“Oyez, Oyez, Oyez”…this is the all-too familiar voice of the towncrier or bellman.
“Oyez…” is an Anglo-Saxon word for “Hear Ye” or “Listen”. It is the trademark of a town crier or a bellman calling people to attention and to listen. I did a bit of research on the net and found that this is a very old and ancient tradition dating back to Greek and Roman times. In England, the first recorded use of the towncrier was in 1066 after the Battle of Hastings when the King used the towncrier to annouce his victories and proclamations across the land.
I was at Oxford Street yesterday evening when I saw this most interesting character. What was he doing dressed up like something from a history page? Well, he was calling passers-by to detour into the House of Fraser. What is the House of Fraser? It is a big department store along Oxford Street. I was coming out of the store when I heard him, first, before I actually spotted him. Although he was wearing a bright red jacket I couldn’t see him at first and that is because there were so many people walking past blocking his face. I could still hear the bell and his voice.
In the days before newspapers were the apple in anyone’s eye these guys carried or rather announced the news – good and bad but perhaps mostly good otherwise they would not be around for long. In fact the towncriers became so important as ‘newsmen’ in those days that they were protected by the monarchy. If a towncrier was harmed in anyway it would be tantamount to treason. Nowadays, towncriers are used symbolically more than anything. The colourful costumes date back to the 17th Century. They are a vital reminder of the good old days and a strong and everlasting link to great traditions of the British Isles. It’s good to know that companies such as House of Fraser help to preserve the good traditions of the past – bravo! From another perspective, hiring towncriers creates jobs for people with these skills.
In fact, I think that the first printing press invented by William Caxton in 1476 mainstreamed the newspaper. If this is not the case then I stand corrected. Another thing I learnt yesterday was that Italy is considered the birthplace of newspapers.
Yesterday it seemed as if everyone returned to the city to check it out and take advantage of the after-Christmas sales and movie or theatre matinees. The crowds on the high street were incredible! Three things I wanted to do: have lunch at Thai Square – the popular Thai restaurant close to Trafalgar Square, go to John Lewis store on Oxford Street and to pick up some ingredients at the Japan Centre for a favourite Japanese dish.
At Thai Square, food and company were great. I even ran into someone I know – fancy that in a big city of about 12 million or so people!
After lunch, I went to Oxford Street to check something out at John Lewis. Wow! the pavements were absolutely choc-a-bloc with people – shoppers! and was so glad I could get away from there as soon as I could. It was kind of exciting in a weird sort of way.
My second last stop was at The London Picture Centre, to collect a painting. This painting caught my eye when I first walked into this gallery. I think it called me name when I walked in…but beauty as they say is in the eye of the beholder.
My last stop was the Japan Centre on Lower Regent Street, down from Piccadilly Circus, to collect some ingredients I needed for a Japanese dish.
On the way home, as I reflected on my afternoon in London, I figured out a couple of things which are so mundane they seemed unimportant but I reckon food for thought nonetheless. These are my shopping tips for post-Christmas or New Year sales.
If you wanted to take advantage of the post-Christmas or New Year sales at the shops along Oxford Street and Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Street, go during the week – there are less people to jostle your way through. The other option is to be standing outside the store when it opens and be the first in.
Know what it is you really want to buy and where to get it in the shop.
If there are more than one item you are interested in, you need to give yourself at least 2 hours. Be mindful of queues outside the fitting rooms, and the sales assistant who has to check the stock shelves for your correct size while you wait.
When in a hurry enlist the help of a sales assistant to help you find matching tops to your long pants, find your correct size or match the colours that go well wth your complexion.
If the store you are in doesn’t have the item in stock ask the sales assistant to check with their other branches or stores nearby which carry the same brand or label.
Remember, most stores have a return policy so if in a hurry, buy the garment and try it at home. Ensure the price tag is still on and no marks on the item. Return it if not happy for a reimbursement or exchange it with another item of the same quality and price.
Check sales items carefully for any marks, tears or a missing button(s) etc.
If you like something you’ve seen and know in your heart of hearts that you must have it, go ahead and buy it. Guaranteed it wont be there when you go back in a month’s time. In some cases the store would have sold out on your size, colour or style.