Christmas shoppers walk along Oxford Street in London. | HANNAH MCKAY


So after a long absence, I am finally back in good old London town and much to my relief, the likes of Hatchards the bookshop, Waterstones, Fortnum & Mason, M&S and John Lewis are all still alive and kicking. I managed to find a Boots the Chemist yesterday which had fully automated checkouts but very little on the shelves. An assistant explained that supplies were just dribbling through recently and she really couldn’t explain why. I reckon Boots is on the way out which would be a shame but in its current state of distress, maybe it’s better to put the poor old chap out its misery or find new investors fast.

A new phenomenon for me was the plethora of Christmas mobile zombies. You must have seen them if you’ve visited London recently. They walk around town at snail’s pace holding a smart phone in front of them and in between taking images of their gormless mugs, slowly scan every Christmas shop front with the video on their mobiles. This means that normal non-zombies have to walk in the road and play chicken with oncoming traffic. In the golden olden days we used to look at shop fronts as we walked by and admire the decorations. Now, everything is seen purely through the lens of a mobile in the hope of trumping other mobile zombies on social media in order to garner more ‘likes’. What a sad old state of affairs.

I popped by Nike Town for a new pair of Lyra running shorts and was given a nice welcome by a young assistant at the till who asked which country I was from. Bizarre. I explained that I was British but lived in Mallorca. Oh, she said with a smile, she’d heard it was a nice country with lots of sunshine. I thought it churlish to disillusion her and explain that it was actually part of Spain. Meanwhile, in John Lewis an assistant told me that everything was now so expensive that she and her family couldn’t afford to dine out anymore, even for the odd treat. She said a coffee and a bun was as good as it got.

The cost of living, ULEZ, Just Stop Oil protestors and Gaza loom large in every conversation. My friends, whichever side of the political divide, seem to loathe the current mayor of London, and are specifically spitting mad about ULEZ restrictions. Most want the conservative government out. Even the diehard right wingers tell me that nothing can surely be worse than the current mess of a government. I have no idea, but the way things are going, I’m sure they’ll find out soon enough.

But for all the doom-laden British news we read online from sunny Mallorca, I have found London absolutely zinging with life. Restaurants are expensive but full to the brim and the shops are swamped with tourists. There’s a jolly and energetic feel to the place and people look reasonably cheerful. I had read that Oxford Street had died and was now full of American sweet shops. Not true at all. It has hardly changed at all, and the shops are bustling with Christmas shoppers and life. I didn’t sniff a sweet for miles.

The joy of a visit to London at this time of year is, of course, to see the Christmas lights and ingenious festive displays. I remember feeling that same sense of wonderment while visiting New York one December.

No one has to stand in the street looking like a zombie with an iPhone in front of their nose. Shoppers can simply stare directly in front of them and witness the wonderful spectacles with the eyes in their own heads. Who’d have thought. Now, isn’t that a marvel?

Catfight and cat flights

I have to hand it to the late Karl Lagerfeld’s spoilt, beautiful white fluffy Birman, Choupette. When reality star Kim Kardashian had the not-so-bright idea to bring the moggy as her accessory to the Karl Lagerfeld themed Met Ball recently, the blue-eyed beauty hissed and tried to attack her. Wisely, Kardashian decided against the union. The legendary German designer for Chanel died some years ago but made sure that Choupette would never be wanting. The cat has two maids, a private chef and bodyguard and lives in the lap of luxury.

But now in an absurd twist, Kardashian’s ex, Kanye West, has got his exhibitionist partner, Bianca Censori – she who wears nothing but nude shaded underwear around the streets of Italy – to parade a toy cat instead. As usual, Bianca is wearing next to nothing on her latest foray. This time, she is donned in a pair of nearly-there knickers, furry white slippers and er, a white furry toy cat that has more than a sneaking resemblance to Choupette. The general view is that West has got his poor, obedient mannequin of a partner to wear the cat paraphernalia in order to rile and insult his ex-wife. Surely there are classier ways to get back at your ex and why involve your new squeeze? I mean, why couldn’t Kanye don the cat toy himself and leave Blanca out of it? That way he’d be the only laughingstock. On the other hand, if Bianca Censori is so dim witted as to let her cuckoo partner humiliate her in this way, she really only has herself to blame.