Friday, 12 June 2009

Shop till you drop

I can see why men can hate clothes shopping. It’s not just the waiting; it’s the people.

Trying to walk down Oxford Street in London is bad enough, but trying to move from rack to rack in Primark is beyond a joke.

First, there is the not-so-subconscious competition between women trying to imitate the £10,000 look of the currently in-vogue celeb.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but when it comes to clothes shopping I prefer my comfy clothes rather than my butt-wedged skinny jeans and monstrous heels – it’s about practicality. But it does mean I’m not on the fashion radar. While this is clearly an advantage for my fellow competitors – because, as they see it, they have right of way – it, however, does little for fighting my corner.

Next, there is actually getting to the clothes.

With several hundred beautified women all swarming around the racks there really isn’t such a word as browsing when it comes to clothes shopping. It’s more swoop and grab; like some sort of evolutionary survival behaviour.

But it also comes down to luck – once having elbowed your way to the rack, finding your size is at times almost impossible. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if there is a vendetta against women who are below the “average size” – no size 10; ha-ha try again. I have been trumped more than once.

Yet, against the survival odds you come out with a pile of clothes to try on only to find a line, worthy of queues for Madonna tickets, snaking its way around the store. Do you give up? Bugger that – not after the torment of hunting.

Now, if you’re shopping savvy you do what every other shopper does – bypass the changing rooms and try the clothes on right there on the shop floor. Sure a coat or jacket; but seriously a pair of trousers?!

Ok so you’re my way inclined and prefer not to bare all to your competitors on the shop floor, so it’s a matter of patience and then finally, halleluiah, you get to the front of the queue only to be told it’s a maximum of six items for each changing room.

Now you have to shuttle back and forth from the changing cubicle replenishing your stock of clothes to try on and all the while envying those girls who were brave enough to drop their drawers out in public, who are probably right now enjoying a fat-free muffin and soy-latte.

The funny thing is, you go through all this for what? No one actually cares what you wear in London. You could probably get away with wearing a garbage bag and not be looked at twice. The truth is, everyone is just too worried about what they look like themselves to worry about the looks of anyone else. Now, where are my stirrup trousers?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Getting back to basics

When I think of camping I have a rather romantic notion in my head – sitting round a camp fire, toasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories or singing songs as someone strums a guitar. And all the while, stars twinkle overhead in a clear black sky.

Well, everyone can dream can’t they?

Thankfully, I am somewhat aware that this vision in my head is only that, a vision; so I thought I was pretty on the ball when it came to my latest adventure.

Our destination was the Isle of Wight. Camping. Not that scary really considering we were in a holiday camp not on some remote outcrop in the middle of nowhere with only a can opener for company. I mean our camping ground even had a pub on site – how cushy is that?

So it’s not like anything could really go wrong, could it?

Well let me tell you, people sometimes forget to mention the finer things when it comes to camping, like it’s a good idea to travel by car not by foot.

Being in a recession and all, it seemed like a pretty intelligent idea to skip the car and choose the cheap option of public transport and foot.

Yeah, intelligent, until we took into account the fact we had to carry a tent, mattress, and a sleeping bag along with our backpack and clothes. And having once been a Girl Guide I also packed toilet paper, bottled water, various bug-fighting sprays and gels, and even an umbrella – just about everything bar the kitchen sink (and wellies, based on some misguided hope that it wouldn’t rain).

It wasn’t like I was travelling light.

First stage of the journey was getting from the house to the tube station. 10 minutes of walking with an extra 10kgs on your back. Not exactly my idea of optimum fun. Then overland train to Southampton, which clearly does not cater for people with backpacks. Then onto a shuttle bus and finally onto the ferry to our destination. But it didn’t end there; we still had to get to the camp ground – only a further delightful 10 minute walk that included an uphill trek.

By the time we finally arrived, some three hours later, my shoulders were bruised, I was permanently bent over at the waist, and a fetid smell was beginning to issue from my armpits.

But really I shouldn’t be complaining; it’s all part of the adventure.

Thankfully the tent went up in one piece and relatively easily, though a mallet for hammering in the pegs would have been a helpful addition (probably in place of the toilet paper, for as it turned out the on-site toilets were fully catered – there was even a hair dryer).

However, as Murphy’s Law would have it my tent decided to break on the second night. Flimsy el-cheapo piece of crap. Some stupid little do-whatsit that held one of those pole thingimies decided to go their separate ways leading to a rather dilapidated tent. Amazingly, I happened to be carrying some safety pins, which went some way to keeping the tent upright, in a collapsed sort of way, for the night. A few gusts of wind though and I would have probably either been a goner or suffocated to death.

Meanwhile, another Murphy’s Law is that it will more than likely rain at some point during the camp adventure. Low and behold, day three, I wake up to the sound of rain on the tent. A little bit more than spitting but not an outright downpour. I was pleased to see that even in its collapsed state my tent still withstood the rain. My friend’s tent, however, was showing minor signs of leakage. It was time to pack up.

So what were the take home messages?

1) While a circle or semi-circle arrangement of tents is great, not so great on a slope, especially if your air mattress angles side on with the slope as every time you turn over you roll off the mattress (this is of course if you even remember to bring a mattress!)

2) Three pairs of socks, winter PJs, thermals, a hoodie and a second hoodie wrapped around the feet is sufficient to keep me warm inside my sleeping bag at night. In the morning with the sun, this set up is very very hot.

3) Always remember to take a torch with you when going in search of the toilet block at 2 o’clock in the morning – sometimes the lights in the toilets don’t go on.

4) If showering, always carry everything in a plastic bag or you are likely to drop some of your clothes on the ground and not realise it until it is too late.

5) While proper chairs and a table might be nice, as long as you remember a bottle opener, cork screw and a pack of cards then it’s happy days.