I seem to have somehow acquired a totally unjustified (in my opinion) bad shopping reputation. There are certain items which if I say I need, I can be sure of a lone shopping trip. The kids (and my mother) exchange a few knowing glances, and they adopt looks of panic in case I insist they come with me. These dreaded items are shoes, bags and purses. Yet (in my defence) the last two bags I bought were instant buys, especially the last one where I didn’t even get to touch it, or stroke it, or unzip it, and feel inside, and count the number of internal pockets, and test the strap before the purchase was made, because it was hanging up behind the till. And, to be fair, I hadn’t gone out to buy a bag. It was an impulsive purchase. The bag before that was a Christmas present I was choosing for myself – and that didn’t take long either. Shoes… well yes – they perhaps do have a point with shoes. Even I get no enjoyment out of looking for shoes.
The trouble is I pretty much know exactly what I want before I go shopping. The problem is tracking down what may or may not exist – and it usually doesn’t. For “ultimate handbag” it has to satisfy a very long list of requirements. Not too big or heavy, but with the capacity of the one in which Mary Poppins carried a standard lamp. It has to smell nice. The strap has to be non-slip - there are few things in life more exasperating than a strap that continually slips off your shoulder. It has to be easy access – no annoying flappy bits. Big enough to get my essentials inside – but not so big that everything I need hides down at the bottom with long forgotten half eaten packets of Polo’s, spare camera batteries and USB memory doo-dahs.
I’ll admit, I am much better at buying big things. Washing machines, fridges, cameras, computers, three piece suites – usually a five minute job. I walk up to the first one that takes my fancy – and that’s it. But clothes are a nightmare – and I suppose shoes fit into that category. I hate trying on shoes. My feet were not made for shoes. They hate being enclosed. They want to be naked and free. But the problem with naked feet, other than dog poo and drawing pins, is they do tend to elicit funny looks from passers-by. I can happily walk round the house and garden in my bare feet all day – but if I went down the road to post a letter – well, you can imagine – and sadly I do mind what people think.
I’ve been trying to buy a pair of trousers suitable for work since September. The ones I have – which are great but are beginning to wear out – were from Tesco and are size 18. I went back to Tesco and tried on (or at least tried to try on) 5 pairs of size 18 trousers. I couldn’t get them on. I then chose about 4 pairs of size 20, but they looked just awful. Yesterday, in desperation, I had a look in BHS. I suppose I knew I would come out empty handed. It’s annoying because I found some I really liked, the right colour, size and style, but they were “standard”. I’m not “standard” – I’m “short”. There was one miniscule section devoted to “short” but the material of the trousers there was different. It was cheap and nasty and felt all slimy and horrible. I just knew if I bought them they’d be all hot and sweaty within seconds – especially in a room heated by 16 computers and 25 kids. Do they think that only “standard” people are worth the nicer, cooler fabric? Do they think “short” people don’t sweat? I also wasted some time in the “petite” section. This is supposedly for people 5’ 3” and under. Well, I was 5’ 3” last time I looked, so in theory there should have been something there for me. What the sign doesn’t say, and should, is “Petite – for short THIN people” – because they really don’t cater for people like me - short and addicted to chocolate. Where is the “wide” section? They do “wide” shoes for people with duck’s feet (like myself).
I gave up on trousers and went off to the shop I refer to as Fat Pat’s – and every one else calls Evans, (think Eastenders). I wanted some tee shirts that are longer than normal length. Not because I am longer than normal, but I hate tee shirts that end at the waist. I like them to come down and cover my arse. It’s been impossible to get any longer ones for a couple of years, but they have made a very welcome comeback. However, I was out of luck again as the only longer length ones I could find were over size 30, apart from one size 14 lurking about on the rack. No surprise that it hadn’t sold, really – and it surely never will. If I was size 14 I’d be in Per Una, not bloody Fat Pats.
A bit fed up, I decided to go and look for some brown shoes in M&S. Something wide, preferably in their ‘Footglove’ range. I should have looked back in January, but the post-Christmas bout of pleurisy meant missing out on the sales. I must have tried on every bloody shoe in M&S, even at one point a pair of cream sandals which I really didn’t want.
The shoes that I could force onto my feet were hard and uncomfortable. The soft nice ones were black, or looked ridiculous. I should add that I can’t walk in anything other than completely flat shoes, which is also quite limiting. I was about to console myself in the sock and knicker department (I was determined to spend SOME money) when I spotted some boots I rather fancied. They were brown, and rather wonderful. I imagined that either I wouldn’t be able to get them on (or off again) and that they would be bloody uncomfortable. There was only one pair in my size and it took a while to find the left one. But they did fit, and they felt OK, and they even have a slight heel. I loved them. I thought they would probably cost a fortune, so I did brace myself somewhat when I turned them over to look at the price label. I was more than pleasantly surprised to see that they were only £30. Excited with my find, I bought them quickly before I could talk myself out of them, knowing that I’ll probably never wear them. I did buy some socks and knickers as well, because I never seem to have any socks these days, and it’s always nice to have new knickers, especially as I have so many that refuse to stay up – clearly knicker-elastic is not what it was. I have no idea why I am still in size 16 knickers, when I can’t squeeze myself into size 20 trousers. It makes no sense at all.
When I arrived home and displayed my purchases, I noticed the look of relief in the resident daughter’s eyes. I’ll wait till next time she’s out shopping with me – I still need trousers and shoes…