Thursday, 2 December 2021

Grotto or grotty?

RETROWURST is taking a break this month because lazy little me didn’t write any articles in December back in the 2000s as I was probably too busy dashing and blitzing around doing Christmas shopping. But the series will be back in 2022.

Yes, Christmas shopping. There are reminders on the radio - have we bought all our presents yet? I have bought one, and was quite proud of having already done so in November before I heard all those smug so-and-sos with only one still left to buy. 

I am not relishing the thought. Somehow the magic of Christmas past and the twinkling welcome of Santa’s grotto is lost in a mire of masks, pandemics and it’s-all-easier-online-but-bad-conscience-haunting-me.

I’m not sure if the experience was ever that magical, anyway. My only memory of Santa’s grotto in Harvey’s department store in Camberley was being given an empty box. I think amends were made, but still.

But we can dream, and take a shopping trip through the streets, windows, lights and paper catalogues of the past:

There’s shopping in style, even when you’re on public transport. Just don’t spill mulled wine on those collars or cuffs:

Christmas didn’t have to be gaudy. Post-war shortages aside, this was a world where black and white was the norm, certainly as far as brand communications and broadcast media/entertainment went:

Hamleys was the mecca of tinsel and toytown. The 1926 ad offers a number of most suitable gifts for children including “The Crown Tavern”, a pup named “Looney” and what looks like an interrogation device. 60 years later, the store tried a "Teddy Bears’ Picnic meets 333 Men in a Boat” approach:

Does anyone have time or inclination in these pandemic days to linger looking at shop windows? Even war didn’t stop Selfridges in 1916:

This picture, of 1960s Regent Street, seems to sum up my earliest memories. A quick blast of Nina & Frederik, and I’m back there.

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