Before I start my next post, I would like to express a vote of thanks and appreciation. When I started to 'blog', I was not expecting such an amazing response. I was astounded at how easy it was to get onto 'blogger' and just write, without having to do very much else. My friend, Michele, had started to blog and I was inspired. I was then rather challenged by my friend Sheena, who asked 'how to' and then succeeded in compiling a page that had a beautiful background and links. The competitive spirit came into play and I spent a little time trying to 'colourfy' my work. In attempting to make the background slightly less bland, I found that the 'stats' page has many tabs that shows not only the pages that are being read, but also the device from where the pages are accessed and webpages that are used. It was then that I came across a page that read, 'Other blogs that might be of interest', and, there was mine!
My last blog was read by many on the first day (well I think 52 is a pretty big number) and I am so excited and thankful to everyone who takes the time to read. I haven't had many comments on the blog, but have had a few people tell me, randomly, that they follow.
Originally, I looked a the blog map and saw that there were a few 'green' areas, colouring up the white chart. Amazed, I saw that Alaska was coloured. I shouted to Samantha, 'Sarah Palin is reading my blog'. Asked how I knew it was the former Governor of Alaska, I replied, 'The only person I know who lives in Alaska is Sarah Palin...it must be her'! So the word was passed around, but it was a few days later that the reality hit and I found that the green area included the whole of the United States of America, which includes Alaska. Saddened at not having the previous vice presidential candidate as a follower, but not really surprised, I was rewarded with many more green areas. People in Denmark, Germany, Croatia, Singapore, and South Africa were added to the list of readers. I know my reader in Canada, and am pretty sure of my base in UK, USA and France, but I once again thank everyone for your support.
So back to the matter in hand. It is coming up to that time of year, again, when merry becomes mayhem. Rootless trees are transported from forest to city on the top of any vehicle that has more than one wheel. No matter what your affiliation or religious belief, and no matter how the holiday is celebrated, it is virtually impossible to avoid the madness that befalls from mid-November until 24th December. Unless you stock pile food and go into hibernation from Thanksgiving until New Year, you cannot avoid even the supermarkets, which are more chaotic than usual. I have to admit that I am one of the crowd but am far from being filled with joy.
I generally travel home twice a year; once mid year and once at Christmas. I try to accumulate presents throughout the year, to take home for birthdays and the Yuletide season. However, I am often asked to bring items that are unavailable in the UK, and by the same token, we cannot survive in the USA without our twiglets, so my suitcases are generally filled to the brim each way with miscellaneous objects. Clothes become a luxury as there is almost never any room left in my bag for more than a pair of jeans. Although my stipulation is that acquisitional requests be made by the first week of December, the last minute 'can you buy' requirements are inevitable.
Samantha and I headed for the mall on Saturday, shortly after one o'clock. The queues to enter the car park were lengthy and the amount of driverless vehicles lined up along the perimeter road, was indicative of the crowd that was going to be present in the building. I was ready to turn the car around, at that point, and head for home. However, I took a deep breath and stayed silent.
Our list was, fortunately, reasonably small, but the objects on said log were not as easily found as we had hoped. After visiting the shoe shop, we entered the department store in the hope of securing all items so that we could depart the pandemonium, but it was not to be. I managed to find a couple of shirts and queued up at the 'queue starts here' sign, and waited for a free cash register. The rather jolly chap at the till was rather excited at my purchasing Texas Longhorn shirts, in light of their recent dismal season, and rung up the tickets. I handed him a voucher to see if it was valid for the purchase. It was not. Quite surprisingly, he stamped his foot and declared, 'that's not fair, I want to go home!' I thanked him for taking the matter personally, but insisted that I still wanted the product. As I did not have the correct amount, I handed him a larger dollar bill with the correct change so that he could return four single notes without any silver or copper being necessary. 'What fun!', he exclaimed as his till rung up a whole number to be returned.
We proceeded down the halls and entered a store that is very popular with the younger generation. Without mentioning the name, to protect the innocent, the description may be enough to give away our destination. I never enter the store without wishing I had brought a flashlight and a pair of earplugs. It is very dimly lit and the music quite deafening for aged ears. I usually head for the middle of the shop, where there are comfortable arm chairs, and sit and wait until it is time to leave. The only way the place could be made tollerable for a mature person of my not so many years, is to offer a nice cup of tea, whilst waiting for my party members to complete their purchases. Leading me by the hand as I adjusted my eyes to the darkness, Samantha took me to the back of the shop for a second opinion. 'Don't leave me; I'm scared', I told her. 'I've got a headache', was the second comment, which caused her to roll her eyes and tell me to go and sit down. I made my way to the centre where I fought for a seat with other middle agers accompanying their offsprings. She always regrets taking me into the store as my comments are always the same. Before leaving, I usually ask if anyone knows the whereabout of the light switch, and depart with the heavy scent of their cologne iritating my nose. Today was no different, but the trip into the modern day disco was successful as far as purchases acquired.
Having been to three shops, I was now ready to leave. The fact that we still had two thirds of our list unbought was irrelevant. Samantha's counselling is most effective, however, and standing me in the corner and demanding that I pull myself together did the trick and, with the promise of coffee, pulled me through for another hour at least.
Onwards and upwards, we took the escalator to the next floor and attempted to find the departments that would best suit our needs. It has become practice for sales staff, having rung up the final amount, to ask for a telephone number or zip (postal) code. The theory is that they can accumulate the amount of people coming from each area, which perhaps dictates the whereabouts of future stores. I have no problem with giving my zip code. My phone number is, quite frankly, none of their business. When refusing in one store, the sales assistant became quite agressive. She needed it to let me know of any future sales, but assured me that my number would not be used for any other purposes. I told her that I did not need to know, personally, when their sales were taking place, and that I was on their email list, thus ensuring me of notification. She seemed to take this personally and would not pass my purchase across the counter. Then I took it personally, and asked for either my goods, or my money back. I received my goods.
Battling against the crowds, (we always seem to be walking the wrong way....I am certain it has something to do with the side of the road on which you drive...think about it,) we entered the next shop. Ladies undergarment shops seem to be full of men looking at the ceiling. If they ever wonder why their spouses/partners are wearing something they do not particularly care for, it is probably because, when asked, 'do you like this', they answer, 'yeah sure' without removing their eyes from the roof. It must be like entering a torture chamber, as they bump into every stand that is below rafter level.
The final store required our ducking and diving, avoiding the perfume sprayers. With a definite 'no' to their question, 'would you like to try', they spray irrespectively. Not particularly interested in hitting a direct target, the eyes are usually the receiving point. Walking around the rest of the store, is a breeze. With everyone wondering why we were winking at them, we were left to browse in peace.
Eventually, our purchases made, we left the mall and went our separate ways. Samantha went to meet her beau and I found Dana, waiting for me, asleep in the car, at the end of Row B-3. We then lunched at our favourite Mexican restaurant and headed for the supermarket, where the crowds were surprisingly less manic and agressive.
After a reasonable night's rest and still having one or two items still to buy, we headed south to the outlet mall. Lunching at the Cracker Barrell, which is always packed to the brim but well worth the wait, we headed for specific targets and, as there was nowhere to park, Dana opted to stay in the car whilst I visited the 'smalls' shop. As I entered, a black mesh bag was thrust under my nose with a 'Welcome' and 'Happy Holidays' greeting. Although the weather had been quite cold when we left home, the temperature had risen slightly and the need for a coat, especially inside, was unnecessary. I was now entrusted with the shopping bag as well as having to hold my coat and scarf (the gloves had been disgarded and left in the car) and attempting to find ten pairs of essentials that had enough material to distinguish them from dental floss, with every other woman needing the same size. Avoiding the men looking upward, I made my way through to the back where I queued for ten minutes with others holding spaces for those still shopping. Five people in front of you with one garment each is not so daunting, but then their counterparts come rushing towards them and unload a dozen articles, all of which are not tagged. The headsets and mics are very useful but somewhat confusing at times. The sales assistant smiled and asked how I was doing, and if I found everything I was looking for. I smiled back and was just about to reply, when she shouted, '29.99 on the backwall'. Slightly confused, I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I didnt need anything on the back wall. Looking at me like I had just invaded a private conversation, she told me that she was talking to a colleague. Having to decipher to whom she was talking, and picking replies accordingly, I waited for her to ring up my full behind fitting underwear, and then refused to give my phone number.
I headed back to the car, where Dana was still parked in a no parking zone, and on the telephone, when I noticed I was missing my scarf. A gift from Joe, our friend and coffee roaster, my scarf is made of beautifully soft lambswool, and was brought back from Peru. It is one of those accessories that matches everything. Horrified, I retracked my steps and as I turned the corner, it was on a bench, next to a lady who looked at me, and said, 'Is this what you are looking for?' I thanked her profusely and ran back to the car, as fast as my heels would allow. Dana, presumably pleased to see me with my scarf, handed me the phone to chat to his mum, as he attempted to start the car. Isn't that clicking noise the worst possible sound you could wish to hear when turning a key in a vehicle. Checking the whereabouts of the battery (which is in the boot), he got out of the car to expose the offending object. Being practical (and saying cheerio to his mum, as she insisted we take care of business), I suggested he lift the bonnet in the hope that someone would understand our predicament and take pity. With the amount of trucks, it would seem probable that someone would have some jump leads and lend a hand. Had I mentioned it was the season of giving, the season of joy, the season of goodwill to all men. Two people asked if they could help. Hundreds passed by. Eventually, with Samantha, Edward and the dog on the road to rescue us, Dana stopped someone who fortunately was willing to help, and had jump leads, and the car started on the first turn of the key. Samantha, Edward and the dog u-turned, and we headed home.
With all my purchases, bar one, now stored in the spare room awaiting packing, I made some dough for my newest concoction...chocolate bread. I will be home for Christmas, but you will have to wait and see ... if that is...another story.