Shopping! Don’t you just love it? Well, actually, no. If I could shop in solitude – oh, all right, with just a few people around me, I might enjoy it, but trawling round the shops, after negotiating car parks designed for very small, narrow cars and extremely thin, limber drivers, judging by the paltry parking spaces, is not my idea of a pleasurable excursion. Naturally, I have been able to secure a spot only after I have reached the top level, out in the cold.
The shops are too hot; I appreciate that the employees need to work in comfortable conditions but I only have two temperatures – cold or hot – and I dress appropriately for outdoors. Consequently, I glow (ladies never sweat – that’s for horses) profusely and unflatteringly as I queue to look at objects I might be tempted to buy, but usually am not, and then queue again to pay for the things I decided in desperation to get anyway.
Then there’s the ‘music.’ An oft-repeated loop of determinedly ‘seasonal’ songs cuts across concentration. As closing time nears the recording is changed for something zippier to get the customers moving. To my intense irritation I find myself singing along to ‘Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree’ and ‘Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland’ and other similarly horrible festive songs. Outside, the Salvation Army is making real music and causing sinners like me to feel abjectly ashamed of myself.
Staggering back to the car park with carrier bags cutting into my fingers, trying to protect purse and car keys from the hordes of pickpockets I know are watching my every move, I attempt to enter a lift (elevator) – but I have to queue again. Playing sardines was a favourite game when I was eight years old at parties with friends. It’s not so much fun in a mucky lift with assorted strangers whose personal habits are not very attractive. Smokers’ breath, beer (at this time of day?) coffee (ugh) obviously no time for a shower this month, fish and chips every day for a week judging by the stench from your hair and clothes, can’t afford a dentist - or toothpaste, apparently – all these elements assail my nostrils and goodness only knows what scents emanate from me (I eat a lot of garlic!)
Eventually, I reach the level on which I parked my car and begin to relax. Just one more thing to do and then I can go home in my private, comfortable transport. I look for the ticket machine so that I can pay my parking
fine fee and discover that it’s on the floor below. Gritting my teeth, I dump my purchases in the car and trail back to the lifts. I queue again.
A lift arrives and disgorges a gang of giggling teenagers and a platoon of baby buggies. In the lift a small child presses all the buttons – ‘He likes doing that, don’t you, darlin’?’ and ‘darlin’’, who is about four years old, doesn’t remove his dummy (pacifier) to answer, but nods his head and grins at me. So we go all the way to the ground floor, stopping on every level to let out or take on more passengers. I know there’s a machine on this level so I leave the lift, queuing of course, to do so, and walk purposefully if rather wearily to it. There are five people in front of me and I join the back of the queue. The contraption stops working and an official is summoned. He shakes his head and tells us we must use the device on the second level. Back in the lift lobby I join the queue. I’m so tired now that I’m beginning to have difficulty focusing. I would have stopped for some refreshment but that would have required queuing . . .
Eventually, having paid for my ticket, I reach my car and begin the spiral journey downwards to the exit and soon find myself queuing again. It’s a very slow-moving queue as more and more cars join at every level. By the time I have exited the car park the roads are busy with hundreds of vehicles all travelling in the same direction as me. The road going in the other direction is sparsely occupied by a few cars spinning merrily along, their occupants looking fresh and happy.
After a stop-start journey which takes three times longer than usual I arrive home. ‘Good trip?’ enquires a jovial voice. ‘How about a cup of tea?’ At least I don’t have to queue to make the tea.
I don’t like going out to shop which is why I make most of my purchases online. I can peruse catalogues or websites, compare prices, select sizes and colours, order easily and wait for delivery, all in the comfort and peace (relative peace – all things are relative!) of my own home. It is not always trouble-free.
Earlier this year:
First computer - case damaged.
Replacement computer - internal damage
The Jiffy bag was damaged so Royal Mail put the whole mess in a polythene bag and taped it up. It may look like a squid but is actually webbing for our settees. Generations of dogs leaping on them has nearly worn the straps through.
I had to sign for this delivery!
Our kitchen was covered in grey 'snow' - the soft, cushioning material had escaped its cover!
However my Christmas gift shopping has gone well. Everything has been delivered and all I need to do is wrap and label.
Christmas food shopping is a little different. To obtain the desired delivery slot I have to book it three to four weeks before I need the shopping. I was a little slow this year so the times nearer Christmas Eve had gone and I had to settle for today. I always worry until the order has arrived. One year, the turkey was mysteriously ‘unavailable’ despite having been ordered weeks earlier. Today’s order was almost complete – but free range eggs were unobtainable, as was the beef joint and some cheese. The brandy butter was replaced with cream and vegetarian mince was substituted for the vegetarian roast.
So I shall have to venture forth yet again this year to endure the crowds, the traffic, the tinny sound of piped music – but at the same time I shall be entranced by the excitement of small children and the twinkling lights in the trees and something of the spirit of Christmas will be visited upon me in time to listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast live on Christmas Eve from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.
Here is a clip from King’s College Choir in 2009.
I wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Fulfilling 2011.