How was it? Did you survive Christmas? Did you manage to drink your way though the sherry, the port and the bickering? Well, I’m currently struggling to break free from beneath a pile of empty Champagne bottles, sweet wrappers and a fog of Brussels sprouts (as soon as I break free, I’m going to work on getting myself stuck under a pile of full Champagne bottles and sweet wrappers and there are still sprouts in the fridge that need eating), so while I languish somewhere between diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver (just north of gout), here, for your reading pleasure, is one from the vaults – a timeless piece on the ravages of post-Christmas commercialism and worse, shopping. Enjoy and I’ll be back afresh next week, sprouts allowing.
Shocking news has reached me here at PFPT Towers that at this very moment, hordes of normally sane people are flocking out of their safe and cosy homes and willingly entering into a bizarre behaviour known as “hitting the sales”. Sadly, after years of extensive testing, it has become apparent that I was born without the shopping gene and so I decided to hit the streets to investigate what all the fuss is about.
Having fought my way through a hysterical melee outside an electrical goods purveyor’s, I approached a Mrs Woosterford of Kensington and asked why she felt the need to venture out onto the streets today.
“Well dearie, it’s a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember. We all come out into the streets as soon as we’ve eaten all the cold turkey and Quality Streets, not the strawberry or the coffee ones of course, and see who can survive the most ‘sale rail rumbles’. I’ve made it to round 7 this morning and am about to encounter my 8th challenger in that knitwear shop behind us. Apparently there’s only one pink cable-knit sweater in a size not designed for a toddler or a tank so it’s going to be quite the fight. I’ve come tooled-up with my sharpest umbrella and a I’ve sewn bricks into the elbow pads of my mackintosh. Must dash.”
I stopped another passer-by, a Mr Fairfield of Twickenham, and asked him if he had arrived early today.
“Silly woman. I’ve been here since 03:00 as everyone knows that the shops open at 06:00 and only have enough produce in their stock rooms to last until 06:02. After that you have to fight to the death over a broken garlic press, half a meter of garden hose and a solitary Hello Kitty mitten.”
Judging by the demented look on his blood-spattered face, I thought it best not to keep him any longer and left him to carry on wrestling a schoolgirl for possession of a Crossroads DVD.
I decided, for my own safety, to talk to someone who was less involved in a shop floor brawl and spoke to a young lady waiting in a static queue outside a shoe shop on Oxford Street. I asked her what shoes she was hoping to buy.
“Shoes? I’m not queuing for shoes. This queue is for the hat department of Harrods. Only 2.4 miles to go! I’m a massive fan of queuing, it is, after all, the national sport of Great Britain. Do you know if there’s a loo at the end of this? I’ve been stood here since Christmas Eve.”
Further down the line I met a Mr Giles St Chalfont who told me that his good lady wife loves coming to the clothes shops right after Christmas to kick start her New Year diet. Apparently just 3 minutes under the harsh cellulite-enhancing glare of a cramped fitting room cubicle light, with just half a bedraggled curtain to protect your festively plump modesty from the critical eyes of the whippet-thin teen model shop assistants really puts you off eating for a good 3 months. A sobbing sound could be heard from behind Mr St Chalfont but no further comment was issued.
A black-eyed Miss Newham of Tottenham said that she liked to “play as a team”. Apparently this enhances the whole experience.
“Me and my mates take it in turns to pick a shop, drag the others round it, asking for opinions that we totally ignore and then we all have to stand around outside the fitting rooms while someone goes in and tries on 20-30 items. It’s such a laugh. If my friends aren’t available, it becomes a romantic day out for me and my boyfriend. He gets to carry all my bags and boxes and then I let him sit outside the fitting room with all the other lads. They look so sweet all sat there in a row, pretending to be really bored and brow-beaten. You should see what face he pulls when I make him sit outside the fitting room of the lingerie shop; it’s a really good impression of an embarrassed serial killer. You can’t put a price on that kind of quality time spent together.”
Miss Newham then added that she couldn’t wait to have children, as a fully loaded bratmobile and flock of tantruming toddlers is one of the best ways to clear your path through the crowded stores and trip up grannies with their brick-lined rain coats, thus ensuring you get to at least level 10 in the sale rail rumbles. Apparently buggies make great “aisle blockades”, giving you enough time to grab 16 half price novelty egg poachers while maintaining your coveted place as 164th in the queue for the check-out.
Having discovered what great fun everyone seemed to be having and how determined everyone is to keep the tradition of “hitting the sales” alive, I thought I would speak to one more person and find out exactly what sort of awesome essentials are being procured and just how much money people are saving.
Mr Piddleton of Birmingham was only too glad to regale me with victory tales through what he had left of his broken teeth.
“I managed to get a new set of car tyres for only £90.00. They were originally £120.00 so I’m really chuffed with that. I don’t own a car but did you hear me? £120.00 down to £90.00! I’d have been mad not to! I also got a size 6 ladies dress for £15.00. No, I don’t have a wife but seriously, £15.00!!! I bought this thingy here that seems to have something to do with horses or armpits or… whatever. It was reduced from £500.00 to just £200.00, how can you say no to bargains like that? It’s like I’ve actually made money today!”
Clearly my genetic predisposition is putting me at a great disadvantage here. I seem to have missed out on so much fun and so many impromptu ‘bargains’ that I didn’t even know I needed. If only there were some other way for me to make well researched, cost-compared purchases all year round, avoiding queues, elbows and screaming infants. If only I could try clothes on in the comfort of my own well-lit boudoir and if only I could buy really bulky items without having to drag them all the way home through legions of masonry-clad seniors… Oh look, The Internet!