If you’ve ever seen me in the flesh you will know I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion.
With a puny and pathetic frame like mine, you’d be hard pushed to find anything that fits and looks half-decent. I still wear a blue T-shirt that my mum bought me in 1988.
Sadly, my wife loves blowing her money on the latest fashions – and I get dragged along to endless clothing stores as she does this.
This, as any fellow male will attest, involves standing outside a variety of changing rooms while your beloved tries on an astounding and never-ending array of different outfits.
‘What do you think?’ she will say as she pulls back the curtain and emerges wearing the latest potential new skirt or blouse. As she says this she adopts a weird catwalk-model style pose that she never, ever uses in real life and attempts to hold her stomach in, as if that will improve the look of the outfit.
The correct answer to her question, however - and even if your better half is wearing an item of clothing so hideous you want to turn to your side and vomit into a plant pot - is always ‘that looks great darling, it really suits your figure, and have you lost weight recently? You look so slim’ (NB: it’s very important to say that last part without any trace of sarcasm).
Of course, as one learns in time, nothing you say makes any difference whatsoever as to whether the item will actually be purchased or not.
Even if you tell your partner she looks like a cross between Diana Dors and Audrey Hepburn in their prime, she will grimace, mutter something along the lines of ‘I’m not sure, I think it shows my bulges’, look at herself in the mirror from various angles for a further five minutes, then decide not to buy it. The exact same process is repeated in a number of other stores throughout the course of the day.
It is a very trying and testing process, a process not made any easier by the fact that these stores have no consideration whatsoever for the male shopper.
Outside the changing rooms of any shop selling women’s clothing there will always be, at any given time, at least four or five weary and fed-up blokes holding a pile of shopping bags in their hands, waiting with the same pained ‘how did my life come to this?’ expressions while their wives and girlfriends try on outfit number 77 of the day.
The least these stores could do is provide some chairs or settees for us fellas to sit on, maybe stick up a TV showing Match of the Day, or perhaps install a hot tub where we can recline while reading a complimentary copy of the Daily Mirror.
This is a serious point: I mean if River Island or Topshop built small cafeterias directly outside their women’s changing rooms, they would make a fortune from blokes having a brew and a bacon butty while their partners tried to squeeze unsuccessfully into yet another maxi-dress.
But while I detest going shopping with Mrs Canavan, I can only doff my cap in admiration at her technique.
As she enters a shop, she pauses and stands erect - like a meerkat sniffing the wind for predators - then sprints down the aisles with the precision of a guided missile, taking in entire racks of clothes with one swift glance.
She can spot an item she wants to buy from 20 feet and pounces on it like a lion devouring an antelope. Once, in Marks and Spencer’s knitwear section, she elbowed a 57-year-old woman in the head just to reach the jumper of her choice (the poor woman spent two nights in an induced coma; her first words on waking were, ‘all I remember is reaching towards a sweater...’)
It is seriously impressive to watch Mrs C in action and just a pity she doesn’t show the same speed and dedication when it comes to washing-up after dinner.
The good thing about women’s fondness for shopping, of course, is that it makes Christmas a hell of a lot easier. Of all the presents we had to buy for various family and friends, I’d estimate that Mrs Canavan purchased 99.7 per cent of them.
In the days following Christmas, various folk asked what we had bought for our daughter Mary.
‘Erm, I’m not entirely sure,’ I’d answer, vaguely, and then have a slight pang of guilt – but only slight, and very fleeting – that I hadn’t been more involved in the selection and purchase process.
She even wrapped them too - my contribution to the entire procedure was handing her pieces of sellotape and making the odd encouraging comment (‘ooh, that’s lovely wrapping paper’).
If she could only do her own clothes shopping too we’ll have cracked it.
Sobering story of Bill Wilson
As it’s a couple of days after the new year – a morning when consumption of Alka-Seltzer hits record levels – I feel it appropriate to mention the name Bill Wilson.
Bill who, I hear you shriek?
Well, he was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and named by Time magazine in the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
I mention him for three reasons - the majority of us have probably drunk too much over the festive period; it is 84 years ago to the month that Wilson touched his last drop of alcohol; and because you’ve probably never heard of him before.
Wilson didn’t have the best of starts to life. Brought up in a pub, he was a young child when his father went on a business trip one day and failed to return. Then his mother disappeared too.
He and his sister were taken in by their grandparents and Wilson went on to join the army where, in 1916, at the age of 21, he drank his first beer.
Shy and prone to bouts of depression, Wilson said that when supping alcohol it felt like he had “found the elixir of life”. (I felt very much the same the first time I went to Gigg Lane to watch Bury FC).
He began boozing heavily and after leaving the army, failed to graduate from law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma. After 15 years of solid boozing, he was committed to a hospital in New York for drug and alcohol addictions where he was told he would either die or have to be locked up permanently.
To cut a long story short, he finally gave up the booze and with a fellow recovering alcoholic, a doctor called Bob Smith, founded Alcoholics Anonymous - an organisation which has since been adopted all over the planet and has helped millions give up the booze.
A sobering thought indeed.