We have a family wedding on the horizon, known locally as “The Wedding”.
Because of the ever-decreasing window in which to purchase an auntie-of-the-groom dress, I had to go shopping yesterday – or risk having to wear last season’s (sharp-intake-of-breath) wedding outfit or my classy, lacy but wintery-toned petrol-blue dress.
At least I already have the shoes. Gone are the days of my shoe-buying failures. I now have a pair of “nude” heels that I can walk in!
John Lewis. Clearance. Urgh. Wood for the trees. What kind of brand am I supposed to think is my kind of brand, at the age of 44? Which brands are for people twenty years older? Twenty years younger? More relevantly – where are the brands for short people? Eh?
I looped around a couple of times, trying to stave off any faint shopping panic that may be begun to pool in my subconscious.
Ted Baker, Jigsaw, Whistles… Hobbs… Coast…
Round and round we go, where will we stop? Nothing grabbed me, so I swung out of John Lewis and off down to Next which I knew at least would have a Petite rail…
…which turned out to be totally uninspiring.
Down the escalators, out onto Buchanan Street in the sunshine. I started googling for petite dresses in Glasgow and it fired up a potentially helpful lead: House Of Fraser. Great idea.
I marched purposefully down the street, successfully not going into North Face to look at trail shoes and approached Fraser’s, picked a door and entered.
Did I want to try some fragrance or other? Eh, naw. I just want dresses for short people. A dress. A short person. Not that short. Just five foot.
It happened to be the only day that Scotland’s natural air conditioning was not sufficient. Out in the glorious sunshine, the breeze made it ideal shopping weather. Inside the airless perfume-fogged Fraser’s, the temperature was on the rise. Tartan carpets, mirrors and blingy shop fittings were starting to mess with my head.
I found some clothes. Are these posh enough? Is this the casual bit? Is that security guard following me? Where is the dresses-one-might-wear-to-a-wedding section? Less air, more heat, more stairs, less focus.
I need to get out.
I then had a brilliant plan. There must be a Debenhams around here somewhere. I bounced over to St Enoch’s Centre and up the escalator to Debenhams. Which turned out to be Hamley’s. Who knew?
I tried to escape Hamley’s but ended up trapped in a loop of Hamley’s, a food court and some toilets – unable to get out. Began to panic. Found a lift. Got in it. Didn’t know what to press. Pressed things.
Eventually I found the entrance to Debenhams off the main mall – which was deserted – and as I stoated in, hoping to see a sign marked “dresses”, I was faced with a multiface of glass and light – I don’t know if it was fragrances or make up, but it was like my migraine aura – just fragments of reality or not, shoved together and brightly lit so that I was super-disoriented and less likely to buy perfume than I think they would have perhaps been hoping.
Do people actually find that lights, mirrors and muzak help them to buy stuff? Does it not just make your head spin and incite you to pine for a quiet café that serves crispy scones beneath a good wifi link to an online perfume shop?
(If you wanted to buy perfume. Which I didn’t.)
On entering the next part I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted. And they weren’t for sale. As summer decorations, the store had installed big, bold cardboard bananas, watermelons and pineapples suspended from the roof. I want these. I need these. (I am decorating the church hall as a desert island in early August. These would have been perfect. Sigh…)
And then we were there. “Women”. It was like John Lewis all over again. A loop of brands: too much, too much. Mirrors and light. Where’s the exit.
You’ll be relieved to know I finally triumphed.
I worked my way up Buchanan Street, shop by shop – almost re-enacting the Karen Millen meltdown of 1999 when I bankrupted myself buying my going-away-outfit.
Confidence was growing.
When I finally found the dress I was looking for, I was still in the cubicle, breathing the second-hand overheated shop-air, when I heard the staff talking about a minute’s silence that was to be held at 11am. It was 10.54am.
Should I stay in here for six minutes? Or could I get out, through the checkout and back on the street in six minutes? Or, as I suspected would happen, would I try the latter and end up mid-transaction at the top of the hour and end up in an awkward face-to-face silence with a member of staff while feeling utterly shallow that that even bothers me, given the reason for the silence?
I needed to get out.
Dress bought, paid for, wrapped and out, out, out into the street for the silence, just as the shop cut the Muzak.
Once home, I celebrated with rather more Heinz Ravioli and Cadbury’s Caramel bites than the recommended portion size indicated on the packaging of each.