Heidi and I worked our way through the first and second floors of F&M (remember, what Americans call the first floor is the ground floor, and so on).
F&M doesn’t carry clothing or accessories; its focus is on food and home goods. One of their signature items is picnic baskets, or hampers as they call them. I hate that buzz word “signature,” but in this instance it fits.
I don’t recall how much this hamper cost, but this is one of those cases where if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
“But how heavy it would be?” I remarked to Heidi.
“Oh dahling! You wouldn’t carry it yourself! You would have your man carry it!” And by “man” she didn’t mean my lover but my manservant.
There were many hampers of varying sizes and with different contents, all with the signature F&M bluey-green colors.
“You buy these as a wedding gift?” Heidi suggested in her Aussie upspeak.
“Yes. And then the happy couple use it once, put it in a closet, and every time they move they say, ‘Oh this heavy old thing—why don’t we get rid of it?’”
“But they can’t because Cousin Harriet gave it to them as a wedding gift,” Heidi finished my thought.
“Maybe some people use them all the time,” Heidi suggested.
“Maybe. Maybe if you live in the country and your man only has to drive the Bentley a short way down the lane to get to the picnic spot near the river. Not if you live in London and have to transport this on the tube.”
“Oh darling, no cousins of Harriet’s would ever be seen dead on the tube!”
We eventually staggered out of the store. This is the entrance, with a couple of customers Kath Kidston’d to the max.
F&M had lovely window displays which I wasn’t able to capture due to the glare. Since it was still raining, I’m not sure where the glare was from.
There were also windows featuring trains, a boat, and a bicycle, all incorporating the Signature Hamper. I guess the message was, “Go explore the world with a 300-pound basket of china and cutlery!”
We stood on the pavement in the rain under our umbrellas. It had been a long day. First the Churchill War Rooms, then Victoria Park and the flashback of seeing my dad standing on that same spot, the unexpected Jewel Tower, Houses of Parliament, the Red Lion, then Fortnum and Mason. My bags of accumulated trinkets were feeling heavy. All I had had to eat was a bag of crisps and a pint in the Red Lion. It was 9:00ish and beginning to get dark. Suddenly I felt tired to the bone and wished I had access to a Star Trek transporter machine so I could be home instantly.
“Now let’s see … what shall we do next?” Heidi mused.
I paused, because Heidi would leave in a few days to go back to Australia and who knew when we would see each other again?
But I am no longer willing to force myself to keep going. I simply said I was tired and needed to start getting home. I started to apologize.
“No drama!” responded Heidi. This is her Signature Phrase and I love it.
“Where will we see each other next?” she asked rhetorically. Since meeting through Sam in 2006, we had met up in Berlin, the south of France, London, and St. Paul.
“I would love to come to Aus, but it’s so expensive and I would need a ton of time off work.”
“It would be great to see you there—but I know, it’s sooooo far. Well, think about it. I should be there at least through New Year.”
We said our good-byes, I dropped down into the tube tunnel, and Heidi walked off toward Green Park station where she would catch the Jubilee Line to Swiss Cottage, the station closest to her flat. Her flat with the room she lets out when she isn’t in Aus.
A tube, a train, and a walk and I was back in the flat running a bath an hour and a half later.