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?

Out with the Old, In with the New.

                Whilst lolling around in our favourite music pub on Saturday night an acquaintance [friend of a friend] bumped into me and introduced me to her new beau. Now this acquaintance is a very attractive, vivacious lady, but is of a similar age to myself-in other words-of mature years. It did occur to me later that we have seen her with a number of new beaux, and that either she suffers from ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome or that her determination is a victory of optimism over experience. In any case she may be kissing more frogs than is necessary or desirable.

                But I digress. This particular new man is called Gerry-or Alan-or something but the thing I remember about the introduction was that he is from Brentford. Now there is only one ‘ping’ in my brain at the mention of Brentford and that ‘ping’ is Brentford Nylons, the mainstay of bedding supplies in the 1960s and 1970s.

                My parents seemed to be in the grip of an obsession with Brentford Nylons for more than ten years. All of our beds were clothed in items from this mail order company. The sheets were made from an odious material called bri nylon which was a peculiarly nasty material to sleep between, being both cold and slithery on entry and horribly sweaty within minutes. Some of the sheets had a curious fuzzy texture and would snag on toenails or crackle with static electricity. There would also be matching, quilted bedspreads with frilly nylon skirts. My parents favoured pale blue and lemon yellow so these were the colours that dominated the airing cupboard during that period.

                Not content with mere bedding in this material my mother took the further step of equipping both herself and me in quilted, lemon dressing gowns, one of the most extremely unpleasant, unflattering and uncomfortable garments it has been my misfortune to wear since the invention of the collapsible, folding, transparent rain hood of earlier years. They were also a fire hazard, meaning that any foray into the proximity of the open coal fire-for instance, en route to switch on the TV for ‘The Billy Cotton Band Show’- was flirting with death.

                In time bri nylon was eclipsed by the new miracle in sheeting that was ‘polycotton’. Polycotton was an improvement in that it did not make your hair stand on end or stick to you, but had its own discomforts in the form of unpleasant, scratchy little bobbles which appeared after a few goes in the twin tub. At last piled up sheets and blankets gave way to the miracle that is the duvet-all the way from ‘the continent’. Indeed, this is what we called them at first-continental quilts.

                All this change demonstrates the progress that textiles have made, and not only in bedding. These days sheets and duvet covers are cool, smooth, easily laundered items in any design, colour, size or pattern imaginable. I like to get ours in a certain, Scandinavian home furnishing chain that shall be nameless.

                I wonder if thingy from Brentford will endure as long as the nylons company? Or will he be making way for a newer product? Thank goodness I didn’t blurt out ‘Brentford Nylons’ when I was introduced!