Ah, the holiday season in London, there’s nothing like it! The lights! The people! The sub zero temperatures! (Anything under 60 degrees is sub zero to me…) I love getting on the tube by my flat in north London and arriving in central London where the Christmas lights blaze on Oxford Street and holiday music pours onto the streets from shops and pubs. Anytime I head to central London I always start with my favorite shop, Forbidden Planet.
Forbidden Planet opened its doors in 1978, first on Denmark Street, they then moved to a larger facility on New Oxford Street and finally to it’s current much, much larger store on Shaftesbury Street in 2003. The shop has expanded to include 8 stores in England and Forbidden Planet International (formerly Forbidden Planet Scotland) has 17 stores in the UK, and even two shops in New York City! These guys have succeeded to an amazing degree in a business that has largely moved to online shopping. Not that they don’t have an online presence! In 2006, forbiddenplanet.com was launched.
A First Time for Everything
My first visit to Forbidden Planet happened about a year ago. I’d been hearing about the shop for years and when I planned my move to London it was recommended as the first place I should stop. As it turned out I was in London for nearly a year before my husband took me there. You see, I don’t have a great sense of direction. I can get lost in a paper bag (Yes I see the irony of having no sense of direction and moving to a foreign country). I was afraid that I would get on the wrong train and end up in Scotland. Luckily Ewan knows his way around London!
The shop was busy, it’s always busy, and I’m not a huge fan of crowds. But there were too many cool things to see so I plunged in.
There are the kind of figurines that you’d have to have a trust fund to afford, there are t-shirts, there are door mats (of course we got a Doctor Who door mat) and toys beyond imagining. They have a Doctor Who section, a Harry Potter section, a Star Wars section, you name it, they have it. And that’s just the ground floor!
Walking downstairs into the basement area is much quieter, almost with the hush of a library. That’s appropriate as that’s where they keep the books. There are shelves and shelves of comic books and you can instantly recognize the true connoisseur, carefully handling the books. Every series of Sci-Fi book can be found. I was ecstatic to find books by one of my favorite authors, S.M. Stirling. I hadn’t been able to find any of his books in the big chain bookstores. If you haven’t read the Change series, I highly recommend it!
Then I Saw It
I was standing in the middle of the madness, clutching some books and my Doctor Who mat, trying to decide what to look at next when Ewan pointed to a back wall and there, behind an impenetrable fortress (a sales counter) and guarded by an orc (a salesman), I saw it. The one thing that I wanted, no, I NEEDED. There hung a Captain America Shield.
You may recall that I’d had a Captain America shield hanging in my LA apartment. It was my prized possession, but when I was moving to London I had to make some tough decisions on what I could and could not bring. I was limited to one large suitcase and, try as I might, I could not fit that shield in. I was devastated, but I chose a neighborhood child that I knew was Team Cap and gave it to him. He cried. I figured that I would replace it at some point. I had to do the same with my book collection, which hurt almost as bad.
So when I saw that shield I stuffed my purchases into Ewan’s arms and took off like the Flash. I may have knocked over a small child in my haste (sorry kid) and skidded to a halt in front of the counter. The light gleamed off of the metal of that perfect shield, because this was no cheap plastic model, it was the real deal. Well, it wasn’t vibranium, it was aluminum alloy, but I’m sure it would still hurt if you got hit with it. In my mind, the shield was lit by a heavenly light and I swear I could hear angels singing. I sighed in awe and just stared.
After what could have been hours I heard someone clear their throat and noticed the salesman looking at me. I asked the price of the shield and he quoted me a price that was well beyond what we could afford to spend on home defense, I mean home decorating. My face fell and my shoulders slumped. I have never spent that much money on anything other than a car or the MacBook I’m currently writing on. And so, with one last wistful look at the Captain America shield, I turned and left with Ewan.
It Calls to Me
I’ve returned to Forbidden Planet many times since. It’s one of the few places in London that I can find without getting lost. I have my routine. First I look at the expensive figurines and plan pretend battles in my head. Then I head to the Doctor Who section and usually pick up something, I peruse the books and stock up on the next S.M. Stirling book and then I go and sigh over the Captain America shield. I stand there for a time and plan what wall I’ll put it on in our flat. I plan every Halloween costume I’ll ever wear once I have that shield. Heck, I plan every Halloween costume my kids will ever wear once we have them.
After awhile, I head home, my head full of daydreams of that shiny Captain America shield. Someday it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. My own.
Sidney Fraser is an American transplanted to a new life in London, where she explores fannish and geeky places, events and creations, which she relates in the continuing True and Proper Adventures of Sidney Fraser.