Saturday morning arrived in a rather more leisurely fashion with an extended breakfast interspersed with numerous coffees; cigarettes; telephone conversations with family members; and internet searches for an e reader – available from John Lewis (where else) – I was reliably informed was called a node (?) (It is in fact called a Nook). Taking turns in the bathroom we finally got into the car around midday – if one is staying with me please be prepared to have your patience tested to its absolute limit and then add some!
Finally getting into Cardiff I couldn’t believe that both the John Lewis and the St David’s 2 multi-storey car parks were full! Grumpy comment warning – is it me or does the Christmas shopping period get earlier every year? But curiously this initial parking dilemma turned out rather nicely. One advantage of having a blue badge is occasionally being able to park in a conveniently located disabled space; and yes adjacent to the Capitol Centre there are rafts of such spaces! And yes for once parking in the City Centre doesn’t necessitate re-mortgaging a property or selling my first born (kitten).
The downside was that we ended up rather a challenging (for me) distance from both Buzz and John Lewis; in fact we were in exactly the other end of the City Centre. But I need not have worried as my plus one for the weekend is focussed; she is on a mission to find her chum a pair of boots, adult knee length professional ones! Browsing the list of shops in the Capitol Centre she spies Hobbs an emporium she is confident will offer a range of such footwear.
Inside Hobbs we are (repeatedly) accosted whilst casually browsing the stores contents. We are offered bucks fizz or orange juice; when we ask what the occasion is we are told ‘just because’ which does raise a smile. The first assistant asks if she can help and I say I’m making a shortlist of boots to try on and will let her know when I’m ready. Then a very enthusiastic woman swathed in close fitting leopard skin print, (which she later explains is her absolute favourite fabric); ‘just to let you know we are an outlet store now so all the prices reflect this change; some real bargains today’. Fabulous!
And then another rather more austere looking assistant homes in on us and curiously has something pertinent to say on every item we reach for! Before we know it both of us has a changing room full of things to try on. This assistant has her hair pulled severely back exposing her pale face hiding behind a pair of large black square school teacher spectacles hovering above a slash of red lipstick. Her jacket is buttoned up as if the contents could burst out at any point despite her diminutive frame; one senses she is on the verge of an emotional crisis as her fragility is palpable. Frankly we are putty in her hands as refusing her encouraging doesn’t seem to be an option!
Secretly I envy her confident manner especially the specs and red lippy; on the other hand it occurs to me she might need a hug. Instead we both adopt people pleasing behaviour as we undress and redress repeatedly! Sadly I’m not quite small enough to feel comfortable in Hobbs although the red felt oops boiled wool dress was tempting. Moving onto the boots I realise Ms Leopard skin print is occupying a managerial position as she takes my order and gives stock room order to a rather younger assistant.
When the leather boots arrive I remember why I shop in Duo (they sell boots by calf width). The first pair is pleasant enough but don’t quite zip all the way up. The second pair is elasticated and one pulls them on (if one has the strength). After tugging I do get them on and yes they are a reasonable fit although the leather bags around the ankle giving a hint of Nora Batty (not exactly consistent with the plus £100 price tag). When it comes to taking them off I accept the offer of assistance and the young woman knees down to give the left boot a good pull to remove it from my foot! It you fancy feeling foolish in a public place I can recommend trying on this style of boot!
Next stop Clarks where my friend has purchased the heeled brogues she is wearing. Conveniently close we are overwhelmed with knee length leather boots meeting the all important criteria; waves of relief waft over me as by now I’m in need of a refreshing caffeine loaded beverage accompanied by a pastry of some sugar laden sort! Being out with this darling companion is akin to having a personal shopper; beware lady I could get used to this!
Unfortunately, unlike Hobbs, Clarks has rather fewer assistants and it’s difficult to work out who is a customer and who might work here. Accosting an assistant as she rushes passed we get a slightly frosty response (she later apologies saying she had been helping another customer). Returning the poor woman is laden with a pile of large boot containing boxes and she only just manages to off load them before them topple out of her hands. As I am attempting to put on the first pair the woman comes over and it is as though she’s had a personality transplant; she is softer somehow.
When we point out a mark on the brown boot she applies shoe cream and hey pronto it disappears! Of course I buy the shoe cream as I am completely sold on the horse rider style two tone brown leather boots (see below and drool ladies). Removing Licorice Candy I lay them gently back in the box (stroking the leather discretely); I could have blown a kiss if nobody had been looking! Not only is the design divine the leather firmly supports my legs as I stride across the shop.
And then there is the black pair; Mortimer Judi in leather. Again I feel entirely at home in this sophisticated stylish ensemble. Black is so very versatile; sensible and solid. A must have surely. Hmm what shall I do I wonder. Taking a deep breath, I make a mental note to chase the client who is being rather slow paying my final invoice, before saying ‘I’ll take both pairs’. We all smile as my companion and I sign with relief feeling satisfied at a job well done.
Paying is not a problem so why do we quibble momentarily over the 5p for a carrier bag? My companion lives in Scotland, and like my parents who live in England, they are both bemused by the bag charging policy in Wales. Once again I am treated to having my bags carried and my car collected!
Rounding the trip off with a brief jaunt in M&S seeking the perfect slip (under skirt) we fail on this particular mission. As we leave the store we are faced with rain; sitting outside drinking coffee accompanied by a cigarette is no longer an attractive prospect. Doing 360 degrees we aim for the M&S food hall to purchase cakes to consume at home; my brain is addled and incapable of making a decisive selection. Eventually we make it to the self service checkout to pay for our sugar laden packages. Outside in the middle of the concourse there is an Italian market with stalls selling handmade cakes, pastries, chocolate, cheeses, olives etc. Although we have already bought goodies I am once again treated to a slice of handmade chocolate.
The thread running through this journey in search of shoes is the value of true friendship; of the platonic love of a good woman and how with the right shoes (or boots) a woman can rule the world!