Geriatric Shopping-a Pensioners’ Guide

                Having spent weeks undertaking gruelling online research and having narrowed the selection down to shape, acceptable colours, length and fabric I was ready to set foot inside some shops. I say this, although the foot in question was itself neither willing nor especially able due to its pesky and painful condition [see last week’s post]. I took along my personal stylist [AKA Offspring] since I believe my own opinions as to what suits me are not to be trusted.

                This was to be our initial foray, you understand. We were sheltering under no illusion of plucking the frock from the first rack inside the doorway of the first store in the first shopping centre we came to. Oh no. We had every expectation that further expeditions would be necessary; and in these expectations we were not disappointed. We had harboured the illusion that a certain, well known department store that offers a range of designer outlets would be an obvious early destination-might even negate the need to travel further. How wrong can you be?

                After some confusion in locating the entrance we found ‘womenswear’, a floor offering [in no particular order] Hobbs, Whistles, Ted Baker, Mulberry, Coast, Alice Temperley, Ralph Lauren, Miss Selfridge, ‘Kin’ [Kin?], White Stuff and a number I do not recall. As Stylist and I made our way around the racks and displays our initial silence began to be broken by snorts of derision at the array of designs that designers have presented to us for their new spring ranges. I understand that they are under pressure to come up with something new, but really-dayglo orange crimplene? Digitally printed nylon?

                Stylist insisted we try things, even though we might be repelled by them. We scooped random numbers from the racks, she snappishly scolding that I have body dysmorphia as we disputed my dress size. Bowing to her superior knowledge I accepted her advice and staggered into the changing cubicle under the weight of gowns selected for attempt. I followed my usual changing room technique of ‘back to the mirror until it’s on’, as each garment failed to do up, proving that Stylist, on this occasion, had it all wrong.

                Later, after a restorative lunch we resumed, touring the remaining shops until at last, a Eureka moment-Stylist found the perfect frock-for herself.

                Foot, in the meantime was demonstrating in no feeble way that it was done with walking. That was it for the day. ‘Tomorrow is another day’ seemed an apt quote.

                Next day we went local, selecting another only slightly less well known department store and by some miraculous fluke contenders for the role of wedding outfit began, not only to present themselves, but to positively fling themselves into our arms. Unable to choose between two I bought both, with the intention of returning one. This, reader, has not happened.

                The triumph lasted a day or two, until the realisation that shoes, jacket, hat and bag are still at large. Where’s Stylist when I need her?

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When You Know you are Out of Your Depth

Amongst the plethora of entertainment, leisure activities and sports events organised by our town, which besides being a place of residence, I should add, is also a seaside resort and  tourist magnet, is a ‘long swim’. I was treated to a preview of this phenomenon yesterday evening during a ‘shortish’ cycle.

I am an admirer of those who are adept at swimming; those who are as at home in the water as they are with their two feet planted on the land. I envy them. They can dive carelessly from boats into the Aegean whilst enjoying their day cruises in Turkey while I can only watch from the safety of the deck and pretend I’ve a water allergy. They can fling themselves wantonly into the waves and disappear into the froth as they submerge, reappearing without spluttering, coughing, shrieking in terror or vomiting up the seawater they’ve ingested. This expertise all looks cool and elegant. Even in a hotel swimming pool fellow guests complete slow, unhurried lengths from shallow to deep and back, flipping over to view something or undertaking that mysterious ‘treading water’ thing that I’ve never mastered.

It isn’t that I am unable to swim. I can. In my twenties I spent all of one winter learning in a class of adults, shivering in an Olympic sized pool, taught with great patience by swimming teachers who understood the panic experienced by those who have lived all the way to adulthood without having mastered the aquatic arts. I kicked, I glided, I even dived with enough encouragement. But the incontrovertible fact remains: I do not enjoy the water. I do not like to have my face submerged. I cannot throw caution to the wind and submit my stature to depths deeper than its height.

In circumstances where the temperature is so hot I need to cool off I may climb laboriously down a ladder into the shallow end of a swimming pool, providing there are no more than about two other adults there-[no children-children splash ]. I might hang there, clinging to the ladder for a few moments before climbing out. I might even undertake a cautious flap across the width at the shallow end, within reach of the side, executing my undignified, unorthodox version of breast stroke which involves numerous, panicky gyrations with my head stuck above the water. On reaching the other side I grab whatever ledge is there, make for the ladder and thence to the safety of the sun-bed.

Most people can swim these days, having learned at school or from holidays abroad. But I was raised in a small village by non-swimming parents. Our holidays were camping jaunts taken in farmers’ fields and a day at the seaside was an occasion involving buckets, spades, sandwiches, rolled up trousers and knotted handkerchiefs on heads.

There is one positive outcome of my land-lubbing childhood: it is that as soon as my own children could walk, and long before they started school, I ensured beyond any doubt that they learned to swim, so whatever sins of parenthood I may have wrought upon them they have no qualms about taking to the water.