And now, the conclusion…
When last we saw our curmudgeonly hero, he had been firmly planted on an uncomfortable seat outside the Next changing room, buried underneath infinite clothing, waiting for the missus to try on whatever nonsense she wants to buy that blatantly isn’t Christmas presents.
“How does this look on me?” She shouts from one of the cubicles.
“It looks lovely, dear.” You reply, instinctively, having made the mistake of actually thinking about the answer in the past.
“No, really. How does it look? Come and see.”
You pause for a moment, aware that this is probably some kind of trap to destroy you, but seeing no tripwires, landmines or spring-loaded boxing gloves, you venture into the changing room corridor.
Instantly you regret it, as the whisper of “man in the changing rooms” is heard and you feel the hatred of eight women burning into your soul through the locked wooden doors. The next dilemma appears when realise you don’t know which cubicle she is locked in.
Like a jump-scare in a bad horror movie, a woman in a skimpy black dress bursts out of the changing room in front of you, lets out something akin to a mouse doing an elephant impression and disappears again.
You realise you’re trapped in a slightly more terrifying version of the Tower of Terror in Scarborough, and make a mental note to catch the train there later for a much more relaxing experience.
The missus opens her cubicle door and whispers at you like the world’s least subtle spy. She hands you two seemingly identical handfuls of clothes.
“This one,” She says, not indicating which handful she is referring to. “Is to put back on the hanger over there.”
You nod, your brain having shut down in terror.
“This one,” again, no idea which one. “I need you to find me exactly the same in the next size”
“The next size?” You know you’ve made a mistake opening your mouth. “The next size down or…”
She gives you the look. How dare you imply she has gained weight, called her a gigantic heffer, written a banner saying ‘fat woman’ and waved it at The X-Factor final.
Yes, I know you never said it, or even implied it. But right now, she’s staring at you like you’re the person who ghost-wrote Mein Kampf while Hitler was busy playing Tetris on the toilet.
“Go to the Toy Shop.” She says slowly, methodically, reaching behind her bag for what could possibly be an ice pick.
You really do want to go to the toy shop, but the last time you did exactly as you were told you ended up sleeping on the sofa for three months.
“But… I’m (*squeaky voice*) helping…”
“Go. To. The. Toy. Shop.” You begin to suspect she has been experimenting with gamma radiation, and quickly retreat out of the store.
I usually enjoy toy shops, as I am a grown man with a child’s mind (not like that) and I can’t get enough of the lure of plastic crack. However, toy shops at Christmas time are a whole different bucket of fish.
An overfilled bucket of screaming fish, that seem intent on stamping on your bad toe until you have to go and hide in the ‘educational’ section of the store for some peace and quiet.
Making a quick retreat, you stumble into the Lego Store, kept slightly less chaotic by child-controlling play areas, where they can be left to their own devices, sticking Duplo in their eyes or whatever. You spot something the kids might like, and reach for your wallet. Realising that the missus has taken all but a fiver, you admit defeat and join a child building a penis out of Bionicle pieces.
After what seems like 12 seconds, you are dragged out of the store by the missus, laden with a gigantic bag of stuff that isn’t Christmas presents. You open your mouth to tell her about the awesome present idea you want to get for the kids you face ‘the look’ which roughly translated means “If you ever suggest anything ever again, you’ll be wearing your scrotum as a beanie hat.” Sheepishly you stare at the floor until she stops making that boiling kettle noise from her ears.
Apparently she is in a bad mood because she is hungry, and your 12 seconds in the Lego Store has made her stomach into a screaming vacuum that requires sustinence immediately or else it will destroy the universe and also she’s really hungry.
There is a wonderful variety of food outlets in Leeds, catering to all tastes and desires, however, this being Christmas, all of them have a 2 hour waiting time or sell sushi, which isn’t food.
After a lap of the food court and furious growls from the missus you make the trek to the overpriced burrito shop and have a bit of meaty, wrappy, spurious green slimy goodness. The missus attempts to eat her burrito, but it suffers a structural collapse and ruins the top she is wearing. She finishes off your burrito, which hasn’t exploded and probably tasted delicious, if you had a chance to eat it, and demands you take her to another clothes shop to buy a new, unsoiled top that will inevitably cost eight times the cost of an overpriced burrito. Maybe four times the cost if you’d ordered extra onions.
The next (what seems like) ninety-seven hours involve travelling from novelty crap shop to novelty crap shop, attempting to find gifts for people who you barely know, except from your facebook feed on a Sunday morning before they sober up anddelete the photos. You buy nothing. The missus buys nothing. It is a strange experience, battling crowds of people who seem to be also buying nothing, as they go in exactly the right direction to be of greatest inconvenience to you.
A brief moment of calm occurs when you find Costa coffee empty, and sit down only to discover that they have run out of milk or coffee or biscuits or water.
As you relax on the Transpennine Express home, you plug your phone charger in the hope that your new friend from Next has sent you Candy Crush lives.
You check your phone to see who still needs Christmas gifts, and discover that the day has resulted in zero of the infinitely-long list of potential gift recipients have been crossed off. Asking the missus if there was any point to this wasted trip she smiles and says,
“Oh, it’s fine, I’ve ordered everything online. I just wanted to go shopping and buy that new top I wanted.”
You wonder if the face-plant you do on the train’s table will leave a permanent mark in the plastic, and you look out of the window as the Yorkshire countryside mocks you, gleeful in it’s knowledge that you did exactly the same last year, and next year will be no different.
Ho ho ho.