Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. Pop down to Bluewater shopping centre and see how you feel afterwards. On the face of it, it seemed like a good idea. Since my aftershock a couple of weeks ago I’d not been out much, and not at all if you don’t count trips to the hospital or the GPs. I feel like I’m basically just one dizzy spell away from another stroke, so why encourage the old grey cells to knock buggery out of each other by me overdoing it, certainly when there’s Flog it and Countdown to watch on tv ? I have a week to wait until the promised all-revealing MRI scan and a week plonked on the couch won’t harm anyone, and may even do me some good.
But a chat I had with my father the other day changed my way of thinking. According to him, I’m likely to “pop my clogs” anyway, so I might as well enjoy myself while I can. It is, as they say, good to talk, and a chat with the old man really gives you that warm glow inside. The Season for Giving had clearly arrived, with the old fella at the front of the queue for giving out advice. So in that spirit, and being told by my dad that there was little hope of still being around when the fat bloke came down the chimney (nice trick if you can do it) I decided to go down to the shopping mall from hell, buy and give the incumbent her Christmas present early. Yes I know it’s still November, but she needed it and there’s no point her hunting around in the back of wardrobes for my gift when I’m pushing up the daisies.
There’s a knack to Bluewater. If, like me, you go there infrequently enough to be unfamiliar with it, you’ll find plenty of other like-minded individuals (mostly men) shuffling around like polar bears in Regents Park, unsure of where they are, who they are or why they are here. You can spend days down there. I’ve never been to Westworld, or whatever those malls in Shepherd’s Bush or Stratford are called, but if you have, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s enormous. Exiting Marks&Spencer alone requires the navigational skills of Ranulph Fiennes. Last week a Japanese soldier emerged from the kitchenware dept of John Lewis asking if the war was still on. There are approximately twelve branches of Starbucks, all looking identical, with identical Boys from Brazil serving (very slowly) therein. On every corner there is an extensive map showing each and every shop (sorry “outlet”) in the complex. I stopped at one and noticed a large red dot on one corner, with the words on it YOU ARE HERE written reassuringly. Except some poor sod, presumably someone who’d been walking around lost since V.E. night had scratched out the word HERE and written FUCKED over the top. I couldn’t have agreed more.
I saw one bloke simply give up hope of ever leaving the place and start writing his will on the back of a brochure given to him by the “nail bar” (they serve neither nails nor four candles. I know, I asked) next to Past Times. If I ran Past Times the shelves would be full of photos from before shopping centres, of when your local street was full of shops other than bookies and charity shops. When you could walk down the high street experiencing the warm satisfied feeling of community, not the cold stroll of terror down a desperate, desolate, derelict street, gingerly bypassing the bored, threatening hoodies and the even boreder (yes, it could be a word) chuggers on every street corner.
Anyway…After what could have only been four hours, I eventually escaped ( I was parked in Brown Squirrel G, Level 3, NOT Blue Stoat F, Level 2, as I had at first thought) and lived to tell the tale, Christmas gift in hand.
Now I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t wrap it (neither nicely nor at all) that, having opened her brand spanking new, all bells-and-whistles, all woofers-and-tweeters steam iron that she didn’t rush over to me, throwing her arms around my neck and pledging her undying love for me. I’d even go so far as to say that her reaction was rather muted. Funny creatures, women. It’s made me think twice about even buying the new kitchen apron which, in my opinion, she so desperately needs. She’ll miss me when I’m gone. About as much as my dad will, I reckon.