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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bargains, bargains everywhere but not a thing to buy.

With the hype of Christmas Day and the extended present giving days now behind us for another year, it was time to hit the sales.  I had plans to hook up with an old school friend on Wednesday and dinner plans, then on Thursday I was going to meet another friend at the mall, and perhaps do a little more shopping. 

I am the ultimate bargain hunter.  My antennae tingle every time I approach a 'reduced' sticker.  I have been told that I can smell a bargain.  After the holidays, Walmart is like an Aladdin's cave, and I have to convince myself that I will never eat a dozen boxes of candy canes, even if they are reduced to 10c a pack.  I am the bearer of gifts, probably unwanted, because I can not leave anything on the shelf.  When asked, 'would you like all this for a dollar', and realising the assistant meant a dollar for as much as we could fit into the trolley, I replied, 'who wouldnt', and handed over my one greenback for a variety of items, most of which was discarded.  It is the thrill of the chase rather than gaining something of value, although the gaining something of value makes the chase all the more thrilling.

I recall the sales in London.  I was fortunate enough to work in an office on Regent's Street, and the big store sales brought in enormous crowds.  One particular sale brought thousands to the shoe department.  Every woman in the shop knew the shoe she wanted.  If it was too big, she could stuff it with newspaper; too small, toes could be amputated.  I would fore go the shoes just to watch the procedure.

Heading for the sales while I was back home, therefore, was a given.  We decided to skip the start on Monday and took off for Marks and Spencer after the traditional breakfast and housework on Tuesday.  The crowds were still vying for bargains.  Feet were being forced into shoes two sizes too small.  Suddenly the oversize look becomes popular in coats; the sleeve extending far beyond the hand looks so chic.  The seasoned 'saler', understands that once the item is seen, it is a race against time.  As soon as one person spots 'the' bargain, everyone sees it.  Nothing will get in the way of the hunter.  Under rails, over shelves, through crowds, the obstacles are no hindrance and the more agile does not necessarily win against the old timer, who has a lifetime of experience.  The person who suffers in this arena is the browser.  Never go to the first few days of a sale to browse.  If you have not come to save a fortune spending money, you have no right to be on the premises!  I was one of the 'indifferent'.  Us indifferents are focused.  We know what we want and have an agenda.  We duck and weaver to avoid the sale junkies, but are equally aggressive with the browser.  I made my purchase and proceeded to supermarket.  Here I was the hunter.  Standing in the entrance, I sniffed once, twice, then studied the formation of the crowd, and let my antenna take over. Striding to the selected aisle, I waited for the unseasoned shopper to step just a bit to the left, and slipped into the front row with ease.  I was now able to slide back and forth and have first pick of the goodies, leaving no room for the former space occupier to resume their position.

All my good intentions of not stuffing my suitcases with chocolate flew out of the proverbial window and I was filling my arms with every tube and package that was reduced significantly.  Once in the basket, I could be more selective and abandon unwanted packages at will. 

I did spot my friend Dianne in the shop and we stopped for as long as the crowd would allow and waved goodbye as we were carried away with the tide. 

Having had enough for one day, we headed home and Mum, Elise and I had a very nice, larger than necessary, lunch.  It was still very cold but the threat of rain was looming and the snow was soon to be gone for the foreseeable future. 

Wednesday morning, after breakfast and the housework, I put on my coat, boots and hat, over my nightdress, and scooped together a small but very well proportioned, snowman.  There is something about snow that brings out the child in us all....or at least most of us.  The urge to squash the snow into a ball, then roll it until it is large enough for a body, never seems to leave, and I would have spent more time perfecting my ice sculpture if we had not had to make another trip to the supermarket.  Time was of the essence as my old school friend was coming to visit at 2.  Although it was a little before 10am, we still had to have a shower and be back in time to eat lunch. 

The crowds had subsided somewhat and the left over sale items were already being confined to the far corners of the shop.  With different styles and sizes being stored on single racks, the reduced section started to resemble a jumble sale.  Amazingly enough, however, there were some items of chocolate that had been hidden the previous day, and I was very grateful that I had espied them, although I was starting to wonder about the weight of my suitcases; this thought remained in my mind for no more than a couple of seconds as I decided that the items were essential.

We did get home in time to eat a more than adequate lunch, again, and Andrea arrived after calling to say she was running a bit late.  We caught up with years of news and four and a half hours later, still only just having scratched the surface, we said cheerio and I left to go out for dinner. 

Thursday, I braved the sales yet again and took the bus to Watford.  Having had a driving license and use of a car for the best part of 33 years, buses were the last mode of public transport I tended to use.  However, being wheel-less has deemed it my only independent form of transport and provided they run on time, I have gained a certain appreciation for being driven by a stranger and drinking in the scenery.  People watching is also a favourite past time and the bus is the perfect arena.  The bus stops outside the mall at the end of its run, and then begins again from the same spot, returning in the opposite direction. 

Going to the sales on the bus is a wonderful idea.  Coming home with bags of heavy shopping tends to wear slightly on the appreciation, but when the alternative is staying at home, the fire for it's charm reignites, rapidly.  Having alighted from the bus, I entered Marks and Spencer food hall, and walked into the main store, where the queue for 'returns' trailed through the shop like a snake.  Heads were moving from side to side, possibly looking for a familiar face in the line, hopefully not the giver of the item that was being returned.  The shops in the mall were still stacked with sale items, and the excitement at finding the right size was quickly diminished as it was realised the cube indicating the size on the hanger bore no resemblance to the items measurements.  Once again, if the item is required, the size is irrelevant.  I have a pair of trousers in my cupboard that need to be made shorter.  I bought them because they were exactly what I wanted, and were the right price, in the sale.....three years ago. 

I made my way to the end of the mall, where I met Sheena, my fellow blogger, and we enjoyed a cup of coffee, followed by a hot chocolate and scone.  Indulgence at its best. 

My purchases were certainly bargains, and I didn't have to queue for too long.  The joy that was on the faces of the sales assistant the previous week, had disappeared and was replaced by a depressed frown.  'Have a nice day', spoken from a mouth that is turned down at the edges, doesn't fill the receiver with much sense of elation. My cheery disposition was not approved by many cashiers, and no one was 'good', when I inquired of their general well being.  They were all 'okay', and the validity of that answer was doubtful. I left the mall with a tie, a pair of socks and several packets of batteries, along with some vital unnecessary items and waited for the bus.

The ride home was very pleasant.  The bus arrived and after the driver had placed his bet on the next race in the bookmakers, that is conveniently situated by the stop, (or perhaps, by the smile on his face, he was collecting his winnings) we headed back along the same route I had travelled earlier.  I listened to a group of school girls discussing their plans for new years eve, as did the rest of the passengers.  I walked from the stop and arrived back at mums to find we had visitors, for tea, which meant, fortunately, that I had to fore go lunch.  Much as I love my food, it was blissful to be denied. 

After our guests had departed, we once again made our way to the supermarket and Marks and Spencer.  The sale items were now hardly noticeable and the focus was on New Year nibbles and it was assumed that if outfits had not already been purchased, a higher price would have to be expected to be paid.  

The lack of food for lunch was definitely made up for at supper.  Double portions were piled onto my plate, in case I was fading away from malnourishment.

I promised myself I would not buy anything else to jeopardise the weight in my cases, but Friday meant a trip to Iceland, where the crisps are always on special offer.  Two days left and then the trip home which would make.....another story.

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