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About A Week: Shopping

Peter Hinchliffe contemplates the ultimate punishment for a male – going shopping.

A simple two-word caption would suffice for a published picture of the chap I saw in a café at the Meadowhall shopping mall.

Fed up!

There’s a full bag of new goods propped against the table leg near his feet. His arms are folded, his chin is on his chest. He gazes moodily at a cooling cup of tea.

There’s an empty cup on the other side of the table. His companion has boldly returned to the sales battlefront.

You can imagine the conversation.

“Cyril I think I will try on that two-piece in House of Fraser. I’m not saying I’m getting it… But it would do for when we go to stay with our Phyllis. Come on before somebody else snaps it up.’’

A deep sigh from Cyril. “You go. I’ll wait here.’’

And now he broods about life, love and the horrors of shopping.

I sympathise with the chap. Meadowhall has the same effect on me.

My shopping horrors began long ago in Huddersfield’s Victorian Market Hall. A splendid building, the old Market Hall. Full of bustle and atmosphere. Should never have been pulled down, I readily agree.

But for me it was a Saturday afternoon detention centre.

The whining began at Saturday dinnertime. “Can I play out this aft mam?’’

“No you can’t.’’

“Aw mam why not? I’ve arranged to meet Philip and Alan Kaye.’’

“Well you‘ll just have to unarrange. I’m not having you running around the village like Mad Harry while I’m away. I’m going into Huddersfield and you’re coming with me.’’

So that was that. While Philip and Alan Kaye were throwing stones at bottles or damming Whitley beck I was dragged by the hand as mam went excitedly from stall to stall round the Market Hall.

Our pause at Stringers’ comic stall was all too brief. A saleslady fixed me with a stare fit to freeze Polar bears when I disturbed her neatly arranged piles of Dandys and Beanos. And mam was soon tugging my hand in her eagerness to hurry on to the next bargain.

A professor recently announced that a University of Illinois research project suggested that men enjoy shopping, even though they consider it a feminine pastime.

“Men are interested in male toys such as power tools,’’ says Professor Cele Otnes. “Male boredom emerges in situations where men feel superfluous, unneeded or unwanted.

“When women ask them for their opinions they are more likely to show interest.’’

As a man who firmly believes that major home improvements are best left to the professionals, inspecting power tools is equally as boring as examining curtain material, carpets and frying pans.

And is there a man anywhere who has ever given an honest answer to the question “Does my bum look big in this?’’

Confession time. I enjoy shopping for cars, books, hiking gear and CDs. Apart from those, and the urgent replacement of socks and underpants which have reached the terminal stage of disintegration, I’d be willing to concede that everything else should be purchased by the other half of the human race.

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