Sunday, 29 November 2015

Black Friday

So, did you venture out?  Did you dare to set foot in your local shopping mall for fear of being flattened by Black Friday lunatics desperate to save some cash? I mean, let’s face it, in not too many weeks the sales will be on with half-price-this and mega-discount-that.  Is Black Friday really worth all the huff and hype?  All I can say is it suited me to go Christmas shopping Friday evening – and it just happened to be Black Friday.  Did I get squashed by a stampede of rioting people?  No.  Bluewater, my local stomping ground, was no busier than any other day of the year.  Did I save money?  Yes, quite a bit actually.
          I met up with my daughter and sister for some girlie company.  Eleanor isn’t the greatest of shopping companions unless you are up for buying make-up, clothes, or jewellery.  Fortunately two out of three items ticked my Christmas shopping list.  Eleanor was like a bloodhound sniffing out discounted goodies.  However, she hadn’t counted on her aunty wanting to buy different things to her.
          ‘Ooh, look, a steam cleaner,’ Janice beamed.  She hovered outside Lakeland, clearly in raptures.  ‘It’s reduced from four million and sixty-three thousand pounds to just tuppence.’  No, it wasn’t really, but I’m trying to convey my sister’s excitement over a substantial saving.
          Eleanor looked unimpressed. ‘Are you going to buy it, Aunty Janice?’
          My sister dithered.  ‘Well, um, I don’t know.  It’s certainly a bargain.  But, I’m not sure.  Do I really need a steam cleaner for my floor?’
          ‘No,’ said Eleanor decisively.  ‘So let’s check out Russell & Bromley instead.  They have some brogue boots massively discounted and–’
          ‘But, hang on. Oh dear. I’m not sure what to do. If I walk away, I might later regret it.’  My sister paused, clearly torn.
          ‘Shall we go inside and check it out?’ I suggested.  Eleanor gave an almost imperceptible shake of the head. I warmed to my task.  ‘Perhaps you should get the contraption out of its box.’  Eleanor scowled.  I smiled mischievously.  There’s nothing like winding up a teenager in a public place where they’re unable to have a hissy fit.  ‘I think you should read the instructions too, just to be sure you’re buying something that’s easy to work.’
          ‘Good idea,’ Janice beamed.
          M-u-mmm,’ Eleanor begged nearly an hour later.  Please get Aunty Janice out of here.  She’s worse than you when it comes to shopping.’
          ‘What do you mean?’ I frowned.
          ‘She’s buying really boring stuff.  I mean, like, really boring.  She’s not only bought the steam cleaner, but also a huge machine that shreds raw veg, and now she’s looking at casserole pots and kettles and toasters.  I can’t take any more.’
          I had to admit, there’s only so long one can delight over a set of saucepans.  Five minutes later we were out in the shopping mall again.
          ‘Where to now?’ my sister asked. She looked different. Odd.  Her eyes were alight.  Cheeks glowing.  She was clearly experiencing an adrenalin rush induced by so much spending and saving.  I’d seen that look before – on our mother’s face when armed with my father’s credit card.  We then spent a further couple of hours demolishing every shop with a substantial discount.  Finally, weighted down with boxes and bags, we staggered into House of Fraser.
          ‘Oooh, designer sunglasses,’ my sister smiled, ‘and there’s fifty-per-cent off!’ Janice then proceeded to try on three-hundred-and-twenty-five pairs of black shades.  ‘What do you think?’ she asked, price tag bobbing over her nose.
          My daughter studied her aunt.  ‘I think this pair looks exactly like the other three-hundred-and-twenty-four you’ve just tried on.’
          ‘Can we move away from the sunnies?’ I implored.  ‘Jan, you said you wanted a handbag for Christmas.  Can we head over to bags?  After all, the time is getting on.’
          ‘Okay.’  My sister reluctantly whipped off a pair of shades that made her look like a brunette Lady Gaga.
          As we walked past leather bags by Mulberry and Vivienne Westwood, Eleanor began to hyperventilate.  ‘I want them all,’ she breathed.  Ignoring her, I began to search through House of Fraser’s own brands.  I turned to my sister.
          ‘This one’s nice.’
          Very nice,’ my sister enthused.  ‘And look – there’s a matching purse to go with it!’
          ‘Would you like them both?’
          ‘Yes…I think so…let me just have a little explore.’  Her fingers whizzed across the bag and the purse, checking out pockets, flaps, zipping, unzipping, fastening, unfastening.  ‘I’ll have them both!’ she declared.  Shoving the purse into the handbag, she passed the whole thing over to me.
          ‘Right, I’ll just see how Eleanor is getting on over there, and then I’ll go and pay for the handbag.’
          My daughter couldn’t decide which bag she liked and began to get flustered.  ‘You’re stressing me, Mum.  This is such an important decision. Don’t rush me.’
          ‘Don’t rush you?’ my eyebrows nearly shot off my forehead.  ‘Between your aunt in the sunglasses department, and you in the handbag department, we’re almost out of time.  The shops will be closing any minute.  While you’re choosing, I’m going to pay for Aunty Janice’s Christmas present.’
          Trying to find a pay station that was still open was difficult.  Hardly anyone was about.  Craning my neck, I spotted one last open cash till in the next department.  Bracing myself, I half dragged and half carried my shopping over to the pay station.
          ‘Had a successful night?’ asked the young sales lady as she took the handbag from me.
          ‘Yes, thanks.’  My mobile began to ring.  ‘Excuse me,’ I apologised and took the call.
          ‘Where are you?’ asked Eleanor sounding peeved.
          ‘In the next department.’
          ‘Well the bad news is I’ve lost Aunty Janice.’
          I turned away from the sales lady and scanned the shop floor.  No sign of my sister.  ‘She’s probably trying on sunglasses again.  I’ll see you outside the store in two minutes.’  I rang off and did the chip-and-pin thing.  ‘Thank you,’ I smiled taking the wrapped bag and receipt.  Rearranging packages and carriers, I took a deep breath and, like a weightlifter, raised my arms.  Everything was so heavy.  Indeed, after hours of carting stuff about, my arms had started to shake. I clanked and rattled towards the exit, lurched past the security guard…and all hell broke loose.  Alarms sounded, bleepers bleeped and lights flashed.
          ‘Hold it right there, Madam,’ boomed the security guard.  You could tell from the glint in his eye that he’d had a tremendously boring day but – hurrah! – the final second before shut down one shopper had set off alarms and bells thus relieving him from crippling inertia.  ‘Have you paid for your shopping?’
          ‘Of course,’ I replied.
          ‘Show me all your receipts.’
          ‘No problem,’ I replied and dumped everything around my feet.  As my arms yo-yoed back into their shoulder sockets they began to visibly tremble.  The security guard observed them suspiciously. A shopper with the shakes.  Guilty as hell.
          ‘I’m going to have to go through all this shopping and closely inspect every single receipt.’
          ‘Be my guest,’ I invited whilst willing my arms to behave.  They’d gone from stretched spaghetti and swinging somewhere around my knees, to shrinking forty-eight inches in a split second.  In fact I was pretty sure my hands had relocated into my armpits.
          ‘Hmm,’ the security guard declared.  ‘Something isn’t right.’
          ‘I know,’ I said, worried.  ‘Look at my arms.’
          The security guard ignored me and proceeded to wave every piece of shopping in front of the alarm detector.  Finally one offending item sent the alarm into orbit.  My sister’s handbag.
          ‘You haven’t paid for this,’ he accused.
          ‘I most certainly have,’ I retorted.
          He began checking out the bag’s pockets and flaps, as my sister had done earlier.  I had a sudden feeling of déjà vu.  As he zipped and unzipped, fastened and unfastened, a nasty memory rose to the surface just as the guard hauled out the matching purse my sister had shoved deep within the bag.  Clearly the sales assistant hadn’t spotted it and Eleanor’s ill-timed phone call had distracted me from pointing it out.
          ‘Was it your intention not to pay for this, Madam?’ the security guard accused.
          I had an uncontrollable urge to reply, ‘Indeed.  I have spent umpteen hundred pounds this evening but the thought of sneaking past your security barrier with a two bob purse was absolutely crucial to my sense of wellbeing.’  Instead I just shook my head and sighed.  ‘Clearly an oversight.’
          He gave me a look that begged to differ.  ‘I’ll have to escort you back to the cash till, Madam.’
          As I walked back into the store with a security guard hot on my heels, I met Janice and Eleanor coming in the opposite direction.  My daughter’s jaw dropped as she took in the situation.
          ‘Oh cringe, Mum.  This is sooo embarrassing.  I’m sooo glad it’s closing time and nobody else is around to see my mother caught for shoplifting.’  Which reminds me.
          There’s a gang going through Bluewater systematically stealing clothes in size order.  The police believe they’re still at large…


Sunday, 22 November 2015

I’m a Celebrity – Give Me Publicity

My daughter is a huge fan of most reality shows.  When she’s watching ‘the jungle’, I do sometimes pause – mostly in gobsmacked amazement – to see what people do to up their fame game.  Apparently this year’s cast of characters includes Lady Colin Campbell, whose is a crashing snob and prone to bonkers outbursts.  I watched her pop her hands into a box of concealed snakes.  Her task was to identify the objects.  She has such a plummy accent, one presumes she swallowed the whole plum pie.  ‘I huven’t felt thaat texture befaww,’ was her comment.
          The bush tucker trials are always disgusting.  There is a soft-centred part of me that doesn’t like creatures being eaten alive, never mind being used to provide TV entertainment.  Tequila Bumrise was apparently one of the cocktails ‘celebrities’ had to drink.  Well you don’t have to have too many brain cells to work out that an animal’s backside is somewhere in the blend.  I mean, really?  That’s the ultimate bum lick – how desperate can somebody be for publicity to do such a thing?
          I’ve looked up the other contestants on the internet because, despite them being celebrities, I wasn’t sure who they were.  I remember Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley.  Regrettably I’m not a fan of his singing due to being traumatised by Mr V yodelling his own cover versions over the years (yes, beyond dire).  I do, however, remember eccentric Chris Eubank, who clearly shops at the same plum pie place Lady C goes to.  Susannah Somebody, Yvette Wotsit, Kieran I-haven’t-a-clue…the names go vaguely on…but I most definitely have heard of Duncan Bannatyne.  My husband is an avid fan of Dragon’s Den. Many a time have I heard Duncan’s dulcet tone declaring, ‘I’m out.’  And he was indeed out when he tried to get into Lady C’s bed one night in the jungle.  ‘I lost my bearings,’ he later explained, smiling sheepishly.  I like Duncan.
          I’m not so keen on Ant and Dec.  Having seen them several times, the moment the camera stops rolling their smiles are a non-event.  Especially the one with the big forehead who has a penchant for both rudeness and sarcasm.  His standard facial expression matches the celebrities who have chewed on one of the bush tucker bugs.  Which reminds me.
          After one female celebrity’s jungle trial which took place in a room with an ostrich, Ant and Dec asked how it felt to come face to face with a strange looking bird with a tiny brain.  ‘Absolutely terrifying,’ replied the ostrich…

Sunday, 15 November 2015

An Exchange of Dialogue

As anybody who knows me will vouch, I love to talk.  I call it conversation.  Others, less kindly, say rambling.  I particularly enjoy chatting to my sister and daughter because they, like me, go off on tangents before asking, ‘What point was I trying to make?’
          Conversation with my son is a bit different.  A sharp wit and screaming intelligence, he is up to date on all things scientific and political.  Can I talk with astuteness to him and others like him?  Not really. I flounder and feel stupid.  My inability to talk about current affairs is because I deliberately never watch the box or read a newspaper.  Is watching the news or reading a newspaper an uplifting experience?  No!  Consequently I live in a bubble where the sun mostly shines and, even if the heavens open, there is a rainbow not too far away.  Ignorance can indeed be blissful.
          Thanks to social media, when really nasty things happen, there is no escaping what is going on in the world.  Twitter and Facebook will suddenly be ablaze with chit-chat.  This week’s dreadful acts of terror in Paris had everybody saying exactly what they’d like to do to the culprits and it wasn’t long before hashtags were trending.  I logged into an on-line daily newspaper and recoiled in horror.  On Facebook, rather than posting a funny picture of my cat captioned with an inane comment, I felt prompted to write a Status from the heart.  My presence on social media is primarily as an author platform, therefore I mostly remain silent on tricky subjects like politics and religion.  But yesterday I spoke.  I posted about my concept of God being one of love…that He loved us all and, in turn, we should love each other.  Within seconds the sentence had sparked a lively thread of debate.  Comments ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.  But everybody is entitled to their opinions, and I won’t spark another barrage of remarks by talking about it any further here.
          I particularly like conversation where a gaff is made.  For example, yesterday afternoon we took my parents to see the new house we are buying.
          ‘It’s lovely,’ said Mother Bryant as she creaked into the hallway, the floor of which was covered in white stone tiles.  ‘Does it have underground heating?’  No.  Sadly it doesn’t have underfloor heating either.
          Or out shopping.  ‘I love this sparkly sweater.  What’s this material called?  Oh, I remember now, Durex.’  For those still puzzling, Mother Bryant meant lurex.
          Even better is conversation where somebody trips over their words so they sound like a blithering idiot.  We’ve all done it.
          ‘What would you like for breakfast?’ I asked my daughter.
          ‘I’ll have some pain au cheu-cheu-cheu-cheu…’  I appreciate it’s very difficult saying pain au chocolat before nine in the morning when you’re a teenager with a hangover.
          And then there are those who mishear things and take the conversation down a completely different path. 
A friend worked in an art supply store. She sold artists’ canvas by the yard. It could be bought in two widths – thirty-six and forty-eight inches.
          Customer:  ‘Can you cut some canvas for me?’
          Friend: ‘Certainly. What width?’
          Customer (confused and slightly annoyed): ‘Scissors?’
          Even better, is when we read one word but say something different.  I can still remember addressing a Mr Stipples as Mr Nipples.  Fortunately he laughed, but then spoilt it by pretending to mispronounce my surname for something too rude to mention here.  Gosh…not heard that one before…yawn!  Which reminds me.
          What do you call a one-legged female pirate?  Peggy.
          What do you call a lady with one leg shorter than the other?  Eileen.
          What do you call a man standing on top of a hill?  Cliff.
          What do you call a man with expensive tastes?  Rich.
          What do you call a man with a shovel?  Doug.
          What do you call a man who has lost his shovel?  Douglas…

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Retail Therapy

I love shopping.  Well, not supermarket shopping.  Proper shopping.  You know, clothes…and handbags…and shoes…and more clothes and handbags and shoes.  You’ve got the picture.  Yesterday I decided to go lingerie shopping.  Having spent the last twelve months in a sports bra due to injury following my argument with a Dyson vacuum cleaner (never row with a Dyson, never), after two operations I decided it was time to try wearing a normal bra again.  My daughter materialised by my side.
            ‘Did you say you’re going shopping?’
            ‘Food shopping?’
            ‘No, lingerie shopping.’
            I should have lied.  Too late, I saw the error of my ways.
            ‘Oooh, wonderful.  Wait for me.  I’ll just slick a bit of lippy on and I’ll be with you.’
            ‘I could be some time,’ I warned.
            Wrong response!
            ‘I mean, er–’ Quick! Think of a real put-off excuse!
            ‘Fab,’ I replied weakly.
            ‘Are we going to Victoria’s Secret?’
            ‘No we are not,’ I scowled.  Between you and me, that had been my intention, but not now my spending budget had halved thanks to the company of my shopping plus-one.
            ‘So where are we going?’ asked Eleanor, undaunted.
            ‘M & S.  We shall buy something boring and sensible.’
            Actually, have you visited the lingerie section of M & S?  It’s gorgeous!  My daughter was in seventh heaven collecting armfuls of lacy this and leopard that.  Not to be outdone, I grabbed something that promised to give a bigger cleavage than Dolly Parton, and more lift than a helium balloon.  Uplifted (no pun intended), I went off to the changing room.
            ‘Wait for me,’ said Eleanor.
            ‘Go in your own changing room,’ I protested.
            ‘The others are full.  Come on, Mum.  We can share.  All girls together.’
            Actually, that’s where she was wrong.  We were not all girls together. We were one girl and one middle-aged woman, the latter with surgery scars and a mid-riff that looked like dropped knicker elastic.  There is nothing more demoralising than stripping off next to an eighteen-year old that weighs eight stone with curves in all the right places.
            ‘Oh yes, this is fabulous,’ said Eleanor as she worked her way through a selection of figure-enhancing items.  ‘How are you getting on, Mum?  Oh dear.’ Yes, oh dear indeed.  I surveyed my reflection in dismay.  Think of a trussed up chicken.  Apart from anything else, it was beyond uncomfortable.  ‘It’s still early days after your surgery.  Why don’t you go for something wireless?’
            I stared at my daughter in confusion.  Wireless?  Had they invented a bra that picked up the internet?
            To cut a shopping tale short, we left the store with half-a-dozen fancy bras for Eleanor, and a sensible cotton jobbie for me.  Sigh.  Which reminds me. Designers have invented a new bra for women of a certain age.  It’s called The Sheepdog.  It rounds things up and points them in the right direction…