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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Smaller is more beautiful…

                In a somewhat treacherous and hypocritical move, we have executed a kind of ‘upgrade’ of our travel vehicle and are now using a slightly larger camper van. I say this because I’m aware that I posted on the pecking order and the relative sizes of travel vehicles at around this time last year. We were always the smallest unit in the village, the runt of the litter, dwarfed by the gargantuan motor-homes that surrounded us. The ironic outcome of this change is that we are still the smallest camper van wherever we go, owing I presume to the fact that everyone else has acquired a larger one also.

                Husband mourns the tiny van and was reluctant to exchange it for the current home-on-wheels. I accept it is trickier to manoeuvre and cannot be used as an extra car at home, but the advantages are undeniable. It has a large, comfortable bed constructed from the two plush sofas lining the walls, a walk-in shower and toilet cubicle, a cooker complete with oven, swish windows complete with blinds and pull up insect screens, skylights and a wondrous amount of storage. All this luxury is quite enough two people. It makes me a little curious to know why other couples would need such enormous wheeled dwellings. And how much must it cost in fuel? And where on Earth do they keep it, assuming they have a bricks-and-mortar house elsewhere?

                How bizarre it is that in the present day, when technological advances seem concentrated on producing ever smaller devices- tiny ‘watch’ style internet consoles, Google’s strange glasses with internet screen [won’t everyone be bumping into each other?] etc, other items become larger and larger. TV screens, lattes, beds, cruise ships, aeroplanes, McDonalds’ meals and people are growing bigger by the day.

                Wouldn’t make more sense for the collected, obvious genius behind such marvellous and desirable, tiny objects such as slimmer tablets and phones to direct their talents into technology that reduces our need for so much power to use them?

                The French have constructed a cunning new law for owners of motor-homes so massive that little cars needed to be towed behind them. A HGV licence is necessary for the additional vehicle to be hauled along behind the mother ship. The lack of these small cars rolling along behind is starkly noticeable, although how the inmates are coping with their daily needs is not altogether clear. For us, little in this respect has changed. We shop in between one destination and another, we park up, we free our bikes from the back and use them to collect what we need. We also get to cycle around the lanes in the Provencal sunshine looking at the rural landscape and stopping at an occasional hostelry for a glass of vin [me] or a beer or two [Husband].

                We have learned not to dash around ticking off sights in an ‘if it’s Wednesday it must be Rome’ way, getting to know a small area; the beautiful, medieval villages, the vineyards and the orchards-currently clouded with pink blossom. Small [even if a modicum bigger] really is better.