I have done it; cracked the mystery. What seemed so difficult turns out to be so simple. I have been such a blind fool all of these years. The solution to the horror of being dragged around the Trafford Centre by your girlfriend is much less complicated than I ever imagined. When she says those terrifying dirty words New Look or Dorothy Perkins don’t stupidly follow with a dumb yet contented pussy-whipped expression. No. Politely make your excuses and allow your legs to carry you, unimpeded by bags of cute little dresses and boxes of cute little boots, to one of the many bars.
If like me you have come unprepared, and your phone is of a primitive type, you may need to stop off at a bookshop first for some light reading. I browsed the ever shrinking Popular Science section in Waterstone’s (spat on the ever growing Spirituality section), considered a couple of theoretical physics books by Michio Kaku, and an account of the Apollo 11 mission by Michael Collins. In biography I enjoyed the bizarre mixture of subjects including The Diary of Samuel Pepys sitting on the same shelf as an ‘autobiography’ of Katie Price. Eventually I balked at the price of all on display. £20 for Christopher Hitchens’ memoir Hitch 22! Roll on Amazon and your highly competitive pricing. Who cares if you are making it almost impossible for all but the most successful authors to earn a living? Not me. I settled on a HMV till-side ‘afterthought’ book; the early autobiography of Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot. The title is some obscure Biblical reference that I have had explained to me on more than one occasion, and still can’t recall its meaning.
I said ‘many bars’ but that’s not strictly true. There are many eateries, which claim to offer ‘bar and grill’, or ‘bar and restaurant’, and as far as I can tell none of them actually has a bar. Table service is the order of the day. So I sat in some restaurant I chose because it was emptiest, drinking Bombardier and reading Stephen Fry’s account of being a posh little boarding school boy. The drink was delicious, the quietly pulsing psytrance music was just the right volume, and the chair was comfortable. Then it slowly dawned on me that the waitresses –all of them; four or five – were all massive. Not just big-boned but literally huge. Gigantic wobbling whales amongst women thudding around the place. The tables were spread sparsely leaving plenty of room to manoeuvre, as though the waitresses had been their first, and the restaurant had been built around them.
It also slowly dawned on me that it was fucking freezing. I was shivering and I was clenching my jaw to the point where my entire face still hurts now. The air con was blasting out, and I was going to make another fattist remark about the waitresses, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. Still all this aside, it still beat sitting on stools in the shoe departments of an endless stream of clothes shops, looking glum, exchanging defeated glances with other boyfriends, and nodding blankly as various identical pairs of boots are conveyed past my face.