The festive season is at an end, though epiphany is on Saturday and it’s not over till the fat lady sings. I suppose I mean that shopping is back to normal, you can feel it in the air when you go out to buy bread and milk. People don’t move as though they are ready to do damage for their next fix. The soap and talcum gift sets in the chemist’s are slashed to half price. I hate shopping. I don’t mean the bread, milk and vegetables kind, or even the detergent and toothpaste kind – there is a purpose and rhythm to this that I can understand. It’s the clothes and accessories kind I hate. When I was eight the most boring thing to do was trail around with grownups shopping for clothes but I assumed that one day I would come to love it, that it would assume the same importance in my life as it clearly did in theirs and that this, along with preferring to lie in bed in the mornings rather than get up, and liking cabbage, was what happened to you when you grew up. When I was thirteen there were unmistakeable signs that the shopping thing had happened to other girls and I waited for it to happen to me too. It never did. I like to have nice things, am pleased and grateful if they are given to me but don’t go out to buy anything new unless things fall apart. My last shopping expedition was two years ago with a friend who was tired of seeing me in the purple shell-suit trousers I bought in a charity shop in 1992. I have the same woollen jumpers I had ten years ago. I look after them and build a kind of relationship with them, they come in and out of favour but there is never any need to throw them away. I wear the purple shell-suit trousers with my late father-in-law’s purple cashmere jumper, sometimes with a string of pearls, and a couple of people have thought they were made of crushed silk. Or I wear them with my ten-year-old Birkenstocks and a Weird Fish hoodie I found a few years back. Him Outdoors calls me the queen of grunge. So clearly I have style.
This is all good because shopping takes strength I would prefer to use to use for other things, like starting up a new Poetry Café in my neck of the woods – which is what a friend and I spent yesterday working on. The work involved: checking availability of a room in the local community centre, contacting a guest poet to come and read, deciding what kind of tin we would use for collecting entrance money and eating a gingerbread house. The community centre said yes, the poet said yes and the gingerbread house was delicious. We still have to find a tin.