When I die, the biggest decision my family is going to have to make is what to dress me in. I’m not being morbid, I’m being realistic. My funeral is going to be a happy affair. I have left strict instructions for everyone. The music I want played and the poems I want read. I want everyone to wear bright school yard yellow to brighten up the otherwise dark and dismal crematorium. And balloons, there have to be balloons, the helium ones with Jenny was ‘ere written on them. That reminds me, I’ll have to get them ordered in case there is a waiting time. Can you imagine it?
“I’m sorry but we can’t give you a date yet for the service.”
“Yes, as soon as we know, I’ll call you.”
“No there’s no problem, well not really.”
“No, the autopsy was straight forward. They confirmed that the cause of death was adventure.”
“No not misadventure, no one killed her, she was quite good at trying to do that, without anyone’s help. No, it was adventure that killed her. That last skiing trip was fatal.”
“Yes, she was 97.”
“Stop her, really, did you try? Don’t start that, I told you, she was her own woman.”
“The funeral, oh the hold up? Balloons.”
“Yes balloons, they can’t finish them until Friday and then they have to come from Scunthorpe so we have to wait for delivery and you know what Royal Mail is like.”
I’ll get on that today and I’ll have to source out helium and keep that up to date.
The reason this came to mind was the shopping trip I took on Wednesday, I mean no one shops on Wednesday, do they?
I’d never been to the Trafford Centre and I was treating it like an adventure, in other words I felt I could have died any minute.
Item 1: Road signs and Satnavs.
OK, Satnav or in my case Google maps, are programmed or whatever it is they do with them, by the Americans. I get it, you are men who spend your days in subways and on buses and live in big cities. You see these quaint little English cities like Manchester, Liverpool and London in map form. They are so straight forward. The road goes that way, so let’s program Google to take you that way.
Hello, your Highways are wide and well sign posted and straight, or so I believe, our streets are not. A little more warning. How about a Satnav function that says;
“You are about to come onto a road that has five exit lanes and if you don’t get your arse in the right one, right now, you don’t stand a hope in hell of moving over or getting off at the right exit.”
How difficult can that be?
So, there I am two minutes away from the Trafford Centre, I can see it, I can even smell it, then suddenly I have another twenty-minute journey in front of me. And don’t you just feel the sniggers from every other driver on the road who is looking at you and saying, “She’s taken the wrong turning, you watch she’ll have to go all the way to Birmingham now to turn around.
For reference, oh Google programmers that’s 141.65Km or in real money 70 miles. Luckily, I’m not that stupid and ignored Google and got back on track.
Item 2: Parking.
One bloody way, that’s the way the road signs tell you to go, one way. Just because there is a gap of about twenty yards where there are no white arrows on the road, it doesn’t mean you can come at me in your BMW convertible and expect me to smile politely whilst you block everyone in and then take a sixteen-point reverse operation to park your bloody car, whilst everyone thinks I’m the one holding up the traffic.
Parked finally. Looking for the sign for parking charges, and the grey box, I’m going to go out on a midnight raid one summer and paint all paying machines bright luminous pink, so that they can be seen, or lime green, to match the suit of the woman in Wigan yesterday. I kid you not she was dressed in a lime green trouser suit and I saw her from miles away. Erh, I’d better stop there, I had one of those suits in the eighties, I remember wearing it to my sister’s wedding. I have since realised my mistake and paid penance by only wearing sensible clothes to a wedding, apart from my own of course.
Not finding the said box I was delighted to find that the parking was free. That was a refreshing relief, as I had not bought my bag of shrapnel with me.
Item 3: Where to start.
I’m a practical adventurer. On our trip to the Zoo, Mark decided to throw away the rule book and not take the guide out and follow the tourist guides recommendations. The Zoo was organised by continents. I must say I now know every animal personally at Chester Zoo that comes from the African continent as we passed through it at every turn. I’m a, we’ll start here and work our way in an orderly fashion kind of gal, Mark is a “The satnav says turn right, let’s go left and see where that leads us,” type of guy. I was so grateful that I had decided to do this shopping trip without him.
Previously whilst visiting the Cirque Du Soleil in Manchester we had passed through the Trafford centre as we had parked on the other side from where we needed to be. It was a dry run and we ended up having dinner in the large food hall in the Trafford so I wasn’t going there on Wednesday.
Interlude: What another one. Yes, this is an important piece of information that you need to know about me. I get over excited and fluff up, a lot.
I had booked the Cirque Du Soleil months in advance, I had seen them before but Mark hadn’t and I couldn’t wait to share the experience. In fact, we were early for the performance, which is unusual because I can guarantee that anywhere I go with Mark, we are always late, or barely on time at least. But that is another story. There was no way I was going to miss this performance. They have a policy of not letting anyone in once the performance has started so I gave Mark a kick and we made it in plenty of time. In fact, we did so well that we had to wait. A whole month! I got the date wrong hence the foray into the Trafford Centre for food. Was it my fault that I mixed up the dates? Of course it wasn’t. It was Googles fault. Mark insists on using Google Calendar and I have to put everything on it and share with him, so as he knows what’s going on. I think their system is daft, how dare it move months as I’m trying it input an event. And so, we arrived in August instead of October.
I’d parked the car outside the biggest department store and counted the rows as I get to the entrance. I wasn’t going to lose my car.
The Trafford centre is huge, if I were to shop then it would have taken me all day, but I was there on a recon mission. Which meant sensible walking shoes, jeans and tee-shirt with light jumper. Not attractive or sassy, I’ll grant you. Doc Martins and a khaki jumper are usually the sort of thing for the farm but this was a mission, an adventure. When we had walked form one end to the other last year I had paid attention to the branches and the route we had taken and it had been a nightmare getting back. This time I was going to explore all of it.
The mission: To boldly go where everyone had been before.
The prime directive: Not to spend money and to find food.
The object: To get out alive.
Well if looks could kill, I’d have failed the objective the minute I stepped inside. That’s why it made me think of my funeral, or at least the dress code. I was definitely under-dressed for shopping, but I’ll be sure to look good for my funeral.
Item 4: The natives
Now this is no reflection on those that live in Manchester. In fact I can safely say that 80% of those inside the centre on Wednesday were visitors from another planet, whoops sorry, part of the World. Some had even come from as far as Sheffield, I recognised the accent. It’s an accent that cannot be disguised.
Having been brought up on the East Coast near a seaside town, I learnt very early on about Chisits. A Chisist is a holiday maker that picks everything up, ignores the price tag and asks, “How mu…Chisit,” In the familiar Sheffield accent. You also learned about the Chisit dress code. There seems to be an unwritten rule that all male Chisits over the age of fifty that go on holiday, no matter where to or what time of the year, have to wear shorts.
The East coast is not Ibiza. It has always puzzled me. The next time you watch the weather forecast, take a look at the East coast of England, I can guarantee that it is always at least two degrees cooler than the rest of the country, and yet the male Chisit still has to wear shorts.
It seems that the dress code for the Trafford Centre was makeup, even for the men! I felt slightly uneasy at first, after all I hadn’t bothered with War paint, this was a peaceful expedition. I’d left the Shotgun at home.
Item 5: The shops.
Oh, the shops, and there are many. I kept to the path, down one side and then back down the other. Always keeping in mind the turns I had taken to be able to back track. I was doing well, I had avoided the clothes in Debenhams and Marks and Spencer’s. (Yes, I’m a plain Jane really. I just like to add a bit of colour now and again, a touch of fiery red hair, a pair of luminous green trainers. You get the picture) And then I found it, my dream shop. The one place I could never have avoided. The wild horses that had been tied to my waist and were now pulling for all their might, but were not strong enough to keep me away from Levi’s.
Walking through the door, three very young shop assistants looked quizzically at me. I felt small and wondered which one was going to pounce first.
“Don’t all jump at once.” There I got in first.
They looked at each other and realised what they had done.
“It was there, wasn’t it, you were all going to ask me, if you could help. What’s up, you not get that many customers?” I smiled my best smile. Hey look they didn’t run away.
I was hoping for the tall good looking assistant to step forward, instead I got the young girl. Not that I’m surprised. But it made a change not to be mistaken for a man.
She laughed as she asked, “Can I help you?”
“Only if you can find me a pair of proper jeans, without holes that know where my waist is and don’t want to strangle my lower legs.”
“What size?”
Now let’s get this right. Men have waists, right. As they get older the waist doesn’t get bigger it gets lower. So, a man in his sixties, no offence Mark, that says he’s in the same size jeans as he was when he was twenty is actually wearing his waist band under the ample overhang that is supplied with old age. Women on the other hand force the overhang upwards.
“Well, I need to support Buddha’s investment.” I replied. “The extra spare tyre around my waist that the God coverts.” I grabbed a handful of flesh around my waist. (For those who are in the know, I am aware that Buddha is not a God, but for a seventeen-year-old shop assistant it may have been a little too much on Wednesday to go into Theology.)
“I was a size #, (really you think I’m going to tell you) I’ve lost a bit of weight, a stone actually, so I thought I might try a size #.”
They were skinny, there was no way I was going to fit into those, but as asked for, they came up to my natural waist, they only had one button, they hugged my hips and there was enough room to pull on my DM’s. And they fitted. They did up, no I didn’t have to lay down and use the coat hanger to do them up. They fitted and I was so happy I ran out and hugged the young girl.
“My arse hasn’t been held in by a size # jeans in over ten years,” I cried and promptly ran back in.
I didn’t look at the price until I sat down to eat my lunch in the department store, I’d just handed over my debit card and then shoved the receipt in my purse. I decided this was a good time to lie to my husband, don’t tell me I’m the only one that knocks the odd twenty pound of the price of something and then takes the label off and hides it in the bottom of their handbag. Note to oneself, must clear out handbag.
I also bought a teapot that day, had to be done. I have teapots as memento’s of my journeys. You see the expedition is over and it was an adventure that I never intend to repeat, so I now have a teapot sitting on my shelf that says, “I cost £28 and I’m going to sit here as a reminder that you can shop online if you need to. The Trafford centre holds nothing you can’t buy at the click of a mouse.”
Before I go I have to thank the young girl in the car park, I really enjoyed the dancing to, what do you call it, hip hop. And yes, I am just a tad crazy, but I don’t think you’ll ever forget the nanny with rhythm.

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