Thursday, 17 December 2015

#London Christmas Shopping Guide 2015 No.34. James Smith & Sons @JamesSmith1830 #XmasInLondon

Welcome to our London Christmas Shopping Guide 2015. 

Over the next few weeks we'll be pointing you in the direction of our favourite shops and shopping neighbourhoods near the meeting and ending points of our London Walks …

No.34. James Smith & Sons

David writes…

This an orgy?

Ok if I pile in?

C’est moi, David.

Horning in on The Great Daily Constitutional Christmas Streak Off (to the shops and get your special ones some very special prezzies).

I got a couple of recommendations to make.

Invidious to make comparisons with my colleagues’ recommendations – or, shudder, with the kind of ho hum, achingly predictable drek that gets recommended in the Life Style sections of the national press – but, really, mine’s got Bound-for-the-Winner’s-Circle stamped all over it.

You could even frame the photograph and give it to a – er – cranky old great uncle. Just an amateur snapshot but guarantee you he’ll like it tons more – it’ll light up the pleasure neurons in that region of his brain – than socks or aftershave or a lousy tie. Or even a couple of Havana gaspers. Not that they make “acceptable, correct” presents any more. No wonder great Unk’s grumpy. If only someone would give him a couple of them.

But, yes, the photograph.  Here she be.


Let’s analyse. Starting with [he said in a hushed voice] the textures.

1.            That wonderfully banged up and scratched (been through the wars)  wooden counter top. Banged up and scratched but varnished to the nth degree.
2.            And then the deep blue velvet the spoons are reposing in like so many Oriental princelings.
3.            And as for the spoons themselves – the shine, the sheen, marine depths to peer into, the colours of course, the glints like flares and auroras and novas in deep space.

I’d rather have one of those in my hand than a silver one in my gob.

And how’s about the card?  Reads (if you can’t make it out):
“Horn Spoons – Any true connoisseur [aren’t we all?] of caviar or soft-boiled eggs will tell you that nothing taints the flavour like metal. Horn on the other hand [careful] will offer you an unrivalled purity of taste due to its taintless quality.”

My man in there – Darius – adds that metal will always be a little bit cooler and that plays the dickens with the flavour as well.

And it’s not just caviar or soft-boiled eggs. They’re also perfect for honey.

Ox horn. The set of four will set you back £39.95. So not ruinously expensive. Considering that they’re a lock to be the most unusual, the most unforgettable gift under the tree.

And where you gonna get ‘em?

Right here. Here and only here. Only place in the United Kingdom* “stocking ‘em.”

Oops, wrong photo.

Try this.

OMG wrong photo again. For sure, you’re not going to find ‘em there. Though this Lucifer-acne’d establishment is just along the street. Very London, that. London being a tale of two cities and all that.

No, here.

My second favourite shop in London. James Smith & Sons. Best known for its umbrellas. Where – I think some of you know – I get my walking sticks.

And – confession time, here – the Whips sign is on the front of James Smith & Sons. How do you go wrong with a shop advertising – in elegantly gold lettering – Whips.

And as long as we’re at it, here’s Jaws closing in on some ox horn. It’s the window display that caught my eye. The photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s much more hidden, much more understated than the photo would lead you to believe.

The spoon set for connoisseurs of caviar and soft-boiled eggs (and honey, don’t forget the honey) is, as Christmas gifts go, a bit of a googly.

So how’s about two more googlies to end our tale.

James Smith & Sons has been going since 1830. (Looks it, doesn’t it? It’s one of the best things about the shop.) What else was going on in 1830? Yes, Dickens was 18 years old and had just got his first Reader’s Ticket at the nearby British Library. And William IV – Silly Billy – with his “head shaped like a pineapple and his eyes that floated on the surface of his face as if they were bubbles” had just come to the throne. But I think we can do better than that. We can say goodbye to the great South American liberator Simon Bolivar. While James Smith, his eyes agleam with visions of commercial success, is setting up shop there on New Oxford Street, Simon Bolivar, half a world away, is lying beneath a dirty canvas in a little boat sailing down the Magdalena river in Colombia. There are crocodiles and timber in the waters. Bolivar, “yellow-skinned, no light in his eyes, shivering, delirious, moves down the Magdalena toward the sea, toward death.”

That’s googly one. Googly two is a George Orwell diary entry. My favourite George Orwell diary entry. Here it is. In its entirety.

Well, the horn spoons are for soft-boiled eggs.

And on that note, we have a wrap.

*And if you’re looking for ‘em in Dubuque, Iowa – fuhgeddit.

Christmas 2015 With London Walks

The Amazing Old Shops Walk takes place on the 19th December – meet Judy at Green Park Station at 10:45a.m

The Christmas Lights & Seasonal Cheer Pub Walk takes place on the 19th December meet at Embankment Tube 7:15p.m

On Christmas Day there are TWO London Walks:

Walk up an appetite with The Christmas Morning 1660 Walk – meet at 11:00a.m by the big tree in Trafalgar Square

Walk off the pudding with The Christmas Day Charles Dickens Walk – meet by the big tree in Trafalgar Square at 2:00pm

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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