The big family beach holiday

This story was published in the Travel and Indulgence section of The Australian in March, 2012

Like the hydra of Greek legend, the family beach holiday is a many headed monster, a creature of fluctuating moods and moments.

It begins with rapidly mounting excitement as the car is loaded with deck chairs, sun umbrellas, windbreaks, beach towels, buckets and spades, sheets by the dozen and food by the tonne.

Torquay Beach, Victoria, Australia
Torquay Beach, Victoria, Australia

We head along the freeway through the straggling suburbs, past a string of little country outposts to the coast. Wild screams signal the first glimpse of the sea. Following a faint grey map through the main street of  Cowes, Philip Island, in search of the house rented, sight unseen, from the internet, we ponder the real distance of “close to the beach”. We find (hallelujah) that it’s one block from the water.

The house echoes. It smells of fresh paint. There’s a mad dash from room to room, jumping on beds, scaling and tumbling from bunks. Screams rise in pitch and volume as the second and third cars pull up, discharging people, boogie boards, the pram and the baby.

And it’s off to the beach. There are sulks from the sun hat and sunscreen refusers. They are threatened with exile to the wind shelter. But lotions and hats are soon forgotten in a melee in the surf. The first casualty is pulled from the waves and rushed away under a towel. The sun sets on the remaining chattering teeth and blue lips. Then it’s back to the house for a barbie.

The pre-dinner period is featured by kids behaving like kids and deaf-eared adults talking past one another.  The uncoordinated appearances of fish and fowl leave the disgruntled vegetarian munching alone among the debris of half-finished plates and picked over salad while the main party heads off, with detailed commentary on how to have everything ready at once tomorrow.

An after-dinner drive fails to calm the kids and winds up the adults as they outwit one another on the ecology of the sand dunes. Back at the house the TV movie is punctuated by thumps and wails from the bunkroom, hissed threats from the hallway and verbal volleys on cinematography from the experts on the couch. At midnight the baby is the last man standing.

Despite the best laid plans for a team start at an early hour, only a bachelor uncle is out the door by nine o’clock, alone with his surfboard under his arm, destination unknown. Resentful eyes follow him up the drive.

It’s past eleven before the advance quartet of kids and parents hit a beach whipped by a wind chilled by white capped waves and whistling with flying sand. Ninja Turtle Donatello is lost to the surf on his first swimming lesson. His distraught instructor, followed by told-you-sos and shouldn’t-haves, is piggy-backed away, with tear-stained face and trembling chin, to cricket on another part of the beach.

Just when the burning lacerated bodies of the advance guard can take no more, the second contingent arrives with the beach shelter. The object of yesterday’s derision, it is set up and occupied today in a shower of profuse gratitude. The pram cohort turns up with a new and different shelter – a giant plastic leaf. Just like the real thing, it flaps wildly in the wind. We chase its elusive shadow across the sand, then pin our backs against it. The baby discovers the miracle of sand. He digs his hand in and runs it through his fingers. We all marvel at the miracle of babies.

A castle construction project is soon underway. Under combined adult direction, turrets, bridges, a moat emerge. It’s the envy of the beach. But still, soon, the Ninja nightmare resurfaces. Followed by sharp, critical eyes, the sobbing, bereft one is piggy-backed away to the toy shop.

Sadly Donatello cannot be replaced. There are more tears. But wait! There’s Sandman, built for the beach, drown-proof and with fists like paddles. Sandman can do anything. Sandman is the man. Sandman rocks. Soon, Sandman is his. He finds his feet again.

Back at the house, storms blow in over lunch. Sandman becomes an ugly bone of contention. Kids stare resentfully. Adults glare accusingly. Just in time another bachelor uncle turns up. He and distracts the adults with an espressos and the kids with rides on shoulders back to the beach. The wind has dropped. For a while great fun is had by all, with boogie boards and balls in the surf.

But back up the beach by the wind shelter, Sandman has vanished. There are cries of anguish. Panicked excavations begin. There are casualties from flying sand but it’s all to no avail. Sandman has gone, slipped away, it seems, through the shifting grains. The hysterical, twice bereft one is piggy-backed away again to the toy shop. There are no more sandmen. So it’s aliens all round in a last-ditch bid for peace. At home there are forced smiles from the kids – aliens don’t rock. There is muttered disapproval from the parents – it’s all plastic junk.

Soon it’s barbie time again. The kids bicker while the adults batter each other with the experience of yesterday. This time the vegetarian finishes his lentil burgers long before the carnivores attack the sausages and steaks.

Back home now, a click signals the finish of the washing machine’s tenth load of sheets. The parents have gone back to work and the kids are playing harmoniously with the rediscovered spoils of Christmas. Donatello is swimming somewhere far out in Bass Strait and Sandman is tunneling his way around Philip island below the sand. Was it worth it, this big family beach holiday? Of course it was. Every moment!

Holiday at home in Melbourne

Every year, sometime after Christmas, it seems as if a rip-tide sweeps through Melbourne and drags half the population away to vacation at the lakes, the country or the coast. Still, many are left behind, high and dry, like flotsam and jetsam, to holiday at home in the eerily quiet and often sizzling city. What do they do and how do they survive, stranded in their parched urban and suburban deserts?

Fountain on the lily pond in Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens
Fountain on the lily pond in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens

As it happens, Melbourne is a great place to holiday at home. There are plenty of interesting places to go, many of them a short car ride away, easily reachable on public transport or even within walking distance. There are plenty of fun things to do too.

The city’s many beautiful parks and gardens, with their sunny lawns, shaded walks, ponds and playgrounds provide a tranquil retreat from the concrete jungle and are perfect places for a family day out in any season. But in the summer they really come alive with picknickers, sun-bathers, amateur cricketers and ramblers. Throughout January the City Council-run “Summer Fun in the City’ provides entertainment and activities which cater for all ages and interests, such as the Moonlight Cinema and the Myer Music Bowl concerts in the Botanical Gardens or the kids’ fairy parties in the Fitzroy Gardens.

Melbourne’s Western edge is bordered by the sea and while it must be admitted that the urban and suburban beach can by no means rival the rolling sand-dunes and wild surf of their further flung cousins, they are pleasant and safe. South Melbourne, Albert Park, St Kilda, Elwood are easily assessable even by public transport. They are all great places to cool off on in the summer heat, fabulous for people-watching and just as good as any other for sand-castle construction.

But what better refuge when the barometer hits forty degrees, than the air-conditioned comfort of one of the city’s hundreds of shopping malls. Furthermore, January is the time of the great Summer Sale and with a reduced competition of fashionistas and shopoholics, this is a wonderful time to seize the edge on some fantastic bargains.

Backyard or public, they are the epitome of summer fun. Full of swim rings and floaties, echoing with shrieks of glee and terror, seething with kids being kids and adults being big kids -. there’s no place in the summer, in the city, like the pool. And Melbourne has some great ones, like the Melbourne Aquatic Centre with its wonderful wave pool or the Harold Holt, with its outdoor and indoor pools.

So, if the great holiday exodus from Melbourne leaves you washed up in its wake, don’t despair, holiday at home. Get out there; hit the park, the nearest beach, the cinema, the mall or the local pool. And then, there’s always the cricket, the tennis, or even the cricket and the tennis on the telly.

A child’s Christmas in Aotearoa New Zealand

When I was a child in New Zealand, Christmas was a simple occasion. Compared to the excesses of today’s celebrations you might even call it meagre.  But it was fun and it was an adventure.

A beach in Aotearoa New Zealand
A beach in Aotearoa New Zealand

On Christmas morning, we would head off “down the East Coast”. Although Rotorua, our home town, had lakes, streams and hot pools where we swam all year round, the sea was something else and the very word was synonymous with summer, holidays, freedom and happiness.

There never seemed to be a plan. We stopped at will at random spots – for a swim, for an ice-cream, to explore the bush, to look at a tree, for a paddle in a stream, for “forty winks” (nap), to “see a man about a dog” (have a beer or raspberry and lemonade, depending on age) at country pubs  or for chance meetings with strangers and even long lost friends along the road.

Our Christmas dinner was ham, bread and cold Christmas pudding.  We ate it on the beach. Dad cooled his beer in a rock pool and lit a fire to boil up a battered kerosene tin for tea. Sometimes there was fizzy drink. Our Christmas tree was the ancient pohutukawa, the New Zealand Christmas tree, decorated with bright red flowers for the season. We watched the sun go down, and tucked up in an old army blanket on the sand we gazed at the fire and listened to Dad’s stories until we fell asleep.

Between Planes

The following article was published in the Travel and Indulgence section of The Australian in 2010

Is there anything worse than a long wait between planes?

You’ve come halfway round the world but you’re only half way home. You’ve zipped from day to day, night and sleep have vanished between time-zones, it’s too late for a hotel but too early for tours and anyway, you’re broke and exhausted. You’re suspended in airport purgatory and deliverance via your onward flight is an infinity of empty hours away.

Stanley Bay, Hong Kong

At 5 a.m. Hong Kong International Airport was dead. The departure lounges were deserted, the shutters were down on the shops and the corridors echoed with the creak of empty people movers. I had 19 hours before my midnight flight.

I killed the first hour in the restroom, alone but for one hovering cleaner, masked and gloved like a surgeon.

Outside, at 6 a.m the Travelex booth was ablaze with lights.  A morning-fresh face beamed from behind the counter.

“Would this be enough for a day at HKIA?” I asked, sliding my last euros across.

My words hung foolishly in a long silence.

“That depends,” said fresh-face finally “on what you want to do”

“Make friends, fall in love, build a monument, something like Tom Hanks in Terminal” I thought, gesturing vaguely down the concourse.

“Yes!” she snapped with conviction and counted out $500HK.

Behind us the shutters rattled up on the bookshop. Good! Nothing like a bookshop to fill time! An hour later with the store’s cheapest, fattest novel under my arm, I headed for the mezzanine café.

Newspapers and laptops opened around me as I sipped a slow latte with an extra shot. Below, benches filled with people, queues snaked backwards from desks, the trickle in the corridors swelled to a stream and buggies of uniforms zoomed to and fro. It was nine o’clock and the airport was wide awake.

I, however, was ready for sleep. I headed for some chaises longues I’d spotted earlier. Gone! As miffed as Baby Bear, I took in six slumbering forms. Then, like Goldilocks, I zig-zagged through the airport, trying chair after chair; first the red and yellow tubs – too low! next the leather buckets – too high!; then the blue benches – too narrow! Finally, I fell upon the loungers in the ‘resting area’. After an hour my spine was curled like question mark – Too hard!

I limped towards the distant duty free shops. I’d window-shop until I was impervious to low, high, narrow and hard – until I dropped.

The big fat book was dead weight now. An orchestra and chorus struck up in my head “On and on I walk at day break, I cannot touch the green, green grass of home” they screeched.

Ahead, on a poster, a woman smiled into a shower. “Travellers’ Lounge’ said the words below. I followed a trail of arrows to the left. Soon I was gazing through a glass wall at glowing lamps and deep armchairs where people dozed in stockinged feet. Beyond them others browsed at a buffet. With my last dollars I bought salvation – a shower and ten hours worth of unlimited buffet, internet and armchair.

At 11.am. I was that woman in the poster. At midday I was one of those browsers at the buffet. At 2pm I sank into one of those deep armchairs. It moulded itself around me. Sleep came swiftly.

It’s almost time to go now. My flight is at the top of the Departures Screen. Deliverance is at hand. And my advice to any other tortured soul trapped in that purgatory between planes, is, don’t suffer – buy your way into Travellers’ Lounge. It’s Heaven!

 

Heathrow Hell

I’m leaving London. I’m heading home. I’m happy, excited…. but first, there’s Heathrow.

The Tower of Big Ben
The Tower of Big Ben

I stumble from the taxi at Heathrow with the giant suitcase, the lap-top, a back-pack, a handbag and my plastic zip lock bag. I zig-zag up and down the concourse, searching for a clue to my check-in counter. It scrolls swiftly out of sight on a screen above. I stand squinting below till it rolls round again, then weave through crowds to the end of the terminal to find it. The queue’s already twenty metres out beyond a maze of channeling ropes and it’s not moving. Surely all these people can’t be on my plane! Claustrophobia sets in. “Aisle seat at the front! Aisle seat at the front!” I repeat like a Rosary.  The minutes mount into quarter hours and then to halves. Claustrophobia gives way to alarm. One hour’s gone and the queue hasn’t moved.

“This queue’s nothing to the one at Departures” bellows a know-all two turns of the ropes ahead.

Alarm gives way to panic. But at last I reach the counter. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I shriek to every question. I’m so frazzled I forget that aisle seat near the front.

I race to the Departures queue. Messages ripple the length of it, losing their meanings, like Chinese Whispers, along the way. “One drag!” spits the woman in front “Yeah, bloody big one at that!” I toss back. She shoots me an odd look but it’s lost in a missive hissed from behind “No knickers!” “No way!” I gasp in disbelief.  I crane desperately forward for the next dispatch.

“One Bag!” shouts a uniformed despot near the door “Hand in all liquids” shrills another “Ahhh”  I sigh in enlightened relief as I bin my water and stuff everything into the pack. It bulges and strains against the zips. My arms won’t fit through the straps. I cuddle it to my chest like a little fat teddy bear. Above, a screen flashes “Now boarding’ next to my flight. The queue inches forward. I’m ready to scream. But finally, I’m through. No, wait – there’s Passport Control. I rip open fat teddy and scrabble for my passport and boarding pass.  A muttering pile-up forms behind. Ahead, an official drums impatiently on his desk. I slap down the passport. With a fleetingly glance from the red bob in the photo to my scraped-back faded blonde twist, he clunks his stamp down wordlessly and I’m out.

Then it’s lap-top, shoes, belt, coat and jewellery into trays at Security. I step through the metal detector, a nervous eye on the belt inching my bulging trays out of sight. A red light flashes, an alarm sounds. Wand-waving guards surround me while my trays collide and spill.  Above, a screen flashes a final call for my flight. A distant, disembodied voice calls my name. I tear away from the wand-wavers, half scramble into the coat, cram the jewellery into the pockets, clench my passport and boarding pass between my teeth, wedge the lap-top into the now exploding fat teddy and, shoes in hand, sprint madly to my gate.

A composed, immaculately groomed girl checks my passport and boarding pass with cool indifference and wild-eyed, I charge up the gangway to the plane.

“Welcome aboard, Madame” says a smirking flight attendant “63F, turn right and straight through to the rear of the aircraft, centre seat, centre row”

Screaming inwardly I battle off down the aisle.

 

Christmas in London

I’ll never forget my first Christmas in London.

Christmas Decorations, Burlington Arcade, London
Christmas Decorations, Burlington Arcade, London

In front of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, the Christmas Village opened in late November. Every afternoon, in the early four o’clock darkness, crowds of kids whizzed in reckless circles on the ice-rink. It was here, in a prefabricated tent café/bar, among the “defeated by, not brave enough or too cool for the ice” crowd, I discovered British hot chocolate. Thick, sticky and sweet it slid across the tongue and ran down the throat like liquid velvet.

Alongside the ice-rink was the Christmas market, a collection of little wooden huts, selling cards and exotic wares made by unknown and forgotten people from faraway places. At its centre were a Christmas tree and a carousel.

Further up the road, in Harrods snow dusted, icicled window, Versace and Prada-clad  mannequins gazed out over silver ice-buckets stuffed with champagne and Venetian glasses, past silver dishes laden with caviar and pate de foie gras.

Up in Picadilly, at Fortnum and Mason, the windows re-told the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas, while inside floor after floor unfolded tantalizing sights and smells.

Of course, there were the pressing crowds, the decorated streets, the Christmas trees, the jolly old chap in the red suit, the last minute rush through the shops and the queues at the counters which characterise Christmas everywhere. But those ice-rinks, that hot chocolate and those particular shop windows, were something entirely new to me. I’ll always remember them as uniquely London.

 

Winter in London

There’s no doubt about it. London winters are dismal. The temperatures drop to numbers that can be counted on a few fingers. The days are few brief hours of gloomy grey light and night falls halfway through the afternoon. Yet, (at least for those who haven’t suffered through too many of them) winter is one of the city’s brightest and most cheerful seasons.

Christmas Village on Southbank
Christmas Village on Southbank

In late November or early December, borough by borough and with great celebration, the Christmas lights are turned on. So, for winter’s most dismal weeks, when the daylight disappears at 3.30pm, the dark streets are bright with flashing neon.

Shop windows are full of cheery fireside scenes, rich and colourful Christmas fare or warm, bright winter clothes.

Christmas villages spring up; huddles of brightly lit miniature chalets selling hot chocolate, mulled wine, mince pies and sweets, woolly hats and gloves and a thousand and one sparkling, glittering little knick-knacks.

The ice rinks open. Alongside tents are set up with bars selling mulled wine and hot chocolate. The skaters come out – the experts and the amateurs, the school kids and the after-workers – doing or just watching it’s fun and it’s hilarious.

 

 

 

The Royal Albert Hall

Sitting like a giant Wedgewood urn opposite Hyde Park, on the Knightsbridge-Kensington border, the Royal Albert Hall was, until the end of the 20th century ushered in wonders like the Gherkin, one of London’s most arresting pieces of architecture.

Showtime at the Royal Albert Hall
Showtime at the Royal Albert Hall

It was the brainchild of Prince Albert, who after the Great Exhibition of 1851, had proposed that a permanent facility be built to celebrate and promote the Arts and Sciences. When the Prince died in 1861, the project had still not begun. A new proposal was put forward for a complex including a memorial in Hyde Park, with a Great Hall opposite and on May 20, 1867, the foundation stone was laid.

The Hall was designed by Captain Francis Fowke and Colonel H.Y Darracott Scott of the Royal Engineers. Inspired by the shape of the ancient Roman and Greek amphitheatres, it was constructed in local brick, with a dome of glass and steel. A mosaic frieze around the outside of the building depicts sixteen subjects including “Various countries of the world bringing their offerings to the great exhibition of 1851” as well as the disciplines of arts and sciences. One foot high terracotta letters spell out biblical quotations as well as a dedication to the Prince Consort and a recognition of his contribution to the building.

The Royal Albert Hall opened on March 29, 1871 and saw its first concert, Arthur Sullivan’s Cantata, on May of the same year. Since then it has hosted innumerable ballets, operas, countless classical concerts, the annual summer Proms and many rock concerts including performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeplin, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones (on the same programme!) as well as Pink Floyd (who were banned for life after firing two cannons during their performance); it has seen sporting events including the first Sumo wrestling contest held outside Japan, conferences, ballroom dancing and yes, even the famous Cirque du Soleil.  2069

Legendary London shops; Fortnum and Mason’s

Fortnum and Mason’s department store is one of London’s most luxurious and oldest. It has survived over three centuries in its Picadilly location and its history is closely linked to London’s and indeed to England’s. Although nowadays only one floor of Fortnum’s is dedicated to food, the store is renowned mainly for its wonderful ground floor provisions department. 1999

Fortnum and Mason's Hampers
Fortnum and Mason’s Hampers

William Fortnum began his career in 1705 as a footman in the Royal palace of Queen Anne. Part of his job was to replace the royal family’s used candles, which he then on-sold to other servants. In 1907, he persuaded his landlord, Hugh Mason to go into business with him and together they established Fortnum and Mason’s Emporium. The business ran successfully and profitably for almost fifty years. In 1761, William Fortnum’s grandson Charles became official Royal provender to Queen Charlotte. With Royalty behind it and with a new range of merchandise including, exotic teas and spices imported from the new colonies, luxury items and pre-prepared meals, Fortnum and Masons boomed and its reputation as prestigious, luxury establishment was forged.   .

Royal and government patronage continued into the 19th century. Fortnum’s became the official supplier of preserved foods to British Officers during the Napoleonic Wars. It catered for state functions at the Court of Queen Victoria and during the Crimean war shipped beef tea to Florence Nightingale’s hospitals. At this time the store also began to deliver its famous luxury picnic hampers to Victorian high society at events like the Henley Regatta and the Ascot Races. Fortnum and Mason’s hampers feature in the works Victorian writers like Wilkie Collins and Henry James. Charles Dickens, writing of the  Epsom Derby said “Look where I will…. I see Fortnum & Mason. All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!”.

Fortnum’s success continued as its fame spread into the 20th century. Its fare featured during the Great Exhibition at the beginning of the new age. During World War II, it supplied food to the British troops and furthermore guaranteed to hold open the jobs of Fortnum staff serving in the forces. In 1922, it supplied the first expedition to Everest. A refurbishment of the sore in 1925 saw new departures into a range of different stock, like ladies and children’s wear, kitchen wear and perfumes. In 1931, in response to a growing U.S. demand for Fortnam and Mason’s products, a branch was opened in New York.

Demand from visiting overseas dignitaries for King George’s jubilee in 1935, prompted Fortnum’s to begin importing the foreign delicacies which soon became one of its hallmarks. During the Second World War, the Officers department, selling anything an officer might require like special cigarettes and silver-plated sporks.

The twentieth century saw the end of the Fortnum and Mason family association with the store. The store was acquired by Canadian W. Garfield Weston, who became its chairman. In 1964, as a tribute to the founders he commissioned the huge four-ton clock which hangs above the entrance and from which four foot models of William Fortnum and Hugh Mason emerge at the chime of every  and bow to each other. Currently, the Fortnum and Mason’s is run by Garfield Weston’s granddaughters Jana Weston Khayat and Kate Weston Hobhouse.

In 2007 Fortnum and Mason celebrated 300 years in business with a massive 24 million pound refurbishment. Today it is a thoroughly modern establishment offering all kinds of luxury services, including a Day Spa. There are four excellent and very popular restaurants, including the Diamond jubilee Tea Salon opened by the Queen in 2012

Although nowadays only one floor of Fortnum’s is dedicated to food, it is there in its food hall on the lower ground floor that a large part of Fortnum’s fame rests.  Food at Fortnum’s is always fresh and always respects the seasons. It still stocks its famous teas, its foreign and exotic delicacies and pre-prepared meals.

Fortnum has famously joined the movement to “green” inner city London and established a rooftop garden, complete with bee hives. Fortnum and Mason’s bees are housed in a bespoke hive, made from English oak painted in the Eau de Nil Blue (the colour of the house) with gold leaf filials. The bees produce 400 jars of honey each year and each year it is awaited with great anticipation. There is a long waiting list. The quality of the honey varies from year to year. Sometimes it has a light floral tinge and sometimes it is rich and aromatic. Needless to say, it is packaged in exquisitely labeled jars. The bees also contribute to Fortnum and Mason’s famous Roja Candles, an initiative which would have warmed the heart of old Willaim Fortnum.

Fortnum’s still provides to Royals and caters to official and state occasions. It still stocks its famous teas, foreign and exotic delicacies and pre-prepared meals and it still delivers luxury hampers to every occasion from christenings and Christmas to historic races and regattas.

In a tradition dating back to the Napoleonic Wars, Fortnum’s continues to support the British Forces and every soldier on active service receives a service tin. It still has an expeditions Department.

There’s something wonderfully clean, fresh and wholesome about Fortnum and Mason, it’s that light, calming Eau de Nil Blue that follows you from the shop front, the windows, to appear in little touches on the staff’s uniforms, into the décor on every floor, into the china in the restaurants, the table linen, the packaging. There’s the aroma of exotic teas and coffee and the scent of fresh flowers of fresh flowers. There’s something in those exquisitely presented tins and hampers and packets of teas and jars of pickles jams and honey that makes you want to stock up or even inspires you to race home and launch into a frenzy of preserving.

Fortnum’s is a wonderful place to wander, browse, marvel, soak up the history and the atmosphere, people-watch and, yes, even take photos

Legendary London shops; Liberty

 

Liberty
Liberty

In 1875, Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened his first drapery store on Regent Street.  he called it Liberty. Selling high quality oriental silks, ornaments and objets d’art from the East, it attracted a discerning clientele with a taste for the foreign and the exotic. The artists Ruskin, Rosetti and Whistler were among Liberty’s first customers.

Soon the store began to manufacture and print its own fabrics, with designs by artists like William Morris. With their fine quality silks and satins and their subtle and artistic colours, Liberty prints gained great popularity as dress fabrics, especially during the years from 1890 to 1920. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Liberty’s had a considerable influence on contemporary trends in style and design, such as the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau, which was so closely associated with the store that it became known in Italy as “Stile Liberty”.

In 1925, after Liberty’s had outgrown its original premises on Regent Street, it moved to the present Tudor revival Arts and Crafts building on Great Marlborough Street. The timbers used in its construction were recycled from two British naval ships, the HMS Impregnable and the HMS Hindustan. The store’s quaint “country-house” exterior continues into the interior which is small, intimate and “old-world” with dark wooden counters and display cases, polished floors, stairs and decorative elevators. It curves around  several wooden balconied, “mock-Tudor” style atrium with glass roofs.

Today Liberty remains dedicated to fine quality and service. It continues to uphold its original style and traditions. It maintains its historic links with arts and crafts, selling original stationery, pottery, jewellery and furniture of the highest quality. On its top floor, it houses the period Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Arts and Crafts furniture which it so greatly influenced. It still sells the hand-blocked silks and other oriental goods for which it was known when it first opened in 1875. And the beautiful liberty prints are an enduring hallmark of the house.

Yet, for all its old world charm, dedication to its arts and crafts foundations and its stile Liberty, Liberty has embraced and fully exploited the possibilities of the digital age. Liberty is out there online, offering its exquisite wares to loyal patrons and through its blogs, inspiring artists and craftspeople around the globe. In-house or online Liberty is a shopping experience like no other.

Now with Liberty, the TV series, Arthur Lasenby Liberty’s store takes on another new life….