On making time to be ill

It’s Friday.

I’m supposed to be in the middle of a two day committee meeting. Instead I am lying on a towel looking at this:

rejoicing at the slight breeze and listening to the birdsong and the buzzing of a million insects.

Yesterday I looked up at the sky through the branches for the first time in too long. As I lay there, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I’d done that. It’s amazing how seldom I lie on my back outside.

The day before that I lay beside a lake and looked at the reeds and listened to the frogs:

***

I have been neglecting myself recently, or at least not paying attention properly.

I’ve been working long hours during the day and watching the stars at night and not sleeping enough in between. I’ve been talking too much and not listening to my body enough. I’ve been eating beans and pancakes and müsli and chocolate and not nearly enough fruit and veg. I’ve been cycling and rowing (on the machine) but not stretching or actively relaxing. I’ve been trying to get things done, but not standing back to see which things are actually important. I’ve been spending a lot of time dithering and rushing about (mostly in circles) inside and not so much just existing outside.

All this is probably why I was the perfect victim for a passing virus. And also why I found myself spending the last few days in an exhausted heap observing the greenery and assorted wildlife.

As they say,

“If you won’t take time to be healthy, you’ll have to make time to be ill”

There’s a lot of truth in that.

Unfortunately.

On the other hand, even though being ill is no fun, there’s a lot to be said for lying on the ground under a tree, just recuperating. I might have to come here more often, even when I’m well again. Also, having a sore throat is the perfect excuse to up my icecream consumption :p.

***

I was invited to a party on Saturday. I had to turn it down because I wouldn’t be back from the committee meeting in time. That meant I was free to go to my AuPair kid’s birthday on Sunday, seeing as I was in Southern Germany anyway (and once I found out that I wouldn’t make it back for the party). Now, I’m not going anywhere. Hmph.

Not travelling means not needing train tickets. I was so chuffed about booking them in advance (and thereby saving money) but it seems that even if I am organised it doesn’t work out.. Very miffed about that – I thought I was doing so well! Luckily the train company refunds tickets up to the day they’re valid so I only “lost” the cancellation fee.

***

The next bit’s boring, mostly just for my memory in case I need to be reminded later.

I was tired and unmotivated for most of the weekend. Things that should have taken a few minutes took several hours. I started things and left them on the floor. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to buy when I went shopping and spent ages dithering between this one and that one, walking back to the shelves and putting things back, only to turn round when I reached the end of the isle and pick it up again, having changed my mind (this is a semi-normal thing when I go shopping, I’m just not usually quite as dithery as this weekend).

I had a dry throat and unquenchable thirst, along with a headache for most of Monday and Tuesday. Drinking 3L of water in less than 6 hours is possibly a little excessive, but it’s been 30+ degrees C in Berlin for a while, and 34+ in the workshop, so I assumed it was due to a combination of heat, dehydration and potentially a slight lack of salt.

Then I dropped my bike while getting off it at the crossroads on the way to work on Tuesday. Who’s that weak?! I put that, too, down to the heat and made a point of drinking even more, this time alternating water with squash, briefly thinking about adding some kind of strength training into my already largely unsuccessful mornings.

Swallowing started to hurt (rather than scratch) about mid afternoon. I waited until no one else was using the loos at work and looked at the back of my throat in the mirror (my mirror at home is waiting for me to finish its new frame). My tonsils were swollen and had white patches. Ewww.

That night I tossed and turned, froze, boiled, fought with the duvet, staggered back and forth to the bathroom and was generally not particularly rested when the alarm went off in the morning. I fought my way out of bed and towards the end of the road. I wanted to stop at the doctor’s before work and ask what to do about of the white splotches.

Turns out working isn’t good for healing. It’s also not good for other people if you work while you’re contagious.. Who knew. 😉

She stole some blood and wrote me off work for 3(+x) days and told me to get lots of rest and to avoid other people and talking. (She also recommended medicinal throat sweets, but they made my mouth hurt, so I gave up after the 4th).

The chemist suggested vitamin C crystals with added Zink. Taking that as she recommended.

Slept well and often for most of the rest of the day.

On lacking expectation

I cycled to work this morning. It rained half the way there. The first half. Only the first half I suppose. I wasn’t expecting it to stop but it did.

***

After work, I had a plan to get a couple of trains to a distant part of town to try on a ski-helmet and pick up a pair of skis. After that I was going to get a train back and go and pick up the mattress.

***

I originally planned to leave my bike at work and swap it for the skis and possibly the helmet before cycling home. When I looked at the map and the local transport app at lunchtime, I discovered that I wouldn’t be home in time for the mattress if I relied on the buses to take me from A to B and B to C. I decided to take my bike and cycle from the station to the helmet, then to the skis and push the bike to the next station where a direct train would bring me to within 10 minutes of my flat.

***

Did anyone else notice the parts where I said plan and claimed it as my own?

Did all the alarm bells start ringing?

Did you feel the words “uh-oh” forming, ready to be released at a moment’s notice?

Did you see the chaos building up in the distance like the storm currently waiting to attack Berlin?

No? I didn’t either. I ran straight into it headlong.

I didn’t expect anything. But it expected me. I must be good company, or at least a regular visitor…

***

We had a fire alarm at work after lunch and before I could write my plan down.

Afterwards, I tried to get my work done so I could leave on time.

I almost did, too.

***

It wasn’t raining when I left my workshop so I packed my waterproof overskirt away in my panier.

It started raining just as I got outside the building. I don’t like being wet if it’s a cold kind of wet, and I especially dislike cycling in wet jeans, so I stopped and unpacked it.

I wasn’t expecting to spend time getting dressed once I’d left.

I didn’t expect the lift to be full when I got to the station so that I needed to wait for it to come up a second time.

I didn’t expect to miss the first train on my list of 3.

I didn’t expect the lifts at the second station to only go up when the train I needed to catch was a floor lower than the one I started on.

I didn’t expect the second lift, a lift I crossed a road especially to reach, to bring me back to the middle floor.

I didn’t remember my bike being so heavy when I decided to carry it down and up the next stairs I encountered.

I wasn’t aware that one station name in Berlin can actually mean 3 separate stations for the 3 types of train, and that they can be several hundred metres away from each other.

I didn’t appreciate having to visit each one of them to realise it.

I didn’t remember that the third train I wanted to catch only left once an hour.

I really didn’t like having to retrace my steps to get an alternative train from a station I’d already fought my way out of.

***

I didn’t check the map closely enough to know that the street I was looking for, started with one name and ended with a different one.

I didn’t realise that I cycled right past it without noticing.

I wasn’t paying enough attention as I started enjoying cycling along a straight cycle path without rain.

I wasn’t ready for the dark when the street lights stopped.

I wasn’t expecting my bike’s front light to be weaker than the wind-up torch I took on a night walk in 6th form.

I didn’t want to stop on the side of a busy but dark road with nothing but the dim glow of a fading dynamo to show where I was in order to check the map again.

I trusted Google when it recommended an alternative route from my current position when I finally felt safe enough to check.

I didn’t know, when I set out down the “dead end – pedestrian access only” road, that it would lead me into the middle of a very muddy field.

I didn’t know you could switch between the directions mode and the map mode without retyping the street name.

I didn’t know, once I was in a particularly boggy patch of field, whether it would be quicker to turn round and go back, or to carry on squelching.

I couldn’t imagine that I could be so scared of things that go bump (or knatterknatterknatter) in the dark.

I wasn’t expecting the torch on my phone to be so good.

I didn’t know in advance that I would rather cycle unnecessarily far by road, just to avoid a couple of hundred metres along a dark path through a woods

I didn’t know, when I set out from work, that I would arrive at the helmet man’s house later with the bicycle than I would have done without it.

I didn’t know, from the picture and the description, that the helmet would be just a smidgen too small.

I also didn’t know from the brief phone calls we’d had, that the seller would be so gracious about letting me traipse mud all through his immaculate house. “Relax! It’s all tiled and washable – it gets muddy every time I come in from working in the garden :)”

I didn’t know it would take me more than twice the time Google suggested to cycle across to the ski lady’s house.

I didn’t know that the skis would be so sharp that they’d take the paint off my handlebars when I rested them there.

I didn’t know that I would have such a problem steering when I got the skis into a stable position.

I couldn’t guess that the wind would pick up and join the pouring rain to slow down my attempts to get to the station while pushing my bike and balancing a pair of skis.

***

I didn’t expect to have to ask someone how to get into the train station.

I didn’t count on missing the last direct train of the evening and having to take three other indirect trains instead.

I didn’t think my phone battery would go down so fast, but I also didn’t think the last few percent would last all the way home.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to me on the train, and when they did, I wasn’t expecting them to say, “don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve got a wife and a kid waiting for me” as we got out at the same station.

***

I didn’t expect to get home more than 7 hours and 22km after leaving work, 3 hours later than I wanted to pick up the mattress.

***

Despite everything, I still feel it was a successful day..

One on which I feel I definitely earned my sleep.

***

Talking of sleep…I wasn’t planning on sleeping on the floor again tonight, but then, life always seems to have more in store for me than I could ever imagine.

(And I wasn’t expecting the neighbour to phone and apologize, but he did – assuming the mattress man is understanding enough not to sell the mattress to someone else tomorrow, we’re all set to pick it up in the evening 🙂 – wheee!)

On trying, and failing, to count to 20

“I think that’s 12” he said, from the top step of a wobbly stepladder. “Although they won’t stay still long enough for me to count them properly. I haven’t counted the rest, but there’s no way there’s another 20 in there”.

“That’s ok, we’ll take them all, even if there aren’t going to be as many as we wanted”.

***

Last Sunday (written last week, so really the Sunday before last), we decided to buy more fish. It’s an idea we’d played with for a while and because we’ve finally finished the light box and changed the water it seemed like a good day to act on it.

We have discus fish. They are generally pretty friendly, but they are liable to eat anything small enough to bite and slow enough to get bitten. On the other hand, they don’t eat all the food they’re given on any given day. The uneaten fish food makes the water ‘bad’ (I have no idea how. I think it has something to do with the pH value, but I don’t actually know), and encourages the wrong sort of plants to grow.

We need something to eat the leftover food, without getting eaten. We don’t want to spend loads of money on them, but we also don’t want something that won’t work in our aquarium.

To make things more complicated, discus fish are originally from South America and DB doesn’t want to mix continents. The choice of South American fish bred to survive in limescale-y German tap water isn’t huge.

The number of fish that fulfill all the criteria AND can be found in fish shops which open on Sundays is even smaller.

We chose Trauermantelsalmler*. They need a herd (or a school) to be happy**. 50 would be ideal, but even the cheaper, not-yet-fully-grown fish are expensive en mass, so we agreed 30 would be ok.

***

I think it is less than ideal that no one had told the trainee fish salesman that the fish scoops have extra long handles so that they can be hung on the side of the aquarium to save several journeys up and down the wobbly ladder. Especially when it was obvious that he was not a natural ladder climber, wobbly or otherwise.

Considering that we were in the fish department of a D.I.Y. shop, I think it is bad marketing for the trainee fish salesman to have a wobbly ladder at all

It would’ve been nice if he’d left a bit more water in the fish-transport-bag too, but I think he’s at the beginning of his training and will learn the rest soon. He might learn it more quickly if the dragon-like lady-at-the-till tells him she couldn’t lie the bag down because she’d have stranded them in the shallows.

***

As we left the till ready to crunch our way accross the frozen carpark to the van, I tucked the fishbag inside my jacket. I pulled my T-shirt up, and allowed the warmth to travel from my stomach to the water. The fish need at least 26 degrees (Centigrade, this is Germany ;)), 28 is preferable and 30 is about the upper limit. I am always cold in comparison to DB, so I figured I was unlikely to cook them on the 15 minute journey home. I kept the heated seat turned right up to avoid freezing myself :).

***

DB opened first the aquarium lid, then the fish bag, as soon as we got in, before we could get waylaid with timewasting activities like taking our shoes off. (I love traipsing snow into the house 🙂 (Really. I just don’t get the chance all that often – DB is such a spoilsport!)).

The process of transferring fish is pretty much the same whatever fish you buy: a bit of aquarium water is added to the bag, which is then resealed and left to swim in the aquarium. This lets the fish get used to the new water, without getting cold.***

Half an hour or so later DB tipped out most of the water in the bag (so we didn’t end up with the shop water in our tank****) and replaced it with ‘our water’. Another few minutes acclimatisation and they were ready to explore.

***

Theoretically, all new fish should go into a quarantine aquarium to make sure they’re healthy but we don’t have a quarantine aquarium, or even space for a part time quarantine aquarium, so we decided to risk it. Actually, it wasn’t really a decision. It was already clear that if we were going to buy new fish we were going to risk the health of the existing fish. Sometimes you just have to accept the risk and carry on.

***

As soon as they left the bag, the new fish raced to the end of the tank, and around the perimeter, and back and forth along the front,  presumably to find the best means of escape…

Black Tetra in Aquarium
Finally free! (the rest are already out of the picture)

There is none. Poor things. (Although I’m pretty sure they’d favour life in a substandard aquarium over life on the carpet if they ever did escape).

Took them a while to realise though – even longer than it took me to count them and be happy with the result.

There are 22.

The trainee had counted them and reached 20. He’d written 20 on the bag, and we’d paid for 20. I’m not going to complain, but,

“What do they teach them in these schools!”*****

😉

 

* Black Tetras. Also known as black skirt tetra, petticoat tetra, high-fin black skirt tetra, and black widow tetra. The German literally means “mourning mantel Tetra”

** not many people I know who need a school to be happy 😉

*** If you’re just moving them between aquariums, you can use a bucket. There’s usually enough water in a bucket, that it won’t get cold, so it doesn’t need to be floated in the aquarium..

**** helps to reduce risk of disease transfer

***** The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis

☆☆☆

[Edit, 11. Feb: I thought someone would make a clever comment involving catch 22, but no one has…]

On banknotes and other liabilities

By “other liabilities” I mostly just mean myself.

I just went into a shop to buy a lens cover for DB’s camera.

Easy right?

Wrong.

Despite seeing better every day, it appears that I still can’t see well enough to be let loose in society.

The cover was supposed to cost 15€ which felt like a lot, but still less than replacing the lens if it gets scratched.

http://www.opixx.org/images/for-free/originals/money_finance__business_economy_26/10euro_schein_20130714_1640998163.jpg
A 10€ note

I took out my purse and handed the man-behind-the-counter the first red note I found in it. In my head, red notes are 10s. He took it and immediately turned towards the till which I thought was a bit impatient but I ignored my thoughts and continued rummaging through my purse for the remaining 5€. A few seconds later I took out the next red note, which I also handed over and which he also took.

So far so good.

http://www.opixx.org/images/for-free/originals/money_finance__business_economy_26/50_euro_20130714_1336324660.jpg
NOT a 10€ note

When he handed me 35€ back, I was a little bit confused. Then I realised I must have given him a 50€ note to begin with, not a 10€ as I’d thought. 50s are brown, but apparently a very reddish brown.

 

Side note:

It appears my ability to judge colour is out of whack too.

http://www.opixx.org/images/for-free/originals/money_finance__business_economy_26/vier_verschiedene_euroscheine_20130714_1668553110.jpg
Pictures of banknotes found on Opixx.org

Since I usually read everything I look at without having to think about it, it’s not usually a problem. I don’t rely on the colour, I read the numbers too. Not that I ever have 50s on me, at least not regularly.

If I’d thought about it, I could have held the notes up to my nose and been able to read them, just not at arms length.

IF.

But I didn’t.

ARGH.

So.

Back to the shop scene.

I looked at the 35€ in my hand. Then at the man, “there’s 10€ missing” (I hoped the second note had been a 10€, not another 50€). He said 50-15 is 35, so it was exactly right. I said I’d given him two notes, he asked why he would take a second note when the first was already more than enough (fair point). I said I had no idea, but that he had definitely taken the second note as I handed it to him. He’d already closed the till so he was no longer holding any notes at all which left it my word against his.

In the end, we settled for him giving me 5€. That way we both risked losing 5€ instead of 10€.

I left the shop wanting to kick things. Including myself. I hate it when I make that sort of unnecessary mistake.

In future, at least until I have glasses, DB will have to be responsible for all purchases.

On shopping – or not

(Pretend this was posted at 22:45 on November 7th – I started writing in bed but fell asleep before I could press ‘post’. As it’s the middle of the night, and not morning yet, I’m going to count it as not missing a day (;)).

***

Me: “So, what are we looking for, again?”
DB: ” croquettes, icing sugar and maybe some [insert name of foul herbal schnapps here], and can we be really quick, because we have to pick up the camera when we’re done and I need the loo?”
Me: “yup, no problem”.

We locked the car and headed into the supermarket.

***

Ten minutes later, as I handed over my card at the checkout, we realised we had 25€ of stuff, (including, but not limited to, two muffin tins, some freezer boxes and two Weihnachtssterne*), but none of the three things we’d gone in for.

None!

0 of 3. (or supermarket 3; Jesska and DB 0)

We’d listed the things we wanted to buy between parking the car and walking through the door to the supermarket, so it’s not like we really had time to forget….

Granted, they no longer stock croquettes, and the schnapps wasn’t yet in stock (apparently Monday).

But still.

We need to work on our iron willpower 😉

Grade: “Could do better”

***

In my defence, the plants were right in front of the sugar, reduced to 80 cts, and DB was already lined up at the checkout….

***

On the way home from getting the camera, DB suggested we go back to the shop and get the other Weihnachtssterne too – reduction on a Saturday evening generally means they throw out what doesn’t get sold.

I wouldn’t have suggested it myself, but if he was offering, I wasn’t going to say no!

So I wizzed round and picked up the remaining 3 – and the forgotten icing sugar! 🙂

(And poor DB had to drive home cross legged 😉 )

* (=plants with red leaves that look like flowers)

On christmas food shopping

It’s still a week before advent starts. That means it’s still at least a month until Christmas.
The shops have been selling Christmas food since September. We’ve been avoiding everything Christmassy, in an effort to single (double) handedly change the way supermarkets plan their year. It’s’s a tactic I’ve been trying for a few years and it hasn’t worked yet.
Anyway. We’re heading England-wards for Christmas and want to take the most tasty German Christmas things with us.

Today we decided to buy some Christmas foodstuffs to test (;)) so as to make sure they are worthy of the journey.

The isles we’ve carefully been avoiding are EMPTY!

This is a very strange kind of calamity, and calls for desperate measures.

I just haven’t thought of any yet…

On walking not driving

DB isn’t a natural walker. He says his legs are too short. He’d rather drive. I used to walk or cycle all over the place when I lived by myself, but since moving here I have allowed myself to become lazy.

Naja, as a by-product of my many problems and consequent doctors’ visits, we have taken up walking round the ‘village’* every other evening. Recently we’ve been increasing the distance. I’m finally learning my way round, and it’s nice to be more mobile, especially when the weather’s so good.

This afternoon we did something very strange.

We walked to the supermarket.

It’s a good half hour’s walk from our house, and we’ve never walked there before. I have by myself, but never together. Still, there’s a first time for [almost] everything….

After buying more than was on our list, and more than fit in our bag, we set off towards his parents’ house; DB with a bulging rucksack and me hugging a box of goodies and swinging a litre tub of rice pudding. It’s not exactly en route, but we needed to talk to them anyway and there was a good chance of getting a coffee.

The old men on the corner “fell off their religion” as they say here. They couldn’t believe DB was walking of his own free will. They asked if the car had broken down, or if we couldn’t find anywhere to park.

“Times change” said DB and shrugged.

200 metres later, the next incredulous onlooker asked what was going on.

It seems DB is well known, but not as a walker.

We drank our respective teas and coffees, and ate our biscuits, and looked at the fish.

When we got up to leave, DB’s mother asked if we wanted a lift back.

Anyone would think we lived more than 10 minutes away…..

*our part of Berlin…

On perfume shopping (part 1)

– or shopping with SD continued-

I’ve experimented with perfume even less than with make-up.

I hate it when people leave scent trails, unless they’re REALLY good ones, and then I stalk them MWAHAHAHAHAA!!! No. I don’t really stalk people. I’m just really fussy about the ones I would stalk if it was down to smell.

My dearest DB asked me to buy myself a perfume, which he would then pay for when he next saw me. I wasn’t keen on the idea, but it seemed important to him (I don’t think he was trying to tell me something…) and I’m one of those people who love to please 😉 so we went into one of the smelliest shops in the city……and failed.

I sprayed a million strips of what felt like good drawing paper with a million different chemical offerings. Nowhere in the whole shop was a perfume to be found that actually smelt of a specific thing, be it peaches, roses, lavender, cloves, or bleach*. SD thought the idea that perfume should represent anything hilarious. Also, it is impossible to sniff more than about 5 or 6 different perfumes without deadening your nose to everything. I have no idea how anyone chooses a perfume based on anything other than the bottle or the name.

After a very long time, and even more persuasion, I sprayed one onto me instead of the paper strips. SD chose one she wanted to buy and we left.

SD’s boyfriend was waiting for us when we came out. SD held my arm up to his nose and asked what he thought. Confusion doesn’t come close to describing his expression. Once she’d explained that he was supposed to give us his opinion on the perfume, he duly obliged, sniffing and saying it was ‘very nice’ in that polite way people do when they don’t actually care, but don’t want to offend. I could understand his lack of interest – if anyone had asked me a week earlier I wouldn’t’ve reacted any differently. We wandered towards the clothes and jewellery shop, chatting about random things, until SD remembered she’d been successful and waved her own wrist at him. He pulled a face and said, “what on earth’s THAT???” Which was much more honest, but didn’t go down very well, especially since mine had received a rather different reaction.

She stomped off ahead, leaving us to exchange glances, and trail after her.

We didn’t make things better when she asked us what we thought of a salmon coloured shirt. As a style-no-hoper, I got away with saying I didn’t like the colour much, her dear boyfriend, who also didn’t appreciate the delicate orange tones, got the full brunt of her displeasure. I can’t say I was jealous 😉

I bought earrings and a couple of flowery hairslides – they’d at least keep the hair out of my eyes if nothing else – and I was fully kitted out to go to the party.

Once we were all thoroughly tired of shopping, we went to buy icecream.

Icecream can make a lot of things better, and I can’t actually say I hadn’t enjoyed myself, but I think in future I need a fairy Godmother with a magic wand – getting all prettied up was never that much work in the fairytales!

Oh yeah, and the sandals had made holes in my toes while I was walking.

 

* No. I don’t want to smell like bleach. I just wanted them to make their perfume smell like something.

On make-up shopping

– or shopping with Swimming-D –

I don’t wear make-up.

I was going to add ‘ever’ but that would be lying. I dabbled in it a lot, or rather dabbled in a lot of it, as a toddler, smearing lipstick over my forehead, cheeks and chin while my mother wasn’t looking*, and again as a teenager, for parties where I had to be a pirate or a goth. I’d even tried ‘normal’ make-up a couple of times, but it hadn’t been a hit – my boyfriend at the time said he preferred me without any – and I was too lazy to learn to do it properly and/or fast enough for it to be an integral part of my being. I decided at some point that it’s much better to be “naturally beautiful” [insert cheesy smile here] and banished all things make-up related from my vocabulary and thoughts.

Recently though, I was caught on camera wearing make-up at a wedding.

Apparently going to weddings not only calls for pretty dresses, it also calls for make-up. Even if you don’t wear any the rest of the time.

Swimming-D told me this.

She was at my house to help me choose a dress and shoes and jewellery (serious business this wedding lark I tell you!) and asked where my make-up was. When I finished searching through my [newly organised] bathroom cupboard and [not so organised] jewellery box and presented her with a mascara, a bottle of bright red nail varnish and a couple of eyeshadows, she was appalled. Even more so when she discovered that the mascara had dried up (probably years ago) and most of the eyeshadow had seen more solid days. She decided we were going shopping.

This wedding had better be worth it – I’ve already been dress shopping this year!

SD went home, more in despair than disgust, having arranged to meet up in town the next day.

I wore one of my other new dresses to go shopping in. SD had said I should wear it “just because”, instead of just on ‘special occasions’ so I did. I figured going shopping for make-up needs different attire than my usual plain T-shirt and floppy skirt. One obviously can’t go out in a posh(ish) dress without wearing matching shoes (obviously!), so I wore the sandals I’d bought with E last year and hadn’t worn properly since, and I left my hair down. I hardly ever leave my hair ‘open’ because it flops in my eyes, gets in my way, makes my neck sweat. In turn, these factors have a tendency to make me aggressive. I’d only just had it cut though, and both Swimming-D and my DB (= dear Boyfriend) had told me I had to leave it down for the wedding. So I was practising.

She only just recognised me when we met up in town. Her bf had no idea who I was until SD made a beeline for me and hugged me.. To be fair I’ve only ever met him a handful of times, and if he stood with his back to me outside a shop wearing an army uniform (as an example of something I can’t imagine him ever wearing) I almost definitely wouldn’t recognise him either.

It’s quite disturbing how much of an impression clothes make.

So anyway.

There we both were in town. Me dressed up in a dress and high-heeled sandals, SD in her usual ‘chic-but-not-too-chic’ going shopping clothes.

As we made our way through the crowds of milling-about-people towards the closest make-up shop, I felt like a small child being dragged somewhere it really doesn’t want to go, but knows it has no choice. I generally steer away from the sort of shop that sells make-up, feeling out of place among the thousands of scantily-clad, but thickly-masked ladies, but on this occasion I was a woman on a mission. Or at least WITH a woman on a mission. SD led me directly to mascara aisle. Okay, so the aisle wasn’t entirely devoted to mascara, but every shelf along the aisle had its own mascara section. Why they have to sort the shop out by brand and not by product I don’t know. It seems a silly idea. If they tried doing the same thing in a supermarket they might as well open a dozen smaller shops inside the main building, as well as a load of stalls for the companies too small to warrant a whole shop.

Apparently mascara-application is a science. Each manufacturer has a range of brushes and they’re accompanied by a variety of silly names.. volcano for example. I think I’d actually rather not look like a volcano, nor would I like one to go off in my face. But there we are. I don’t have a clue.

Once we decided Volcano Mascara was the one to go for, it was time to look at face powder. I’ve never been at all convinced it’s necessary, but even I could see it was sneaky stuff. You can make the bags-under-your-eyes blend into the rest of your face, so even though you look worse close up, from a distance no one can see you haven’t slept enough for the last 3 years.

We chose one that doubles up as foundation if you apply it wet. It hadn’t got nearly as interesting a name. Not even the colour was exciting. It appears my face is beige. Well isn’t that dandy?! I’ve always wanted to know I have a beige face.

Next we moved onto nail varnish. I’d brought my dress with me, so we colour matched. The best match was naturally on the shelf marked ‘expensive nail varnish’ (or numbers to that effect),

I added it to my basket, along with a white pearly one, and 2 different clear lacks. Yes, I suppose I got carried away, but nail varnish is something I know more about, and actually wore on a regular basis until I started school here and my mother gave them to my aupair daughter. Okay, I didn’t wear them plain, the way most people do, I wore multiple colours, or stripes, or spots, or flowers or anything else I could be bothered to paint with them. I didn’t ever go as far as getting them done professionally though.

SD dragged me away from the brochure telling the world how fantastically cool it is to wear a different colour on each finger (amen!) with the words, “ARGH! You’re going to a WEDDING…”

The finishing touch was provided by an ‘enhancing’ lipstick, supposed to amplify your original colour. SD was more taken with various shades of pink, but I was adamant.

I paid, and the contents of the barely lined mini-basket cost as much as, if not more than, a weekly grocery shop.

Next stop perfume.

ARGH.

On shopping successfully

I don’t much like shopping.

Food-shopping is bearable, clothes-shopping generally isn’t, although it is marginally better than shoe-shopping, and a whole lot better than bra-shopping.

I tend to avoid it if at all possible.

However.

Sometimes life strikes, and I get invited somewhere that calls for something other than jeans.

It seems life has struck.

I have been invited to not one but THREE weddings in the next 2 months.

I have a dress I wear to everything; graduations, parties.. everything. It’s long and dark chocolatey brown and fits and I would have worn it to all the weddings. Luckily none of them know each other, so I can get away with wearing the same outfit if I want. Except after consulting with H and A it became apparent that brown isn’t a good wedding colour. It seems ankle/floor length isn’t a good wedding-watching-dress length either.

Well that sucks.

I’m at home with my folks at the moment.

When I asked my mother for her opinion on what one wears to weddings and told her I was going to wear my brown dress, she suggested we went shopping.

The ensuing groaning noises were ignored, and I was whisked away to a rather lovely city to find something suitable.

3 hours later my brother was considerably more bored and my wallet would have been considerably lighter if I hadn’t paid with plastic.

In the past year I have been on 3 memorable shopping trips, for new things other than food. There may have been other trips, but I don’t remember them.

Each time I have surpassed all expectations and been awed by my success.

Last summer I bought 4 pairs of ‘shoes’ (= 2 pairs of going-out sandals, 1 pair of everyday sandals and 1 pair of summer shoes), last month I bought 4 bras (in just over half an hour before they kicked me out of the shop), and today I bought 4* dresses.

They are all delightful in their own way. If someone had asked me to describe the sort of thing I was looking for I wouldn’t have described any of them, but they are really really pretty and they fit and they weren’t even horrendously expensive.

Sometimes I amaze myself.

I’m going to need more invitations to dress up now.

*no idea what’s going on with all the 4s…