Things change. I know this.
Policemen and pilots start to look like children in grown-up clothes; young people get ever more beautiful; the entire population becomes more unreliable and less punctual. Or that’s the way it looks. It’s called getting older.
But shopping. You wouldn’t expect shopping to change would you? Not in essence. We’re a nation of shopkeepers, right? We’ve been doing this stuff a long time. In the real world or the digital, it’s all just handing over money in exchange for goods or services, priced to give the seller a profit. Not a lot to alter there.
I would have agreed with you, until last week. But then the Birthday Card Incident happened, and soon after that the Too-Big Top Incident happened and I was forced to reassess my beliefs on the nature of commerce.
I now realise shopping has gone a bit ...wrong.
I don’t know exactly when it happened but I do know things are getting out of whack in the world of retail.
The Birthday Card Incident happened in a supermarket. One of those supermarkets that have got their knickers in a twist recently, on account of their goalposts shifting considerably.
For decades they existed in an environment where if they said “jump” everyone else said “how high” - and then all their customers began to desert them for the cheap joints and not in a humble way.
Where once we had slunk into Aldi, feeling sorry for ourselves, now we march in there holding our middle-class heads high. I don’t know if this had anything to do with the incident though. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. All I heard was: “You must be mad.”
It was the checkout person speaking to me. We had already had a little chat. She had asked me if a celebrity was currently endorsing kale, since it seemed to be in everyone’s basket and not just mine.
If I’m honest, her tone had been scornful rather than curious but what can you do? I told her that, as far as I knew, it was the popularity of green juices rather than specific celebrity backing.
After that there was a period of bar coding and packing until she spoke again. In firm tones.
I lifted my head in a startled sort of a way to find her holding the birthday card from my basket between finger and thumb.
You must be mad,” she said. “It’s five pounds,” she said.
There was a moment. A moment while I processed what she had said, processed the price of the card which I had chucked in without checking, processed that this was an unusual checkout occurrence and wondered what to do.
“Can I change my mind?” eventually left my mouth.
“I would encourage you to change your mind,” she said, briskly. And with that the card was whisked out of my reach. I was left with no card, a feeling of disappointment since it had had some great flashing lights and wondering what had just happened. Was it reverse psychology? A clever selling technique? Or a cashier gone rogue. I’ll never know.
Then there was the Too-Big Top Incident. I bought it online and for instructions on how to return I was required to send an email. So I did, several times over several days. But there was nothing. Complete silence. So I posted on the company’s Facebook site, in ways that showed my irritation.
Eventually I received a reply. It came from one of the company’s American owner and apologised for the delay. She was in New York she said, but to make things happen faster she had put my replacement top in her own suitcase and was flying it across to London within the hour.
Blimey. I would have been happy with a prompt reply.. My irritation turned to awe and my new top arrived before I had even had time to return the old.
In the end, I seem to have received shopping service above and beyond in both incidents - I still don’t have a clue what’s going on though.
Mum’s the word when it comes to making up
We can all relax. Elton and his mum are talking again. They’ve been on no-speakers for eight years and that’s a lot of holding your nerve when your mum is as old as Elton’s.
But hold it he did until his mum reached 90 and then he cracked and made friends again.
I’m glad. No-one should fall out with their mum if they can possibly avoid it. Mums are key to happiness.
Not so much dads. Yes, I know, some of you are going to fall out with me on this one but I can only say it as I see it.
Recently, I was filming my mum talking about her early life - I’ve done it with all the oldies because, pass a certain age and you become living history, don’t you? I think I’m more or less there myself. I’m waiting for my daughter to point a phone and me and tell me to spill the secrets.
My own mum was describing to me how her father joined the Royal Navy on the outbreak of war.
“Did you miss him ?” I asked.
“No, I barely noticed. He was never there anyway,” was her matter-of-fact response.
I’m not saying all dads are like this but too many are. Become estranged from your dad and it’s sad but survivable but your mum is a whole different matter.
Elton has now paid for his mum Sheila’s hip replacement, which given that he is worth £200m is not a stretch.
I hope they stay friends until the end because riches beyond reason cannot replace a mum - as Elton has obviously realised.
Time for better names for our storms
Names are incredibly powerful. If we didn’t know that before, we do now. Once, winter was full of rotten weather. Now it’s full of wicked and wayward storms, forcing us to bow under rain, wind and flood.
These storms have identities. So far we have had Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, Henry and Imogen.
In case you hadn’t noticed, each storm moves up a letter of the alphabet and alternates between male and female.
The Americans have been naming their storms for years and now we are following. Why? Because it is reckoned to be a system that will keep us safer. We will pay more attention if our weather warning comes with a name.
I understand this but I’m not happy. It’s fine for our storms to have names but they need to be more dramatic. They shouldn’t sound like Eurovision Song Contest entrants or the child of parents who own Blue Peter badges. Storms are fierce and violent. Desmond was a shocker. It shouldn’t sound like the name of a man with a comb-over.