(Poster for Au Moine Saint-Martin in The Poster in History by Max Gallo, Hamlyn 1972)
Whatever happened to shopping? It used to be fun.
These days, my enthusiasm for shopping has dwindled to almost zero. I am sure I am not alone in saying that I find clothes shopping particularly demoralising. My actual size is usually something like the secret floor in Being John Malkovich, mysteriously stuck somewhere between L and XL. And the dreaded change-room experience is something like the last scene of All About Eve, but even more chilling, and with added love handles.
Last weekend I set off with gritted teeth, clenched fists and an optimistic wallet, determined to buy myself some sort of goddamn treat. I have been a good boy of late, keeping my head down, working hard and staying off the turps. I have been squirrelling away my pennies for a forthcoming overseas jaunt (Only 36 sleeps to go. I should know. I have been scratching them on the wall in crossed fives, with my own blood, like a delusional convict). I demanded some instant gratification, some distraction from creeping time, and convinced myself that I deserved it. Needless to say, I was thwarted. Instant gratification was nowhere to be found on the boulevards of Adelaide.
I looked at all manner of objets but felt disappointed and paralysed with indecision. I have learned my lesson about impulse buying. Consequently, something as simple as buying a cucumber could involve at least five reconnaissance missions. I soon resigned myself to the fact that I may well go home empty handed. It also takes a lot to drown out the austere voices of my childhood which admonish that objets will not, or, more accurately, should not make me happy. I was always haunted by the Bible Story of the Rich Fool and his silos of grain. That said, I liked the bit before he died and went to hell and all that.
Lest I sound like I am on a high horse, let me say that objets can and do make me happy. The frippery I surround myself with helps me construct a comforting little retro fantasy that distracts me from the fact that my life is far from the glamorous, world-conquering existence I dreamed of as a child.
The day was not entirely a wash out. As I traipsed, stoop-shouldered under grey skies, a whole raft of happy memories started to filter into my consciousness. I wandered into dusty corners I had not visited since I was a tyke. I thought about when shopping "in town" was something to look forward to. Travelling in on the bus with Mum or a sister on a Saturday (everything was closed on Sunday). Getting dressed up for the day in my 'trendiest' outfit. Having a cappucino or maybe even a cheese roll or something fancy like a quiche at a cafe. Maybe even seeing a film at a cinema long since demolished. Mum buying dresses that I was told not to tell Dad about. Lustfully fingering coffee table books stacked up on remainder tables. It was not often that we bought them (unless they were drastically reduced), but just knowing that they were there was comforting. Buying posters. Incense. Singles. Badges. All those book and record shops which have disappeared or been taken over by chains. What does "in town" mean these days? It seemed then that anything could be found "in town". Now it seems the opposite is true. It seems that anything can be found on the net. Which is not as much fun. And, alas, does not involve cheese rolls.