Shopping … Heaven or Hell?

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I am practically naked.

Less than five minutes ago I was a respectable and fully dressed woman picking out an assortment of pretty summer dresses to try on. But those dresses are now on the only hook in the changing cubicle and my own clothes have just slid off the plastic stool and are in a heap on the floor.

My husband is enthusiastically thrusting more dresses through the increasingly large gap between curtain and wall, so my semi-naked body is exposed to all and sundry. The shop lady who stands by the door is saying, “Only six items at a time!” in a whiny nasal voice. She is clearly irritated by my husband who bounces in and out clutching more clothes and God forbid he’s now bringing in underwear and getting increasingly overexcited. This is a place for women only and he is happily oblivious to her rules. She tries harder, “No men inside sir, this is a respectable establishment.”

My necklace has become entangled in dress number four and I’m trying, in a muck sweat to free myself.

Another woman comes in with an armful of clothes and her husband, seeing a fellow male in the ladies-only section trots in smartly behind her, ignoring shop lady who is now turning purple. The other woman helps me disentangle myself from my necklace and we bond over dresses and underwear, chatting as though we have known each other for years.

The two men excitedly together run in and out of the changing rooms for smaller sizes, bigger sizes, different colours, all the while, discussing the rugby. They have a role and are apparently loving it, particularly when they find something in the sale section. The other woman and I chatter and giggle as our husbands enthuse about how wonderful we both look. We giggle all the more. A bit of flattery and we’re handing out the credit cards without a care in the world.

Shop lady tries and fails to give our husbands different coloured plastic tickets with the number of items that she thinks we have as yet another floaty, whispy dress flits past her on a clothes hanger. She is now not only purple, but spluttering.

Finally, with our bags of newly purchased items, we happily thank shop lady profusely for her help. She purses her lips and gives a little derogatory sniff in our direction as she turns to her next customer. “Only six items madam! Them is the rules in this establishment.”

Katie.

Do you love or loathe to shop?

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Vanity?

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I am a sucker for beauty products. I have, shall we say, a fair few in my cupboard under the basin. Thankfully the Colonel and I do not share this cupboard. Indeed, if we did, he would be allocated two and a half square inches, or if you’re metric, ten square centimetres … or something along those lines. I know not; I am old school, or perhaps just old, hence needing the beauty products.

I see these sumptuous creams in their heavenly packaging with promises to erase lines, cellulite and imperfections and I drool. And from time to buy, when I’m feeling flush, I open my dusty purse and buy them.

And, as the Colonel waits for me to come to bed, I am still applying cleansers, toners, creams and serums as he scowls and harrumphs and the usual, “What are you doing in there?” can be heard through closed doors, occasionally, though not always, with volume.

I must be the only woman in the world to have cycled for twenty six days non-stop from the north to the south of France with the entire Clinique range in her panniers.

Why? Vanity, delusion and a smattering of hope.

And do they make any difference? I know not, but if I didn’t use them, I might look considerably worse and that’s too great a risk to take for a muppet like me.

Yesterday, I allowed myself an afternoon off from writing (and reading your blogs, sorry) and mooched around the beauty counters of Peter Jones in Sloane Square (the posh bit of London). No, of course I don’t live there before you even start to ponder. I’m from Wandsworth and not the smart part.

Peter Jones for the non-UK residents is middle class shopping for the yummy mummies, the rich, the poor-who-want-to-be-rich and now even for those who own a dog and can’t bear to leave ‘Fifi’ at home. This has allowed many a handbag pooch to enter and generally speaking they behave far better than the majority of the children.

It’s a safe haven where the older staff have worked there for donkeys years and the younger ones are doing a ‘season’ whilst on their gap year having finished at private school. Not quite the same as a ‘ski season’, but with equally well-off customers but obviously with less snow.

You can buy everything and anything there, and to be fair, it’s not all expensive. They take into account every type of bank account, healthy or ‘minimalist’ shall we say. (Although if you bank privately, you’ll feel more at home – handing over your Coutts card will give you no better attention from the staff however, but you’ll feel part of ‘the club’).

Sadly, I did my mooching yesterday whilst having a rather empty bank account moment. Of course this is a guaranteed disaster, for as soon as I have no money, everything looks so appealing. When on the other hand I’m feeling flush (a rarity I hasten to add) I can never find anything. C’est la vie.

So I went from one counter to another and foolishly let each and every beauty sales person try their hand and products on my unfortunate face. They rejoiced after having given me a full makeover at the transformation in my skin, spoke of how my eyes were ‘popping’ (WTF) and were craving for me to hand over my purse. I simply looked in the mirror and muttered about how lovely it was and that I should now see how it looked in the outside light, and hurried onto the next counter, begging them to repair the damage. And then the process began all over again.

Eventually I left Peter Jones, empty-handed, but with a face so covered in serums, moisturisers and foundations, that I resembled an oompah loompa who had fallen into an oil slick.

I welcomed the Colonel home who peered at me, frowned and looked faintly fearful as I kissed him hello, but was wise enough to say nothing, probably quite difficult anyway as our lips stuck together with my peachy lip gloss entitled, ‘Glamour Puss’.

That night however, whilst scrubbing my face clean of all the muck, which was quite some feat, there were no questioning words of why I was taking so long. Instead, as I did my usual leap into bed, putting my freezing feet between his legs to try to warm them up (NB The higher up your husbands/partners legs you can get your cold toes the better, but you may meet with resistance as apparently it’s painful in many ways). So with a yelp of apparent agony from the Colonel, he then turned to face me, breathed a sigh of relief, stroked my cheek and whispered, “Hello beautiful.”

Gosh! I think in future I shall stick to au naturel.

Katie xx

Ladies: Are you comfortable without makeup?

Gents: If you’ve read this far, your thoughts please.

Camping Anyone?

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Now let’s be clear, camping is not for everyone.

Indeed, it wasn’t for me for the first 45 years of my life until that wretched thing called love got in the way. You know how when you’re truly smitten with someone you’ll do anything just to be with them? Hang gliding, parachute jumping, ironing their pants? Well, camping was in that category for me.

After a month of camping on my own around France (yes, I shall be bringing out that ol’ chestnut for many months to come), I became a bit of a good camper. I can get my tent up and down in a nanosecond without breaking a fingernail, can make fabulous meals on what is effectively a Bunsen Burner but with only a fraction of the gas (particularly after I broke it) and finally, can manage to ensure that standards prevail at all times in terms of cleanliness (the entire range from Clinique was hidden in the base of one pannier – a necessity but somewhat heavy). So yes, I can now proudly say that I am indeed a jolly good camper.

However, yesterday I went one step further and the Colonel and I visited the Caravan and Motor Home Show at the NEC in Birmingham. (For those not living in England, in terms of size, the NEC is like a dozen aircraft hangars all stuck together i.e. VAST).

Now I know, for a middle class lassie like me, this is not really the done thing. It’s certainly a far cry from the twinset and pearl brigade. And I will confess that it is full of sock and sandal wearers with practicality rather than aesthetics at the forefront of their minds. It is akin to being stuck in a giant IKEA with groups of anorak-wearers. And yet here I am, rebelling slightly by wearing a sassy little skirt and my fabulous Gant boots but loving every minute of it.

I have discussed and bonded with complete strangers over storage capacity within caravans, have talked and listened at length about tents, floor mats and cooking implements, and have lain down sniggering beside the Colonel on many a double bed in the Motor Homes, to see if indeed we can both fit in. (For those interested, the answer is yes, but any ‘whoo hoo’ would be fairly limited without serious injury i.e. falling out or knocking oneself out.)

So a wonderful day was had by all, with packed sandwiches in the Colonel’s very practical military backpack at lunchtime and despite having a couple of collisions with two motorised wheelchairs, I came away with perhaps not an upgrade to our current tent, but certainly with even more enthusiasm for spending more time in the great outdoors.

I will never go down the route of socks with sandals, but perhaps I shall find a backpack of my own. Perhaps something in a fantastically zingy colour and fabric other than the dreary black or camo in canvas, and fill it with a more practical, smaller and therefore lighter travel version of the Clinique range. Fabulous! I have found my inner troglodyte, but one with class!

Katie xx

Are you an outside or an inside sort of person? Indeed, have you gone camping?

Ps Apologies to all sock and sandal wearers …

Fortnum & Mason

fortnum and mason bottle on blue box
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After a few days of being a little poorly (hence the lack of WordPress interaction of late – my apologies) I finally had to go out with my youngest son yesterday in order to buy him his first suit due to an impending interview.

A rather lovely shop in Jermyn Street not far from Piccadilly saw not just one, but two men and a woman all with tape measures hanging around their necks, tweak, adjust and transform my gangly boy into a rather dashing young man in the space of an hour. Job done, and left to pay the bill and also with a little time on my hands took a minor detour and went into the 300 year old beautiful store of Fortnum & Mason.

From the moment you are welcomed by the man on the door, you enter a world of delectable beauty. Everything and everyone is beautiful in Fortnums. From the handmade chocolates dipped in coloured sugars, dusty cocoa and wrapped in the finest tissue paper, to the exquisitely decorated biscuits sold in hand-painted and shaped tins that are so pretty as to be kept eternally, to the soft music swirling around the high ceilings with the familiar pale turquoise-teal colour that represents Fortnums in every corner of every floor. The wines, the cheeses and the hampers filled with gorgeous delights that one might possibly want or need for a picnic … everything is available and everything is beautiful in Fortnums. I run my fingers over the magnificent displays, loving the feel of the embossed, silky packaging and relish the feeling of being somewhere so very, very special where the detail in every single item is exquisite. I wander and touch, wander and touch … smiling at the sheer gorgeousness of it all.

But of course, it all comes at a price. Mostly a rather extortionate price. And there’s all sorts of people here too. I watch a woman rudely instruct a gentleman scuttling behind her to carry three baskets as she points with her phone and gives a flick of her hand to the items that she wants. Another small group of women, scoop numerous packets of gold and silver sweets shaped like small pebbles in delicate boxes from the shelves, dropping them roughly into their numerous baskets, without any care of the contents or packaging. Perhaps when money is no object and beautiful things are easily replaced, care is not such a priority.

And as for me, well, on our way back from France we had brought back some cheeses, so having explained this, was offered to taste some damson jelly. A change from the usual quince, I was in heaven as I chose and bought some. It was about all I could afford after buying the suit, but it did mean that I could relish not only the deep aubergine coloured, richly flavoured jelly wrapped in the waxy paper, but also one of their lovely pale turquoise bags which I shall keep ad infinitum. I’m not a big ‘shopper’ at all, but if you’re going to do it, it’s rather fun to do it occasionally in style, even if it’s just for a three inch square of damson jelly and a rather pretty plastic bag.

Katie xx

Shopping …. do you love it or loathe it? What’s your favourite shop and why?

46. Shopping Anyone?

 

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Morrisons …. probably on a par with Aldi, but sells the same as Waitrose at a fraction of the price with even a smattering of the more upmarket scallops and quinoa if you happen to a) like them and b) know how to pronounce them …. Personally, I don’t, to either.

Shopping Trip and lesson no. 1: Sometimes, being a southerner whilst living temporarily in Scotland, it’s better to keep quiet.

Some friendly chatter at the till whilst waiting in the queue, led to my over-excited confession that I had recently got married….

“Och!” says Till Lady 1 in more of a guttural phlegm-inducing noise, than actual word, “Do you hear that Sheila?” she shouts to Till Lady Number 2 across a couple of aisles. Clearly Sheila has hearing issues as my new marital status is now belted out a couple of times, involving not just 2 till ladies, but customers too. Lots of smiles, nods and general looks of approval in my direction. I beam delightedly.

“So, where was the wedding?” shouts Sheila of the dodgy ears. All eyes on me … I shuffle uncomfortably …. “Um, well, down south in fact”. Bit of a mistake. I hear sucking of breath through teeth, and a general sense of disapprovement on a somewhat large scale.

“Och!” the guttural sound again with added sniff to enhance the disapproval. I thought it was only my mother who did that. “Shame” says till lady no. 1. “Of course,” she pauses, “you could have had my brother … Now, he’s a fine figure of a man!” she says proudly her bosom jutting out.

“Err …” says I

“Your brother!” exclaims Sheila, “He’s focking fat!”

All eyes on till lady no. 1 who is turning somewhat frosty and a tad purple …

“He might be focking fat, but he’s happy and that counts for plenty” she retorts.

All eyes now on Sheila – this is something akin to a Wimbledon final, myself and customers turning from one to the other, but hey, the attention is off me so I’m delighted.

“He’s happy?” squawks Sheila, “He’s a focking drunk, that why!”

Oh dear God. Till lady no. 1 pauses, clearly digesting this information. There is a moment where we, the customers are waiting with baited breath for her reaction. She slowly begins to nod, “Aye, you know you might be right, BUT,” she says wiggling her finger indicating for me to move closer. I do so extremely hesitantly; she has an unusual dental arrangement and frankly scares me. She continues, “He might be a wee bit of a drunk, BUT” she belts out with a scream of laughter, “…. he’s got focking good sheep!”

An explosion of cackles, laughter, nodding and ‘ayes’ from all around …

I grab my Lurpac and organic ham and escape – sharpish.

Perhaps this is how men should be rated … On their ability to keep good sheep or did I miss something??! Think I might try Waitrose next week …

Katie x