The John Lewis Partnership is, we maintain, a very excellent thing. Saying or even thinking that this might not be the case is tantamount to putting a stamp on upside down: if it isn’t illegal then it certainly should be.
We would advise, however, giving Peter Jones et al a wide berth on Saturdays between, say, about 10am and 1pm. That’s when previously happy, harmonious couples stalk the aisles, barcode scanners at the ready with the safety-catch off, eyeing up the bed linen and generally despising one another. He doesn’t care about bed linen, he wouldn’t use a breadmaker, and he can’t see what’s wrong with the plates they’ve got already. She, reasonably enough, wishes he did, would and could. The whole thing’s a nightmare.
A visit to the London Silver Vaults, on the other hand, is almost exactly like a dream. It’s the largest collection of silver for sale anywhere in the world, divided among forty-odd vaults just off Chancery Lane. Each individual sterling fiefdom, the walls four feet thick and lined with steel, has been in its respective family for over fifty years, the walls, shelves and cabinets lined with the warm glow of solid silver.
Whether it’s a wedding present you’re after or a christening one, this is the place to go. Everybody in there is a true expert; there’s no hurry about the place, no sense of urgency, no simmering resentment or cross words over whether it’s okay to expect someone to pay £160 for a pedal bin. A trip to the Silver Vaults is like a slightly woozy saunter through the the V&A after a good, long lunch – but here everything’s for sale and you can pick up something for £50 that’s at least three times better in every sense than anything Brabantia make.
Candlesticks, salt cellars, Armada dishes, porringers – the vaults are crammed with all manner of useful and beautiful household items that express the sincerity of one’s feelings about one’s newlywed friends far more profoundly than a cake stand or a fancy laundry basket.
The London Silver Vaults are open from 9am-5.30 on weekdays, and close at 1pm on Saturdays. See you there, no doubt.