scrumptious.

Candied fruits

Candied fruits

These luxury treats look great until you spot the price tags. A small box of delightful chocolates was priced at £40 whilst the superior chocolate  presentation caskets started around £80-£100.

There was even a chocolate coach and horses relief which was so beautifully crafted that you’d hardly dare to nibble the hooves. At £300 it was more ornament than chocolate treat!

Sue at Fortnum and Mason

Tammy celebrates Yule at Fortnum and Mason

Even the delightful fondant fancies and juicy fruits caused my bank balance to teeter as I peered into the glass case like a child in a very expensive sweet shop.

Willpower is a brilliant thing and I had to be led away from the Christmas section after 20 minutes of browsing.

Unfortunately my friend Clive succumbed and purchased a small but perfectly wrapped box of  hand made sweets topped with a red ribbon.

Seriously, Fortnum and Mason is a stunning shop to schmooze around at Christmas even if your pockets aren’t deep enough to buy its luxury nibbles.

It’s a traditional store that captures the Yule-tide spirit to perfection with its tastefully decorated Christmas trees, immaculate decorations and eye-catching window displays.

There’s a Dickensian spirit about its halls decked with holly and shiny baubles,

You can imagine the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge perusing its shelves with a servant or three in tow.

For the rest of us, perhaps it’s best to admire the Christmas windows rather than venturing inside to buy anything… but then Fortnum’s is all about sheer indulgence.

Christmas windows

Fortnum and Mason have surpassed themselves with this year’s themed windows which tell the rags to riches story of London legend Dick Whittington.

Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington

This English folk tale dates from around 1605 when it was first made into a stage play.

Today, it’s a popular Christmas pantomime story in England’s music halls and theatres.

This fairy tale story is a tale for our recessionary times – and the irony wasn’t lost on this blogger.

The tale tells of how young Dick starts life as a poor, orphaned boy during the 14th Century.

After living a meagre existence Dick hears of the great city of London, where the streets are said to be paved with gold.

With thoughts of riches beyond his wildest dreams, he sets off to find his fortune.

When Dick arrives in the capital, exhausted and hungry, he has nowhere to stay. He’s forced to fall asleep in front of the house of a rich merchant.

The story unfolds in the beautifully-created tableaux from Fortnum’s Christmas windows below…

The wealthy merchant takes pity on Dick and invites him inside his house to stay – and eventually offers him work as as a scullery boy.

But Dick’s bedroom is infested with rats so he buys a cat which drives away the rodents.

Dick Whittington's cat

Dick Whittington’s cat

One day the merchant, Mr Fitzwarren, leaves on a business trip to a far away port to trade for gold.

Reluctantly, Dick agrees to send his cat who becomes a huge hit on board the ship on account of his rat catching prowess.

Dick Whittington's cat

Dick Whittington’s cat chases the rats away

Back in London, Dick is having a bad time being bullied by the merchant’s cook so he decides to run away.

But before he leaves, he hears the sound of the Bow Bells which seem to be saying, “Turn again Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London”.

Dick retraces his steps and finds that Mr Fitzwarren’s ship had returned to London.

But his cat has been sold for a great fortune to the King of Barbary, whose palace was overrun with mice. Dick is now a rich man.

Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington reaps the rewards of a ratting cat

Dick is invited to join Mr Fitzwarren in his business ventures and eventually marries his daughter Alice.

Many years later as a successful business man, Dick becomes the Lord Mayor of London, just as the bells had predicted.

Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington and his wife Alice

The moral of the tale is that – despite a lowly upbringing anybody can rise to become wealthy and Lord Mayor of London.

Dick’s dreams of London streets of gold come true and everyone lives happily ever after.

The Dick Whittington story was based on a real person – as was his true-to-life wife, Alice Fitzwarren.

But in reality Dick Whittington didn’t come from a poor family nor is there any evidence that he had a cat.

Despite the tallness of the tale, it’s nice to enjoy the fantasy in the Christmas windows though.

And if you fancy recreating the Fortnum’s Christmas ambience here’s a video of their visual stylist explaining how to make your Yuletide a little special… if you can afford it.

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