Of all the things you don’t wish to hear after opening your eyes on a Saturday morning following a long and satisfying dream about a young Diana Dors, it is these words from your partner: “Darling, can we go shopping?”
Mrs Canavan clearly guessed she needed to work hard to get me to agree to this for on the bedside table there was a hot cup of tea and two slices of buttered toast (this last happened in late 2009) and as she talked she caressed my arm in a caring manner (this has never happened).
What she wanted to go shopping for was a wedding ring. ‘We need to get it done,” she said, adding slightly hopefully, “it might be fun”.
I can’t think of any man who enjoys looking at jewellery – other than perhaps Ron Atkinson or Mr T – but when I ventured this aloud she pinched my arm surprisingly hard and shouted at me to grow up. “Look I’ve done all the planning for this wedding, the least you can do is play a part in choosing the ring,” she chided, in a manner that suggested if I argued she may well dislodge my front teeth with her fist.
And so it was that at 10am on Saturday, myself and my beloved were traipsing the streets of Blackpool town centre looking in the windows of various jewellers, Mrs Canavan pointing at gleaming, sparkly things and remarking ‘isn’t that nice?’ and me staring goggle-eyed at the price tags and sweating mildly at the thought of what this trip was going to do to my savings account.
At one shop we went to – which was called either Vastly Overpriced Items or We’re About To Rip You Off Big-Time, I can’t remember which – we had to press a button and wait before the staff let us in. I assume this is to foil armed robbers. But how do they judge what an armed robber might look like? We clearly didn’t look the robbing type, though, for the door suddenly swung open and a young lady greeted us, ushering us to a settee and asking if we’d like a drink. For a second I had to check we hadn’t wandered into a cocktail bar.
“That’s very kind, I’ll have a pint of Guinness,” I said.
She shot me a look that suggested she regretted opening the door, and brought me a glass of lukewarm tap water.
Reclining in our leather chairs (this was clearly very different from going to Argos) we began to study various rings. My interest soon started to wander, one, because I’m not the slightest bit interested in jewellery and, two, because all the rings looked exactly the same.
“They all look exactly the same,” I said, because I have a habit of saying what I’m thinking out loud, a habit that landed me in serious trouble on a recent long-distance flight to Australia when I sat next to a man with intolerable halitosis.
As Mrs Canavan tried on the rings (saying things like “oh, I like this one, such lovely patterned detail on the inside shank … and it’s only £2,000, what a snip”), my attention wandered and gazing at a glass cabinet nearby I was astonished to find a range of what seemed to be ballpoint pens but surely couldn’t have been because the cheapest one was £475.
‘Excuse me,’ I asked the ring woman as she was squeezing the latest bit of overpriced metal on to the finger of my bride-to-be. ‘Are those pens and, if so, why are they so expensive?’
“Because they’re Montblanc,” she said and looked away, as if this statement would answer my question.
I enquired who this Montblanc chap was, and she told me it was an extremely posh firm that made extremely posh pens. Fair enough but how on earth can a pen be worth a shade under 500 quid?
I said all of this out loud, or at least started to until I noticed Mrs Canavan staring at me with a look of, if not pure hatred, then pretty near to it.
Later that night, still traumatised, I went on the Montblanc website to confirm what I’d earlier seen. It was true.
There was, for instance, a ballpoint pen called the Etoile de Montblanc (note the fittingly pretentious name) which cost – and if you’re standing, you’d better sit down – a whopping £780. “The Etoile de Montblanc is the symbol of purity and persistence,” the description on the website said. “A writing instrument in sand-coloured precious resin, crowned with the unique Montblanc Diamond, floating in a transparent dome, evolves into an exceptional piece of adornment.”
What? It’s a pen. A ballpoint pen. Like a Bic, of which I can get a pack of five for 79p.
Getting back to the ring, we eventually purchased one (for those interested in jewellery, I’ll describe it for you: it was silver with some sparkly stuff on) and I was pleased to note it was second cheapest on the entire tray, though not nearly cheap enough.
My first, and very probably, last ever expedition to a jeweller’s was over. I won’t be going back for a pen.
A picture of health? (if I could take one, that is)
Mrs Canavan has recently got into running and at the weekend entered a five-mile race in Lytham.
I, being a loving and doting partner – and also because there was nowt on the tele – went along to support her.
I took up a position around 500 yards from the finish line, armed with a camera. She had given me one task – to take a photograph as she ran towards me. I have printed said picture , left, and I’m still puzzled as to why she wasn’t best pleased with the way it turned out.
What can I say?
She was faster than I thought.
My main observation from watching the event is that running is not good for you.
Some of the people that passed me looked in a terrible way.
One man was panting so loudly and grotesquely that I was convinced he had succumbed to a particularly nasty cardiac arrest, so I wrestled the poor fella to the ground and began giving him mouth-to-mouth.
I definitely saved his life for moments later he was most full of life again and even throwing punches in my direction.
Nearly all of the runners had horrid, pained grimaces on their faces, as if they were trying to unscrew a really tight top off a jar of jam. None of them looked as though they were enjoying themselves, though if I were wearing a purple and pink Lycra vest in public, as most were, then I daresay I’d look unhappy, too.
It has strengthened my resolve never to run anywhere – and also to book on a night school course in photography.