I used to enjoy shopping. I mean clothes shopping, of course. Not food shopping; I’ve always found that dull and hateful and don’t really get off on trying to push past people who are studying the packs of bacon like it’s fine art they’re buying.

I ventured out yesterday to buy a pair of shoes I’d seen on line. I came to a sudden decision that were I to shell out my cash on this particular pair of brogue boots in tan leather, my life would suddenly become complete. It wasn’t to be. I’m ashamed to say this but I’m a failed ex-shopper.


First I had to brave the autumnal chill and rain and was dressed accordingly. This was fine until I entered the shopping mall. The huge grey box looms above the skyline of the city, looking about as tempting as an ugly grey box can i.e. not very. Bright lights, shiny floors and oppressive heating and within minutes I was sweating and irritable in my jacket. This wasn’t a good start. I felt like I was on the set for “The Stepford Wives”.


The shop didn’t have the boots. They also didn’t know why they didn’t have the boots. “Unavailable” was the only answer they could give. I scowled and set off in search of alternative boots and of course, having something in mind means it doesn’t exist. Tan boots have become as common as virgins in Soho.


Walking into the shoe shops became a minefield as assistants lunged at me asking if I needed help. I didn’t need help. I’ve been in shops before. They told me that if I needed any help or advice I could ask them. This was not news to me. I’ve been in shops before. I’ve learnt how they work. Trying anything on is also an invitation for pestering and I become belligerent. The minute I took off my brogues to try on a shoe I was accosted.


Smiling blonde woman: “Would you like any help?”

Me: “No thanks, I’ve tried shoes on before. I’m kind of OK with it.”


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After 15 minutes I started to feel trapped in the hot house of the shopping centre. It all looks the same: coffee chains, clothing chains and pasty shops. There are so many coffee chain stores in the city centre now that I have to think hard where I am when I see one. It’s all become so homogenised.


I managed thirty minutes and successfully bought a tie rack and a bottle of vitamin B tablets. My tie collection is growing and I needed some storage as well as some energy from the pills. I then made a foolish mistake. I tried on a shirt and a pair of trousers. The changing room was claustrophobic and starkly lit. There were too many mirrors. I’m at an age now when I don’t really want to see the back of my own head. The gradual onset of male pattern baldness is not something I like to remember. I was also having a bad nose day and became distracted by how big my nose looked in side profile. I didn’t buy the clothes. I never end up buying the clothes on a bad nose day. Nothing looks right with a bad nose. I looked at my nose from several angles though. It stayed bad.


On the way out I was stopped by a man trying to get me to sign up to a TV package, a woman wanting to wash my hands and apply some lotion (my hands are already clean and Fairy-soft) and a teenager being over-familiar in order to try to get me to gift money to a charity. I politely declined their offers.


Leaving the shopping centre, I lit a cigarette and inhaled toxic fumes which felt preferable to the dead air inside. In need of an antidote I headed into the nearest charity shop where I instantly spotted a vintage 50s vanity case in a soothing blue and a checked jacket which would suit a leather elbow patch. The charity shops were comfortingly stale and grubby with subdued lighting. The people weren’t over made up and felt somehow more real for their oddities. They also ignore me. I’m happier being ignored. The jacket was too small and besides, my nose was still too big. I bought the case to use as storage. This lifted my mood but didn’t complete my life (as the boots surely would have). The tattooed assistant smiled a yellow gap-toothed grin as his hairy paw slammed my change down.

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Arriving home I decided to do the sensible thing and buy the boots on-line. OK, I have to pay for delivery. I’ll probably be at work when they arrive and have to make a trip to the depot to collect them but it’s still less bother than facing the shops. I should have stayed at home and done this in the first place. I tried to log in to the site and upon entering my password it locked me out, demanding an account number. I’d lost the account number. I tried to call them and was instantly stuck in a queue.


The boots can wait. I’ll think of something else to make my life complete. Where can you buy offensive weapons these days?

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.

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