I did a rare and beautiful thing today - I went SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES! Real, 'pick-up-a-handful-and-try-them-on-in-the-changing rooms' shopping, at one of those retail outlets that purports to sell branded goods at a discount.
This SHOULD be easy for me. My daughters kindly subbed me for colour and style makeovers, and I have my swatches and my style sheets, which I, unusually, remembered to take with me.
Easy? It wasn't. There were THOUSANDS of individual items from dozens of different retailers. I was overwhelmed and bewildered. I wandered around, dazed, for about forty minutes, rejecting as, too large, too small, too tight, too loose, too long, too short, or just plain too dreadful, to wear.
Eventually, I pulled myself together and went for tops. Three serviceable, one stylish and one fancy. Then I went to pay for them.
This is when I met my new best friend.
This was the fun part. I make a point of being friendly in queues. I look upon it as redeeming what is otherwise totally wasted time.
He was about my age, portlier, I think it fair to say: grasping three pullovers.
' I had to get my wife to choose these, ' as if to explain away their ghastliness, ' I left my glasses at home.'
'Where's home?' I asked, politely.
So we swapped information like homing pigeons, and moved on to the length of the queue.
' I used to work in retail.' MNBF said. 'We'd leap on every customer as they came in the shop: there'd never be a wait like this... '
'But look what we've got to keep us occupied!'
We wended our way to the tills past shelves of sweets, local honeys, Three Choirs wines, Herefordshire ciders and Shropshire beers, posh biscuits, more sweets, and a complete range of 'make yourself beautiful with lavender' products.
Neither of us fell for it.
He recounted highlights of his career in retail. (Ten minutes, dead) I told him about when I did jury service and achieved, practically single-handed, a not-guilty verdict for a lady accused of shop-lifting before leaving the store, ( Twelve minutes fifteen seconds, including asides. ).
'See that couple over there?' I ventured... 'They met, married and gave birth to that baby in this queue!'
The universe harmonised, two more checkouts opened, and we parted for ever.