I’m aiming to walk 1000 miles as part of training for my 1000-MILES EXPEDITION – join me if you like. It’s not a competition and there’s no time limit; it’s about getting out there and doing a bit more than we usually do. Walk, run, swim, cycle – whatever suits you. Each time, record your new miles using the form below, then click ‘View Results’ to see your running total and our collective miles (any problems, please email firstname.lastname@example.org). Good luck! Love, Cookie x
Author: Cookie Taylor
About Cookie Taylor
Posts by Cookie Taylor:
- 1000 Miles
- House Sitting
- Iceland Expedition
- Latest Posts
- Mental Breakdown
- Mount Everest
- Tristan da Cunha
Ah, the stresses and strains that come with being online …
One thing that’s been seriously grating on my nerves recently is the way that every single website I visit seems to hit me with endless pop-up screens, begging me to sign up to their NEWSLETTER PACKED WITH FRESH IDEAS! or to GET LIFE-CHANGING TIPS – NOW!
I don’t want life-changing tips. I want to get to another page of your website without feeling like I’m wading through treacle.
THIS WILL INTEREST YOU!
No, it won’t.
LIFE HACKS TO IMPROVE YOUR DAY!
My day was fine until you popped up.
WHILE YOU’RE HERE!
Right. Thanks a bloody lot. You’ve just blocked my view of your menu and now, because of your happy little shaking sign of interruption, I’ve forgotten what I was looking for.
BEFORE YOU GO!
I wasn’t going. My mouse just wandered up to the top of my screen.
DON’T GO YET!
Chill the hell out, will you?
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s marketing, I know it’s the latest technique and I know selling to people is getting more challenging but all it does is irritate the life out of me. Instead of clicking on the pop-up, I click away from the website, never to return.
Pop up? Pop off!
If there’s one thing I’m not scared of it’s being honest about life’s struggles, including showing a side of myself that others might regard as fragile.
Human character traits are fascinating to me and I think the more vulnerable parts of our personalities are more interesting in terms of discussion than the more desirable or socially acceptable parts; a shame it is, then, that people are so quick to cover up their weaknesses and either pretend that they don’t exist or that they are something to be shunned. In reality, they’re something that we all share and to sweep them under the carpet seems to do a dis-service to our fundamental makeup.
After my nervous breakdown I was referred to as ‘fragile’ by many people, all of whom were trying to help. They were pointing out the obvious but said it hesitantly, sympathetically and in hushed voices, as if they were revealing something about me that I wouldn’t want to hear. Some said I should ‘get help’ because I was so fragile. I found this intriguing because to me my fragility was both temporary and necessary; it was simply part of the process of having a nervous breakdown, an obstacle to get past with time. Although frustrating, it wasn’t an unpleasant state to be in and, in fact, was helpful to me; it was a momentary state of mind that was designed specifically to ensure that I had no choice but to rest, recover and rebuild. I therefore saw it as something positive under all the confusion and I appreciated the fact that my brain was taking the reins for a while and insisting that I stop.
Inevitably came a couple of nasty messages alongside the nice ones, ridiculing me for having a mental breakdown, telling me that at my age I should have my life sorted, shouldn’t be so weak, shouldn’t be affected by things that happened twenty years ago blah blah blah. It wasn’t nice to receive such words but, of course, it highlighted the main reason people cover up their fragility when they’re going through something traumatic: we have a very real fear what other people might say or think. We don’t like to be judged harshly. It’s no help, especially when we’re already feeling vulnerable.
Being fragile is part of being human, a moment of relative dysfunction in an otherwise normal state. There’s usually a very good reason behind it. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or to fear. The irony is that people are encouraged to open up and be themselves these days when, in reality, much of society is waiting to pounce and criticise us the moment we do. And that makes it difficult to share what’s really going on with each other. Which leads to expectation that we all try to live up to in public but struggle with horribly behind closed doors.
If you notice, when a celebrity loses control and cries during an interview, shouts at someone who’s shoving a camera in their face, gets drunk and rants on YouTube – things that everybody is capable of doing – the media focuses on that to emphasise flaws and weaknesses or to create an issue where there is none. It is never forgotten despite it being completely unrepresentative of that person 99.9% of the time and is brought up again and again at expense of an otherwise well-rounded personality. Showing weakness or fragility is unacceptable in a society that contradicts itself entirely by advising, ‘be yourself – but not if it doesn’t fit in with what we expect of you!’ People are quick to define a person based solely on that fleeting moment of imperfection, possibly because it makes them feel less flawed in themselves briefly.
The way I see it is that we have all kinds of emotions and behaviours that crop up over a lifetime for whatever reason. We make good choices and we make bad choices and those choices have consequences, good and bad. I would rather reveal the true nature of those highs and lows than to portray a flatline existence for fear of showing insecurities or supposed weaknesses, adhering to other people’s ideas of what being ‘normal’ or ‘in control’ should look like.
I can laugh at myself, embarrass myself, joke about myself and not be scared about showing an uncomfortable side of myself even at the worst of times because to embrace myself, warts and all, makes me human. And it makes me anything but fragile, even if fragility is what I display during those moments.
Supercluster: relaxation album
I never imagined I’d write an ambient relaxation album, mostly because I’m really bad at relaxing and prefer a good dance beat …
Supercluster is an ambient, ethereal relaxation album. It combines powerful, well-structured electronics as a base for beautiful, ethereal and sometimes haunting voices and harmonies to transport the listener on a journey out of the mundane and into the unknown. Supercluster includes 3 tracks of between 18 and 21 minutes in duration and is ideal for meditation, study, sleep, yoga, spa, hypnosis, background, relaxation, massage and more.
The time a farmer caught me trespassing
If you know me, you’ll know that I love places where there are no people. Especially when I’m walking. If I’m in a national park with miles of nothing around me, I can literally sniff out a human. Once I’ve sniffed them out I turn and flee in the opposite direction …
Dave and I were house sitting in a cottage by the sea. It was a cold, crisp morning and I was thrilled to find a handy, freshly-cut wheat field nearby to train in, which meant I didn’t have to walk along the cliff top and encounter … dun dun dunnnnnn … members of the general public.
I was making good progress; I’d walked about four miles in all when I spotted a truck hurtling over the field towards me.
“Oh shit! Farmer!”
The truck pulled to a halt beside me, scattering dirt over my boots, and for some reason I thought it was a good moment to adopt a Bridget Jones oh-aren’t-I-a-silly-billy kind of an air and put on a posh, high-pitched voice whilst at the same time trying to hold my stomach in and look like a hardcore adventurer. In reality I looked like Tweedledum on acid.
“I suppose it might appear to you that I’m trespassing on your property!” I blurted out, offering a half smile, half grimace so that he’d know instantly how seriously I was taking my crime.
“It would,” the farmer said.
“I’m soooooo sorry – I really don’t make a habit of this,” I assured him.
That was an out-and-out lie. I trespass wherever and whenever I can get away with it. I like breaking rules – you know this about me by now. I’m not talking about wandering around someone’s property in the middle of the night, or clambering over fences to explore well-kept lawns and flowerbeds; I’m talking about walking round gateless fields that may be out of bounds to anyone but the owner.
This was the first time I’d been caught red-handed, though. And my captor looked mightily pissed off.
“What are you doing?’ he asked. “I’ve been watching you. You’re just walking round and round and round. I don’t get it.”
“I’m sort of training.”
“Sort of training for what?”
“Well, the thing is, you see,” I said, taking a deep breath, “it’s always been my dream to walk to the South Pole but obviously I’m never going to be able to afford to do that or even be the kind of person who could do it even if I did manage to scrape the money together because I’m not hardcore enough and I know I’m not hardcore enough and anyway I can’t ski and I’m crap at being part of a team on account of being so selfish and bloodyminded, so I’ve gone and booked a flight to Iceland to walk 1000 miles solo this winter because it’s the closest I’m ever going to get to the feeling of what it’s actually like to do a proper expedition like walking to the South Pole and experience exposure and exhaustion and self-reliance and … cold … but first I’ve got to lose a shit ton of weight and get as fit as possible so that I don’t die in a blizzard while I’m trying to muster the strength to put my tent up after walking twenty sodding miles but, as usual, I’ve gone and left it all too late because I’m a lazy cow, have no belief in myself and look, I’m still the size of a bloody rhino so I’m starting to take the training seriously now and today I’ve found myself walking round and round … your … beautiful field … and …”
The farmer stared at me in stunned silence as my voice trailed off. I couldn’t help but notice shortly after that he was eyeing me up and down.
I screwed up my face and broke out into a nervous grin. “I’m really fat, aren’t I?”
The farmer shook his head quickly in confusion. “Why aren’t you walking on the cliff top like everyone else?”
“I hate people,” I said. “I mean, I don’t hate people but I hate people, do you know what I mean?”
“I hate being around people when I’m walking – I mean training.”
“It’s five-thirty in the morning,” the farmer said, looking at his watch. “Nobody’s stupid enough to be out yet. Except you.”
“I know but – ”
“The cliff’s got views of the Isle of Wight. What do you want to be walking round a field for?”
“Cos I hate people,” I said. “I think I’ve already explained that. And anyway I’ve been to the Isle of Wight.”
The farmer looked baffled and I felt sorry for him. He couldn’t hope to understand my ridiculous mind. He switched his engine off, shuffled his body round to face me and squeezed both elbows out of the truck window. His eyes narrowed as he studied my face carefully. He was either going to kill me or ask me to marry him.
A moment of silence passed between us until the farmer’s gaze broke and he sighed heavily.
“Thing is,” he said, “you hate people. I hate trespassers. Specially tourists.”
“Oh, I’m not a tourist,” I swooned. “Oh no, far from it! I’m a house sitter. Well, I’m a photographer actually but we’re house sitting just down the lane. We do it for free. We don’t have a home, you see. We’re not homeless though. We live in other people’s houses. We’re too broke to afford rent and to be honest even if we could afford rent we wouldn’t actually rent again because we used to rent and it seems like a colossal waste of money when we can live for free in gorgeous houses that we couldn’t afford to rent for even a day and anyway we love being on the move all the time because we – ”
“What the fuck do you mean ‘walk to the South Pole’?”
“I said, what the fuck do you mean ‘walk to the South Pole’?”
I broke out into what might only be described as a masculine throat rattle – a deep cackle of embarrassment. Terribly unfeminine and not my proudest moment. I might as well have farted too.
“It’s been my dream since I was about five years old.”
“I want to be an adventurer.”
“I don’t know.”
“You must know.”
“I don’t. Why do you want to be a farmer?”
“Well, what do you want to be then?”
I wasn’t sure whether to cackle insanely or nod compassionately. I did both.
“Being a farmer’s shite,” he explained.
An awkward moment passed between us as he sighed again.
“Well, it could be worse,” I said. “At least you spend your days outside playing with your cows and sheep and pigs and stuff.”
The farmer raised his eyebrows. “I’m a wheat farmer.”
The throat rattle threatened to come again but I kept it down by coughing delicately instead.
“Well, you could be stuck in an office with people you hate. Think about that.”
“Ah, but then I wouldn’t be here to catch trespassers, would I?”
“Good point,” I sniffed.
Another awkward moment passed between us.
“How long have you been a farmer then?” I said, widening my eyes and hoping to get him on side.
“Since I was thirteen.”
“How old are you now?”
“Well you look happy enough,” I said. “That is, you do look a bit on the grumpy side this morning but I’m guessing that’s my fault.”
“You guessed right.”
The elbows withdrew suddenly and the farmer opened the door of his truck. I grew a little nervous. Do farmers kill and eat people who trespass on their property? I really hoped not. He got out, slammed the truck door closed, leaned against it and stared at me as if I was a mysterious artefact, pursing his lips and folding his arms against the chilly morning air. His breath hovered in the sunlight, which was turning golden as the sun peeped over his shoulder. I hoped sincerely that he wasn’t about to make a pass at me. I didn’t want to have to get brutal.
“The South Pole, eh?”
“I know, it’s ridiculous – you don’t have to say it.”
“An adventurer, eh?”
“Yeah but I’ll never make it. I’m crap. I know that. But I’ve got to at least try, haven’t I? That’s why I’m going to Iceland. I want to do something epic that I’m probably not capable of doing.”
The farmer’s eyes wandered over my face then over my shoulder to the field beyond. For a moment it seemed that he was lost in a memory. His eyes glistened again and he looked to the ground, shifting his stance.
“I admire you,” he said quietly. “I never got to live my dreams.”
“Why?” I felt suddenly protective towards this man and my heart ached for his obvious regret.
“I was never brave enough to,” he said, his eyes lifting to meet mine. “But you are.”
“I’m not brave,” I said, feeling my nose tingle and wondering if this would be a wholly inappropriate moment to let out a sneeze. “It’s just that it’s inside me, calling me, you know? I can’t ignore it.”
“No. I don’t suppose you can.”
I rubbed my nose and sniffed as the farmer drew a sharp breath through his own nose and reached into his back pocket to pull out a wallet. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was about to ask me for sexual favours. Unlikely, given the circumstances.
“Take this,” he said, retrieving a £10 note and pressing it firmly into my hand, “to start your South Pole fund.”
I was staggered – totally taken aback. I burst into tears before flinging my arms round his neck and hugging him so tightly that he started his own throat rattle. A spontaneous reaction to a spontaneous gesture. At one point I kissed him full on the ear, which pleased neither of us very much, to be honest.
“I can’t believe – you don’t have to – I just – thank you so much! I don’t know what to say!”
“There aren’t many like you in this world,” the farmer said, pushing his wallet back into his pocket and allowing a faint smile to creep across his lips.
“I’ll probably die in Iceland,” I said. “I really am that crap.”
“Doesn’t matter though, does it?” he said. “You’ve got the guts to try.”
I cursed the tears that were now flooding my cheeks but somehow it didn’t matter that I was blubbering in front of a stranger. He understood me in that moment and we’d forever share that connection.
“So, can I use your field to train in, then?” I grinned cheekily, getting ready to give him another hug.
“Nope,” he said, climbing back into his truck and starting it up. “If you’re brave enough to walk round Iceland you can face a few tourists. Now piss off.”
He turned his truck in a slow, wide circle, tipping his hat and winking at me as he began making his way out of the field and onto the lane. I winked back, nodded and allowed a laugh to echo after him before my smile faded along with the sound of his engine. A mixture of sadness and elation enveloped me; sadness that he wasn’t brave enough to go for his dreams and elation that I am brave enough to go for mine.
I’m not hot stuff at ALL!
It seems that my nervous breakdown has left some lasting changes in my life – but not in the way I expected.
Have you heard of those people who wake up from a coma and can fluently speak a foreign language that they couldn’t understand more than a few words of before?
Or those people who have an organ transplant to find out soon after that they possess incredible talents they never had before, like being able to play the piano or paint beautifully?
Well, something similar (ish) happened to me after my nervous breakdown.
Okay, it’s not on anywhere near such an extreme level. Actually, it’s nothing like the above but it’s something that has changed significantly in my life overnight – and it’s been both an amusing and puzzling thing to go through.
From the moment I had my nervous breakdown I switched from hating warm weather to loving it.
I know – groundbreaking isn’t it?!
In all seriousness it has been an extremely weird experience for me.
Anyone who knows me knows that for almost half a century I’ve cheered as winter’s commenced because I feel so much more at home in cold weather than in hot weather. I love wrapping up in big coats and bobble hats. I love feeling the cold nipping at my cheeks. I love not sweating with every movement. I love going out into cold, crisp air and watching my breath. I prefer to lean up against a refrigerator than a radiator. I resent the heat that radiators give out because it makes me feel all stuffy and caged. I find winter clothes far more attractive than summer clothes. I tend to visit cold countries rather than hot countries; my idea of hell would be a holiday in the sun. I don’t own a pair of socks (except hiking ones) because I cannot bear to have hot feet.
I love all things cold, basically.
Except for ice in a drink – for some reason I cannot stand ice in a drink. Not because it’s cold though. I resent the way it dilutes things. Anyhow, getting off subject here …
Summer has always been torture for me, even when I was young, slim and fit. I went through a brief stage of enjoying it in my teens and early 20’s but since then I’ve loathed it. I’ve hidden away from the outside world in summer and it’s been a really depressing time of the year for me. I would say it’s because of being overweight and not wanting to be seen – but I’m still as big as ever and this year has been completely different for me.
This year was one of the warmest, loveliest summers on record in the UK and I lapped up every moment. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s come as a total surprise. It’s such an extreme about-turn in my life that it’s left me totally stumped.
But why has it happened?
The only thing I can put it down to is that it’s all to do with healing; warmth is known to heal, sunlight is known to heal and my body and mind are obviously desperate to welcome all the healing help they can. My brain knows what it needs and it seems to be guiding me to deliver what it needs.
Sunlight boosts the body’s supply of vitamin D, which plays a role in regulating the immune system; it also increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which plays a role in brightening our mood. Obviously it’s waaaaaaay more complicated than this but these two things alone might explain why, after suffering the devastating effects of a nervous breakdown, my brain has decided I need to get out and relax in the warmth of the sun a bit more.
So, while I’m not going to squeeze into a bikini anytime soon, or frolic on a beach alongside hardcore sunbathers, I am going to go with the flow and welcome summer into my life each year instead of hiding away from it. I absolutely love and appreciate what it’s done for my body and mind this year.
I still love the idea of icicles hanging off my eyelashes though. That’ll never change!
Or will it?
I’m full of bright ideas, me!
“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas”
It was 5am when I woke up suddenly, sat bolt upright, prodded Dave’s cheek and whispered, “I’m going to walk round Iceland!”
“Good,” he grunted. “Let me know when you’re back.”
And that was it.
I suppose it’s quite fitting that the idea came to me in an actual dream, given that I’m a dreamer. A dream born out of a dream, you could say.
I’ve obsessed about being an adventurer from the age of five, when I would sneak out of bed in the early hours, grab my dad’s climbing books off the shelves and pour over black-and-white photographs of rather serious-looking men. By torchlight I’d explore the pages, holding my breath and widening my eyes at the sight of cracked lips framing gaping mouths, icicles hanging off beards, nostrils blocked by frozen snot, shoulders weighed down by ropes, goggles reflecting vast, frozen, inhospitable terrains. I’d imagine what their eyes had seen, what their muscles had felt, what strength they had needed to draw upon to successfully complete their expeditions.
All I wanted was to be like those men and to one day have a photo of my own face peeking out of a huge expedition jacket with a blizzard screaming all around.
All I needed was to train myself to be hardcore. And to grow a beard.
Sadly, I haven’t managed to train myself to be at all hardcore, which is severely disappointing. Less disappointing is that I’ve not yet managed to grow a beard (though there are signs of that happening as I slide down the wrong side of middle age).
In all seriousness, though, I’m lazy, have no stamina, lack self-belief and have appalling willpower at the best of times.
Hardly the stuff adventurers are made of.
What I do have, though, is tenacity. Perhaps that’s all I need for now …
The coldest, windiest, driest, highest continent
Dave and I were lucky enough to join a rare hiking expedition on the Antarctic Peninsular – it was by accident, actually. I’d booked bunkbeds on a Russian research ship for our honeymoon (yeah, I know, seasickness, bunkbeds – it’s what romance is made of) and we only found out once we were in Antarctica that we were part of a one-off trip. We got to visit areas of Antarctica that are seldom seen by human eyes.
The pictures speak for themselves as to the heart-stopping beauty of this vast and inhospitable wilderness – its virtually impossible to take a bad shot!
Here is a glimpse of our time in Antarctica:
What’s stopping you from taking the plunge?
This is one of those posts that’s winding me up even before I’ve written it because I can’t bear it when people hold themselves back just because of what other people expect of them.
I’ve reached a stage in life where I’m disappointingly far from where I’d like to be (even though I don’t know where I’d like to be) and slipping further away from my dreams every day (even though my dreams change all the time). Let’s go over that again: I’m not where I want to be in life … even though I’m not sure where I want to be … and my dreams are slipping out of my reach … even though my dreams are not set in stone.
So, in other words, I’m fine just where I am.
I realised a few months ago that rather than being far from where I’d like to be, I’m far from where society tells me I should be. And where’s that? It’s simply where the majority of people my age are. That’s precisely why I’m not one to care. I’ve never been swayed by peer pressure – in fact, I actively rebel against it.
I’ve been unable to do anything but follow my own heart since I was around 16, even though I jumped onto paths that led me down some dodgy little alleyways that I was, in all seriousness, lucky to get out of. I took extraordinary risks, experimented, drifted where the wind blew me and had some incredible experiences along the way. I learned pretty early on that I was gutsy, brave and rebellious and I enjoyed that side of myself. I loved my free spirit, my inability to act ‘normal’, my need to push the boundaries and the rewards that came with that. The problem is that I always felt like I was doing something wrong, that I was being frowned upon by those who tow the line. I openly reject responsibility and society frowns on that.
Society’s a little bit hypocritical and not a little bit baffling, to me.
We’re told, ‘find your identity!’ but it’s a message delivered with an undertone of, ‘so long as you fit in with a version of who we’d like you to be.’
We’re told, ‘you’re only here once – enjoy life to the full!’ but are then described as selfish or hedonistic if we enjoy life to the max.
We’re told, ‘go after your dreams!’ but are reminded of how we should ‘grow up’ if we dare to put dreams before responsibility.
It’s like that saying:
Society: “Be yourself!”
Society: “No – not like that!”
Society tells us that we’re missing a trick if we’re not working hard towards buying a home, upgrading that home, breeding children, building a respectable career, finding good friends, buying things to give us status, buying more things when we’re told the old things are no longer worthy – doing everything by the book for 50 years of our adult lives so that we have a bit of comfort in the last 10.
Being sensible, basically.
The thing is that society engrains that train of thought in us so tightly that when we see someone who lives even slightly outside the box we think they’re dicing with danger and assume there’ll be grave consequences. We see them as adventurous, unruly, naughty – mad even. It makes us uneasy when we see people living without the safety blanket of conformity.
Depending on their age …
If you spoke to a 90-year-old and discovered that for 10 years of her life she’d stripped down to her underwear and twirled round a pole for the sheer hell of gaining money and attention, you’d likely pat her on the forearm and chuckle, ‘good on you!’ whilst admiring her wild ways and wondering what other things she must have got up to. If you spoke to a 20-year old who was doing the same thing, you’d likely refer to her as a degenerate and assume she’s on a path to nowhere. How’s that fair? She’ll be that 90-year-old one day – and then, what, it’s somehow acceptable for her to have followed her wild side for a while?
All I know is that the overwhelming majority of old people that I’ve spoken to during my life have all said something similar: they wish they’d thrown caution to the wind a bit more, walked on the wild side, lived their dreams, been true to their hearts, done those things they were too afraid to try. And why didn’t they do those things? Because they were towing the line, doing as they were told, bowing down to peer pressure and worrying about what other people might think.
“Why didn’t I do what I wanted to do while I had the chance?”
“Why didn’t I go after my dreams?”
“Why did I care so much about what they’d say?”
“Why did I worry that I might fail?”
“Why didn’t I just do it anyway?”
For me, that’s a tragedy. And it’s a reminder that I shouldn’t feel guilty about living life the way I want to live it, just because it’s outside the norm. Not that I’ve ever felt guilty about doing that, if you want the truth. I must be too selfish – oh well!
Where should I be in life? Exactly where I am now – going after my dreams and living what’s in my core while I have the chance, no matter how old I happen to be and no matter what other people think about it.
“Why didn’t I do what I wanted to do while I had the chance? Why didn’t I go after my dreams? Why did I care so much about what they’d say? Why did I worry that I might fail? Why didn’t I just do it anyway?” are all things I know I won’t be asking at the end of my life.
So, where should you be in life?
It’s not fun, it’s torture
Oh, for pity’s sake. Not all women need shoes and handbags. For your information I haven’t owned a handbag in 20 years and I’m a barefoot kind of a girl.
I read an article this morning about how women are programmed to love shopping, as if it’s built into our DNA. I spent the rest of the day rolling my eyes and tutting as a result. I should know better than to let stuff like this wind me up. To be honest I’ve no gripe with sweeping generalisations usually but this one annoyed the very curl out of my hair.
Granted, there are some women I know who live for their next shopping trip but that’s not because they’re women and it’s not because they’re programmed to do so – it’s because, as individuals, they happen to love buying stuff and pretending to their husbands that they bought it at a knock-down price. Oops, now I’m generalising, aren’t I? Oh well.
The fact is, I’m not good at shopping. I hate bloody shopping. I’m a ‘take a deep breath, get in, then get out!’ type of woman, who’s only seen in clothes shops when my tops are threadbare and my shoes have lost their glue. Other than that, you won’t catch me perusing the aisles, popping whatever I fancy into a basket and flouncing my way towards the checkout with a smug look on my face. Far from it.
Dave loves going shopping with me. I’m in and out in record time, every time, and he revels in it. The only time we linger is when we can’t help but eavesdrop on other couples. Usually we’re reduced to inappropriate sniggers at the sight of a man tapping his toes irritably five feet or so from his wife’s back, as she considers whether to buy a set of orange floral napkins or pink floral napkins, even though she’s well aware that they have several sets of napkins already cluttering up a drawer and neither of these sets is going to complement the dinner service.
“We’ve not used napkins in twenty years, Norma,” he’ll sigh, looking as disinterested as a blobfish.
“Course we have!” Norma will sing. “Remember that Christmas when Flora’s false teeth got stuck in that rogue treacle tart and my green tartan napkins came to the rescue?”
While people like Norma browse, I have an idea of what I want before I even think about going into a shop. No mucking around. I’ll have a list prepared, in my hand and held forth before I’m even close to the entrance. I’m like a dart up and down those aisles, getting stuff and getting out. No pausing, no pondering, no flights of fancy that so-and-so colour lipstick might go better with my complexion. It won’t. I’ll get that lipstick home only to see it in daylight and curse the money I wasted on it. And that top? Sure, it looked great on the hanger but now? Disaster in the boob sector. Well, you didn’t expect me to hang around long enough to actually try it on in the shop, did you? I don’t do changing rooms (see below). Now I’m going have to take it back and spend more bloody time in a shop …
And why is it that when you do happen to spot that perfect texture of lipstick in that perfect shade for your complexion, they go and change their stock and you have no hope of ever finding it again? That irritates me to the point of distraction. That’s why I shop once a year for makeup; I buy three of everything so that I don’t have to go through the stress of disappointment over and over. When the year is up, I know I’ll find everything I need online anyway and, because it’s apparently sooooo last year in the fashion stakes, I’ll get it on the cheap too. Only when I’m bored with my dated makeup look will I go on the hunt for new stuff. It’s not worth it to my stress levels to go before then.
Throwing my shopping trolley around the aisles of a supermarket is much like throwing my car around London. Just get out of my way, people. It’s that simple. But no. Aisles are regions in a shop designed specifically for mental torture for ‘get in, get out’ people like me. They should have a slow lane, medium lane and fast lane. People stop dead, you see, right in front of me and it’s not good for my tolerant nature. I’ll invariably be hurtling towards the cheese section preparing to pluck a packet of Cheddar off the shelves mid-stride, when someone will stop in their tracks to nonchalantly stare at the yoghurts and I’ll slam straight into the back of them, causing them to rub a heel dramatically and throw a filthy look in the direction of my trolley. They won’t dare to make eye contact with me though – that would be like inviting the enemy to engage and they’re too cowardly for that. No, instead, they’ll scowl and limp and gasp and act like I’ve deliberately taken a knife to slice their Achilles tendon open just to ruin their day. That kind of behaviour makes me lose my shit.
Another instrument of torture is the changing-room curtain, if you can call it that. A curtain is supposed to pull all the way across to shut out prying eyes while you’re squeezing into a top that you were sure, on selecting, that you’d be able to slip into easily, only to find when you’re already undressed that it’s on the wrong sodding hanger and is, in fact, a size too small. You try it on anyway, after spending three minutes stretching the changing-room curtain and begging it to hold. Just as you’re pulling the top over your head, that hateful curtain pings open to draw specific attention to your flabby armpits (that you were planning on shaving tonight – honest) through a gap that’s now the size of your cellulite-ridden thigh. And of course it’s at exactly this moment that a small child decides to peer in and introduce you to a whole new level of humiliation, made worse by the fact that the brightest lights in history are blazing down on your pasty skin, highlighting every bump and fat globule.
And then there’s the cashier. Mostly they’re human but you know they don’t give a crap whether you’ve ‘found everything you wanted’ or not. You can tell because while they’re posing the question their lifeless eyes are inevitably drifting past you to the lingerie aisle, thinking about what they’re going to buy (at a discounted price, of course) for Friday night’s frolics. Oh, am I having a nice day? Thanks for asking. No, I’m bloody not. Just throw my stuff in that bag and let me get the hell out of here, will you? Oh, don’t bother folding it, for crying out loud! I have neither the time not the will for this; I saw your attempt at folding when the last poor sod was standing in front of you for twenty minutes – you started out well and lost interest half way through. Just give it here and I’ll do it.
Nooooo, I don’t want a loyalty card, thank you very much. I’m not loyal to this shop. I’m here only because I know you sell black clothes in big sizes that give me some sort of chance of looking half decent. I won’t be back for another year in any case, assuming these cheap clothes will begin to unravel in about a year’s time like they usually do. So, you can keep your loyalty card, thanks. There’s no loyalty left in me anyway, after dealing with your sodding dressing-room curtain.