Ordinarily, nothing would have kept me from helping Uri Geller to launch his new range of crystal on the second floor of Harrods. Given the spoon-fancier's form with the cutlery drawer, the prospect of him moving into more frangible lines of tableware excited a shameful, rubbernecking interest, as keenly as if Maureen from Driving School had donned Jenson Button's string-backed gloves. It would take only one distracted brush from Uri's fingertips, I calculated, for the whole display to resemble a Cossack's fireplace.
Heartbreakingly, I found out too late about the crystal promotion. It was getting under way as I rode an escalator due south from the second floor of Harrods, and spotted on a poster the familiar features of the man who is doomed to eat dessert off corrugated utensils. By this time, I had committed myself to showing visiting out-of-towners around the gift department on the lower ground floor. As we travelled past mummy caskets and gilded, long-necked cats, it would have taken a cooler head than mine to resist the insistent thought that Mohamed Al Fayed's pharaonic HQ acts as a kind of nexus for the super-evolved types with whom the Harrods owner surrounds himself. Not only Uri himself, but also Uri's obvious choice as best man on the occasion of the renewal of his marriage vows last year, Michael Jackson. You might recall that the pop star has promenaded on the greensward of Craven Cottage, becoming the toast of Fulham fans - although very possibly the ironic toast - as the guest of Chairman Al Fayed.
If the top people's store is an important locus for the owner's circle of contacts, then its nerve centre, its lodestone, is the basement shrine to Dodi Fayed and the Princess of Wales. To give the Harrods chairman his due, the shopper comes upon this shimmering grotto without advertisement: you will perhaps forgive the shocked and winded tone of the description that follows. Laminated photographs of the late couple are mounted on a golden scaffold, which is in the shape of the slashing monograph of the swordsman Zorro. The portraits dominate a marmoreal water feature, which twinkles with votary offerings of loose change.
So far, so hagiographic, you think, recovering your breath at last. What were you expecting, anyway? A stanza from Clive James tastefully cast in bronze? But look a little closer at the homage, and it takes on a different aspect. Thanks to the glazier's art, the display makes a magnified feature of a ring, said to have been the band with which Dodi planned to affiance Diana. And hard by it is a wineglass, which would be unremarkable but for the claim made on its behalf that it saw service at the lovers' last supper, and for what we might call forensic traces around its breathy rim. It strikes you that this goblet may have been subject to the formality of a gendarme's cotton bud, before being released to its new home in Knightsbridge.
Any recoil on my part is presumably hypocritical, as I'm a sucker for apostles' bones and swatches from the garments of martyrs. But insight comes in the most unlikely settings, and it was beneath Harrods that I discovered I'm definitely not a glass-half-empty man.