Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Bicester Village, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge against shopping to new mutiny,
Where credit cards make bank accounts unclean.
A few weeks ago, after I had told Man of the House that he was going to take some time off work he announced that on one of these days that he “wanted to go clothes shopping.” I can count on the fingers on one hand when Man of the House has wanted to go clothes shopping in the last eighteen years and three of them were when we first started going out. I could only assume that the situation in his wardrobe was desperate if he was making such an announcement. On the allotted day, having divested ourselves of the Childerbeasts, we made our way to a local shopping village.
We arrived, found a parking space and I was rather hoping for a coffee and a muffin of some sort. Not a chance. I could almost hear Sir Stirling Moss saying “aaaaannnnndddd they’re off” as I was frog-marched to the first shop. A shirt shop. Asking me what his shirt size was, Man of the House began rifling through the rails. He identified a few garments he liked, spurned some others and then made his way to the till to pay. Bag collected, thanked for his custom and we were out. Onto the next one.
In the next shop we were looking for trousers. He advised the sales assistant of his size who very kindly brought him various pairs, some of which were roundly rejected and others he deigned to try on. No sooner had I parked myself on a pouffe that the changing room curtain was flung back, rings jangling, and he emerged. He was Making A Purchase. And no he didn’t need to try the same style on in navy, he would just take a pair of them as well. Geez.
Out. Into a shoe shop. Tried a pair on. They didn’t fit. Didn’t want to try any others on. Back out.
By this point I insisted on going to the loo, even if it was just for a quick sit down and to get my head straight.
In the next shop we didn’t get any further than the doorway, Man of the House stood in the entrance and stated that he couldn’t see a single thing he wanted to buy and stalked off.
I gratefully accepted when he enquired as to whether I would like a coffee. Coffee was purchased. Coffee was drunk. A pastry was consumed. And the route march resumed. Two hours after we had arrived, Man of the House announced that he had seen all that he wanted to and asked if there was there anywhere that I would like to go.
Amongst other places I wanted to go to was a shoe shop. Jimmy Choo to be precise. I don’t like clothes shopping for myself. I find it quite stressful. But I do love shoes. Not that I have anywhere to wear them, or a bank account that can afford them. But a girl’s got to dream. So we went to see Mr Choos shoes. They are sparkly and glittery and beautiful. I coo-ed. I admired. I’m not ashamed to say that I stroked. I picked up the most beautiful pair of shoes in the whole world and with a smile rather like the one that must have graced Judy Garland’s beautiful face when someone pointed to her ruby slippers and said “you have to wear those all of the time” showed them to Man of the House. He announced in a loud voice that if that was what I wanted for Christmas, he could simply buy a plain pair of shoes and let the Childerbeasts loose with a glue stick and glitter. The security guard looked even less impressed than I was. It was time to go home.
Due to a diary nightmare, I had a longstanding date to return to said shopping venue with two girlfriends precisely one week hence. Therefore a week later, Blonde Friend, Brunette Friend and I made our way to the same destination. On arrival, without even asking, we all knew that none of us had eaten because in spite of being up at stupid o’clock, we had been sorting everyone else out with their requirements for the day. In a leisurely manner we made our way to a catering venue and purchased something to eat and drink. We sat and discussed what the target purchases were, and which establishments each of us would like to visit. After finishing our breakfast, we meandered down the street. Blonde Friend pointed out a clothing shop that I had never heard of, nor seen before. Brunette Friend advised that they sold lovely clothes at reasonable prices. So we went in. We browsed. Probably for fifteen minutes. Even twenty. Blonde Friend tried a couple of dresses on. She bought one. We then moved on.
In another shop, whilst Brunette Friend was under a pile of bedding (as in choosing, she wasn’t having a little sleep), I was minding my own business in the children’s pyjama section when Blonde Friend rushed over to me and grabbed my arm “Natalie, Natalie, they have some lovely dresses here that I think would look lovely on you. Come and have a look.” I took three dresses into the changing room. I tried them all on. One looked so awful I refused to emerge. But the other two required the opinion of both friends, a shop assistant and another woman waiting in the queue. They all thought I should purchase. I bought two dresses that I didn’t even know I needed.
Our third shop seemed to involve locating Christmas presents for each other’s families. I bought my eldest Childerbeast a book titled ‘How to Swear’, a bright yellow tome which Brunette Friend had ostentatiously waved at me from across the other side of the establishment. Since they have started secondary school, the language from Childerbeast Number One has been so bad I am now at a loss as to what else to do other than to get him to swear properly. I made it very clear to the assistant that the book was not for me. I know how to swear properly thank you very much. It is my Childerbeast that needs the guidance. Yes, that makes it so much better. Yes, Social Services are welcome any time.
Ambling from one shop to another, admiring shoes in windows without any hilarious comments about glitter and glue sticks, we started to flag a little and determined that we ought to have lunch. And probably a cake. There we re-assessed our purchases and also where we hadn’t been that each of us wanted to go. One couple complimented us on the number of bags, and therefore our shopping success. In turn, I berated them for having only one small bag, and suggested that after lunch they go back out there and try harder. We left. Tired but content, and with time for another cup of tea when we got home.