Invited to an old friends wedding at the end of this week, I found myself the other day, getting up early to go out shopping for new clothes. I had already searched through my wardrobe, and declared, with the back of my hand on my forehead, to “not have a single stitch to wear,” before throwing myself onto the bed and weeping. And its not that I’m trying to make it sound more dramatic – I actually don’t have any clothes to wear to a wedding. Everything I have is either casual; verging on the homeless persons look, or very professional looking white shirts and grey trousers for the office. So with my girlfriend Lou B, who is also my trusty shopping side kick, off I went into the jungle that is the high street.
Our first stop on the shopping extravaganza was the local town of
. For readers of this blog who reside in other countries I feel I should explain that Guildford Guildford is a much more affluent town, than my own of Farnborough. It’s in the “stock broker belt” of Surrey, where rich banker types can live out of town, but still only be 30 minutes from central . This view was reaffirmed for me while I was sitting with Lou B having an early coffee; when I spotted an empty bottle of Moet Champagne standing on the pavement outside. In my own town of London Farnborough, that would be a crushed can of Stella . Artois
We were also in
Guildford because my eldest daughter Ann, had asked me to get her a particular type of handbag for her birthday, which is also later this week. Guildford seems to be one of those towns that has retained its traditional high street charm, with a mix of large well known shops, and little independent retailers. So many high streets in the UK have now disappeared; turned into characterless “centres or malls,” full of empty boarded up units that no one can afford to rent, fast food shops, or even worse – pound shops. After we had finished our coffees, we marched off to “Pauls Boutique” which has a concession in one of the big department stores, to look for the handbag Ann had asked for.
Now I just don’t get girls and handbags. Why do you need to have so many types, so many colours? There simply cannot be that many situations in life that require so many bags!
There was such an array of brightly coloured bags in various sizes that I had trouble choosing. Should I get a bucket bag, a hobo bag or a barrel bag: and what is a hobo bag anyway? What colour? Should it be in leopard or zebra print? Time was ticking away on our two hour “free parking” spot. I felt under pressure to make a choice. The bright department store lights were shinning on me, while stuffy assistants watched, half hidden, from behind large counters. I hate that moment when you are shopping for someone else; when you are not totally 100% sure that it’s the correct item for them. I finally chose a black bag, and we rushed back to the car, me with a large florescent pink House of Frasier bag, flung over my shoulder.
Handbag purchased, we decided to head over to another local town called Camberley. Now Camberley would like to think it’s in the same league as
Guildford when it comes to affluence, but unfortunately for them, its not, as the reason for our visit there is because they have the cheapest clothes shop in the world: Primark.
Any town that has the need for a Primarni, has to consider that maybe, its local demographic has an element of the Chav side. Sorry, it has to be said – which I think I can say as I shop there myself.
The first shop we headed for was H&M, where I was on the lookout for a pair of trousers. I tried on a couple of pairs that Lou B kindly found for me, but just couldn’t get on with them. I’m sure you know what I mean; the cuts not right or maybe the colour, or something doesn’t quite feel comfortable in the crotch area. It’s worth noting at this point that I blatantly got chatted up by a gay guy whilst I was in there. Lou B was browsing in the women’s section (and not helping me) on the other side of H&M, when the campest sounding guy ever asked me “Do you think this trilby suits me?” The hat did suit him so I told him so - my GAYDAR on full alert – as we chatted about the merits of wearing a trilby to prevent sunburn to the back of a mans neck. I too have a trilby I explained to him, that I brought at Camden Market.
After Lou B rescued me before this potentially embarrassing situation went any further, we went over to menswear shop that I have long thought of as too young for me: Top Man. Don’t get me wrong, I like the clothes in Top Man, but the sizes are for little skinny teenagers. Little people that grunt at you, and sulk in their bedrooms, before riding off on a BMX. None the less, I found a pair of trousers in my size, and went off into the changing room which was little more than a broom cupboard with a mirror, and a bit of curtain. I swear to you I’m a size 34 regular, and have been for years, but could I get these trousers on: could I hell. They had somehow got stuck around my 42 year old thighs leaving me, crouched over like a shitting dog. I tried to call Lou B to see if she could get me a bigger size, but no answer. I called louder, but still no answer. I then tried shouting for help, but still she didn’t reply. I had in-fact detected a subtle change in Lou B when we first entered Top Man. She had that washed out look on her face that you usually see in a man; when he is out shopping, especially a husband, or maybe even a zombie.
Instantly I knew what was wrong and I couldn’t believe it...Lou B had hit the shopping wall. I had thought that clothes shopping was in a woman’s DNA; I thought “girls” were born to shop?
My shopping partner was flagging, and it was looking as though I would have to leave her behind on the floor of Top man. “Leave me behind in the carrot fit jeans isle, I’m only slowing you down,” I expected her to tell me. She looked worn out, which wasn’t possible as we had only been out for five hours.
“Do you fancy a coffee?” I asked, recognising the look of imminent “shopping fatigue.”
“No...no, I’m OK; let’s just get your trousers and go.” It was hard for me to believe, nay, near impossible to accept, but the fact was, I was out-shopping Lou B.
We marched onwards to Pradamark through a now busy shopping centre for my final attempt at getting a pair of trousers to wear to Juliet and Jim’s wedding. My reason for taking Lou B shopping with me was simply that you don’t have to keep leaving the changing room when something doesn’t fit. When you have a shopping buddy you can just send them out, back to the shop-floor to get the next size up or down. It’s OK for you girls, you can all go off shopping together, but what about us men? We can’t go out clothes shopping with our man friends – it would just be wrong?
Lou B was taking longer and longer to come back with each pair of trousers by now; at times I could sit down in the changing room and send a text between her visits. Eventually after I found a pair that fitted, and in a good colour for an October wedding, I reluctantly left the crowds and headed for the car. “Its not that I don’t like shopping, it’s just I’ve been running around the shops for the last six hours and I’m worn out,” announced Lou B as we drove back.
“But I thought girls loved shopping. Aren’t you all born to shop?” I said sarcastically as I drove us home, weaving through the late afternoon traffic.
“Yes we are, but I didn’t get to look at anything for me because I was running around for you.”
“Oh, I see. I thought you liked shopping with me, after all I’ve been for you loads of times –”
“I do like shopping with you, but sometimes I need a break... for a coffee or something-“
“But I offered to buy you a coffee-“
“YES, but by then I was past it,” she replied, in a controlled way, with a slight hint of menace in her voice.
“I’ve never known a man be as fussy about clothes as you -” she added, laughing, “You are just so gay. You may actually be a real gay man in disguise.”
“That’s not fair, I just needed your help, and you were flagging-“
“Oh you wait till we next go shopping for me, and I get you running round. I’ll give you flagging...”
Needless to say I’m all kitted out for the wedding; new trousers and shirt. Not quite what I was after, but there you go. It might be that next time I need to do some retail therapy I’ll have to go with a man; Louie Spence perhaps?