I was shopping the other day, or, to be more accurate, waiting patiently while Mrs Canavan tried on a variety of outfits.
The trip went like this. Mrs C would emerge from a changing room wearing some garment, say ‘what do you think?’, I’d reply ‘it’s quite nice’, she’d tut and go ‘oh you clearly don’t like it then’, I’d respond, ‘no, I do, it’s nice’, and she’d bark back ‘forget it, I’m not buying it’. We repeated this exchange in 10 different shops, before driving home in silence, empty-handed, and spending the evening in separate bedrooms.
It was, as you can gather, a long day, but thankfully, while in one store, something mildly diverting happened.
As I was sat outside the changing room with four other gentlemen all wearing the same rather world-weary expression, there was a commotion at the till area.
A rather large woman - let’s just say she clearly didn’t go jogging much - was saying in a raised voice, ‘well, I don’t care - I’m not paying it’.
There was obviously something exciting going on - or at least more exciting that sitting outside a changing room - so I stood up and edged towards the scene.
“But madam I’m afraid that if you want one you’ll have to pay for it,” responded a young blond-haired girl behind the till. (The blonde girl, I noted, was wearing a pair of tights with a variety of large holes in both legs. I briefly thought about telling her that her tights were ripped, just in case she’d not noticed when she dressed that morning, before I realised it was a fashion thing - which is odd as growing up I distinctly remember my mother’s panic when she so much as slightly laddered her tights at a family function. ‘I can’t be seen like this,’ she’d say, eyes wide with fear. If only she’d been born 50 years later - it’s all the rage…)
The large lady at the till looked furious. ‘Listen,’ she said - an unnecessary start given tights-girl was stood two yards away and had no option other than to listen - ‘I’ve just spent £39 on a cardigan and a handbag. I resent having to spend another five pence on a plastic carrier bag.’
An argument about plastic bags. Fantastic. I moved closer, feigning great interest in the rack of support bras just in front of me.
“I’m very sorry madam,” said the girl in a tone of voice that suggested she was anything but, “the bags are five pence and I’m not allowed to give any away free no matter what a customer has spent.”
The large lady exhaled heavily, as if finishing a marathon - a poor choice of simile as there’s no chance of that ever happening - and bellowed ‘what utter nonsense’.
By now a small crowd of shoppers had gathered, everyone eager to see how the stand-off would pan out. I fondled a red compression bra with sturdy underwiring and waited.
“I understand your frustration,” said ripped-tights girl, eyeing her customer like a python might a mouse, “but those are the rules.”
Another woman suddenly marched over. She was wearing a badge adorned with the word ‘Joy’, though judging by her facial expression I’m assuming it was her name and not her emotional state.
“Is there a problem?” she said menacingly, like an SS officer on foot patrol.
‘Yes there is,’ the large lady continued, undaunted. ‘I’m being forced to pay five pence for a bag when I have just spent almost 40 pounds at your store. It is ludicrous.’
The customer went on to suggest, in very loud tones, that instead of charging for plastic bags, the store would be much better off adding five pence to the price of every item.
I silently urged Joy to respond, ‘the reason there is a charge for bags, you thick-brained clot, is to reduce their use and thus improve the environment for everybody’.
Alas instead Joy countered with, “well it’s the same rule for everybody and if you don’t like it you can always put your items back on the shelf.”
‘Fine,’ said the customer, dramatically flinging her cardie and bag on to the counter and flouncing towards and out of the exit.
There was a stunned silence before a voice from behind filled the void.
“What do you think of this?” It was Mrs Canavan, emerging from the changing room wearing a quite horrific black and red dress that did nothing for her hips.
‘It’s quite nice’, I said.
“Quite nice?” she repeated, rising anger in her voice, “What does quite nice mean? You don’t like it do you?
“Why are you always like this when we go shopping?”
Mary, Mary, your head’s quite contrary
At the risk of my baby daughter Mary reading this in a few years time and requiring counselling, her head absolutely stinks.
I was cradling her the other day when I caught a whiff of what I thought was some cheese that had been left open on a window sill for 12 months. I looked around to see if there was the rotting carcass of an animal nearby before realising the odour was coming from my own child.
Naturally I gave her a bath straight away but even after smearing her bonce in shampoo, it still smelt pretty bad.
I mentioned this while on the phone to my mother. ‘Ah, that makes sense,’ she said. ‘Your head absolutely reeked. We used to change your pillowcase every other night. It was evil.’
With those kind words ringing in my ear, I went on the internet to see if anyone else had this problem and was mildly comforted to discover I was not on my own - lots of parents complain that their baby’s head smells a bit whiffy.
We’ve since been told it is a condition called Cradle Cap (a kind of scaly yellow-coloured rash on the forehead that can pong a little) and have been rubbing some ointment on Mary twice a day.
It’s improved things marginally - she now smells like cheese that passed it’s best before date six months ago, as opposed to 12.