My rotten teeth have finally been fixed, and that is the last life hack (the toothpaste made from store cupboard ingredients) I’ll be taking on for a while, although I can’t say that I haven’t been impressed by Dr Michael Mosley’s adviceto balance on one leg, fast from 8 pm to 11 am, lie down in the forest and other such things, in his attempt to have us adopt just one achievable hack per day – I could even see myself eating a bar of Bournville; they are all very do-able and have a bit of mental nourishment in them too. And when you consider partaking, you experience nothing like the sour dread of contemplating an hour at the gym – or, God forbid, running round the streets in manmade fibres. Who thought that up? Some prick in New York I imagine.
Perhaps I should say that I’ll restrict myself to medically approved hacks – although I do still have a soft spot for that one where you turn an automatic screwdriver into a scouring pad (NB, it’s not really for caravans, and ideally you should only borrow the screwdriver from someone you dislike).
Anyway, with new teeth, I have decided to take up courting again. And with that in mind, and the lift in confidence that they’ve brought, I’ve been out to buy a couple of new going out outfits.
As has been well documented, there is nobody who cooperates less with the global capitalism project than me, and so, rather than support the impersonal warehouse of clothes approach to acquiring a new rig out, I decided to shop the old fashioned way. I don’t know whether you’ve tried that lately but something has happened to the thick-as-shit busybodies that were once employed as shop assistants – they’ve all found work as primary school teachers and middle managers I suppose. The new generation is still as keen to press upon you the retail services schtick, but theirs you feel has been learned from a script, or drilled into them by a regional manager, so that whereas once the senior assistant would judge you by the standards of their best customer and make you feel that you weren’t worthy of being in their the shop, the new breed has this sort of US, key performance indicator, how are you today, vibe about them. They ask similar questions to their predecessors but their motivation seems to be more about clearing a list of tasks than it does shaming a unvalued customer into an unwanted transaction.
As much as the experience was less awkward than previous encounters, an old truth soon struck me: like opticians, who I’ve tried to stick with during the liberalisation of the markets, they carried hardly any stock that I liked, and what they did have was too expensive. Once you find yourself in that familiar position, you then have to get out the door without making a purchase, with as little loss of face as possible. This was the essence of shopping back in the day – the Millennials have no idea what we went through back then – from a pound and half of bacon without fatty rinds, to a pair of 8-10 denier, medium leg, American Tan tights, for you mum/aunty, it was no picnic I can tell you. I managed it by saying to the junior that I liked the shoe, but would like to try the same with a plimp sole, and as soon as they went out the back to consult with the manager, I scurried back to TK Maxx: less, ‘the beer for people who don’t actually go to pubs’ my new Dog’s Bowl slogan, more, ‘schmatte with poorly sewn seams for people who like what nobody else wanted.’
So rare were shopping expeditions to buy clothes when I was growing up, that I developed a dread of them – not just the embarrassing transactions with judgmental staff, more that having longed to own something (nice) to wear, that when I finally got the chance I’d be so overwhelmed by the choices I’d buy a ridiculous item: sometimes wanting to emulate a pair or cords that I’d seen on Blue Peter, others perhaps, the jeans and pullover autumn look that had been featured in the Sunday Times supplement. Invariably I’d mix up a couple of styles, trying to do too much within one purchase, and I’d come home with a pair of trousers that looked exactly as I’d hoped they might from the waist to the knee, but then did something strange on the way to the floor. I seemed often drawn to harem pants as my mother called them – wary of accidentally buying a flare, that I’d end up getting trousers with cuffed bottoms, or unsure about my stance on the pleat, I’d land on a pair with a drawstring. Music based fashions brought in the worst of baggy in some parts, tight in others, legwear, but what I always got so wrong was that I’d bust the budget on some dual purpose trousers. Then I’d have to go bargain hunting for a matching shirt, whereupon, lured in by an attractively priced window display, I’d be bullied into buying a sensible short-sleeved holiday casual by a senior assistant at the Co-op; or perhaps ‘something that would double up for school and leisure,’ persuaded that, yes, I could weave a little fashion into the rigours of the school uniform like the cool boys did whilst maintaining options for weekend leisurewear, which I’d then have to make work with my Duran Duran/Acid House strides.
Feeling perhaps that my half a bar of spare cash would, one way or another not belong to me for much longer, I bought a new tele on the way home too (3 accessible HDMI ports). I abandoned the idea of hanging it off the wall in Wemmick half way through the process, then rang up Frances to rekindle our love affair. I know that she’s connected with Cardo in some way or another, but I guess that the unexpressed motivation in doing it was to find a way to spoil the opportunity to join his and Eggo’s hedge fund without actually having to confront the decision itself. We all know that it would be better all round if they withdrew that ill-fitting item from sale, but I’d rather they said it than me.
Further, and I find it more difficult still to explain this, but I have bought Frances some cool looking shoes from the bargain clearance bin in TKs. I know. The nap on the left shoe is slightly flat, but that’s nothing that I can’t buff up with an old toothbrush jammed into father’s automatic screwdriver.
many thanks to Katarina Sikuljak for the image.