Wednesday, 8 December 2010

D R Harris's Pick-Me-Up

On the east side of St James's Street there is an old chemist shop called D R Harris and in the shop's opulent (but welcoming) space there is a chair (maybe more than one, I forget) up by the top counter, where customers may sit and order a D R Harris Pick-Me-Up. I have no doubt that it was formulated to blow the cobwebs away, on the morning after 'dining well' and there must be thousands of men (in succeeding generations too) who have sat in that chair and blessed the memory of D R Hariis and his secret formulation. It does not take long to prepare in the shop but when the glass is brought "With beaded bubbles winking at the brim", drink it straight down for maximum effect, place the empty glass on the counter, leave your £1 (or whatever it may now be), bid them a hearty "Good Day!" and be off about your business with a spring in your step!

This must be one of the oldest and the best chemist shops in the world and, besides being friendly and helpful, how many other chemists still prepare a potion for their customers' immediate consumption?


  1. St Paul's garden under the star-shaped tree opposite the rose walk where the choristers file in to the cathedral at set times of the day for practice and then services. Susan's plane tree just off Cheapside (because that is what Wordsworth called it). The approach to Guildhall and benches at the back of St Lawrence Jewry. Walking through and out of the meat market and St Barts in Smithfield during the rain or at night time when all and everywhere feels past and present and ghostly. A ding dong in St Bartholemew the Great. Small Elizabethan gardens near the stone copy of Shakespeare's first folio. Fountains that cooled the nerve at the Barbican and Finsbury Gardens. Bowling greens and somewhere to smoke before and after work. Hovering beside the Stationer's Hallambling to see their private garden just this once! The back gates in to the Bailey. And Fleet Street curving into view on the approach to Ludgate. This was London too; absent alcohol or sought after cures. I said to my confidant we will return here one day and sit again under the stars of that tree.

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  3. Anon - A 'ding dong' in St Bart's sounds fun - but waht would the vicar say?

  4. Also, apparently, on the site of 'Susan's plane tree' is now a large sycamore!!

  5. Platanus (pronounced /ˈplætənəs/)[1] is a small genus of trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are the sole living members of the family Platanaceae.

    They are all large trees to 30–50 m tall. All are deciduous, except for P. kerrii, and are mostly found in riparian or other wetland habitats in the wild, though proving drought-tolerant in cultivation. The hybrid London Plane has proved particularly tolerant of urban conditions.

    They are often known in English as planes or plane trees. Some North American species are called sycamores (especially Platanus occidentalis[2]), although that term also refers to either the fig Ficus sycomorus, the plant originally so named, or the Great, or Sycamore Maple, Acer pseudoplatanus.[2]


    The Cheapside Plane, a 25m tall London Plane has stood on the corner of Cheapside and the appropriately named Wood Street for 250 years.

    Originally within the churchyard of St Peter Cheap, destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, it stands behind some of the oldest shops in the City.

    The tree was thought to have survived a direct hit during World War II bombing. In the mid 19th century, the tree was for a long time home to families of rooks. These resilient birds only moved out when food supplies in nearby parks became too scarce.

    © 2010 Trees for Cities. Registered Charity no. 1032154


    Ding Dong Merrily on High! The composer of thr Ding Dong Merrily on High Christmas Carol is unknown but the carol is reputed be French dating back to the sixteenth century. The text to Ding Dong Merrily on High was originally in Latin - "Gloria in Excelsis Deo".
    Children especially enjoy Ding Dong Merrily on High due to the onomatopoeia ( Ding dong – the word conveys the sound) and the breathless state achieved when singing “ Gloria…”

    bells; ding dong; celebration; a call in medieval London to worship, curfew, Sunday best, marriage, illness, plague, processions, death, civic announcements, festivals; ding dong; the old London voice it seems to me, of law and order; of rules and regulations. Musicals, dance, sorrow, fear, work, rest and play and Lord of the Dance. For God surely so loved the dance and so then did we celebrate throughout all time the richness of our musical cities!!!!!!

  6. Maybe, Anon, you should start your own blog because all this is a long way from D R Harris's tonic. Ding Dong.

  7. But you were wrong about the plane tree and the cheap aside on the words ding dong; I'd much rather make fun of you

  8. I'm nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
    They'd banish us, you know.
    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!

    By Emily Dickinson American nineteenth century poet

  9. Ho, Ho, Ho. 'Tis the season to be jolly so make hay while ..... you have brass monkey frost in the air. The heat here would be utterly intlerable if it were not for the ocean breeze. Toodle pip.

  10. Dr Harris' tonic perhaps had ingredients no longer permissible.

    I remember one study of "Traditional Chinese Herbalists" potions discovered that around 70% of the mixtures contained significant quantities of plain old amphetamine - no wonder solid citizens of all types felt much better and vitalised after a "pure traditional" potion.


  11. fxh - has it been banned then? If so, this is most unfortunate because I open Chapter I of Book II with a paean of praise to its properties! Yo!