Love in a Supermarket Kind of Climate

Something is afoot in the Waitrose self-checkout section and I am ill-equipped to know how to deal with it.

Last week, when that fake summer situation came by to bewitch us all into thinking our coats could be packed away and our legs could be revealed again, I wore a waisted shirtdress to the supermarket.

As anyone who lives here knows, after winter when the ladies bring their dresses out, everyone gets all a-flustered. Men get starey, women get worried about their unpolished horny toenails. A woman wafting around in a flowery print speaks of potential. Of holidays. Straw totes. Sunglasses and strapless bras. Sandals and cracked heels; freckles and naturally-lightened hair. Of drinking Pimms in a beer garden, of camping and wild swimming and late evenings sitting in someone’s garden.

The guy in Waitrose was no exception – helpless in the face of a warm few days and somebody’s belted torso. I was at the checkout with my reusable plastic bag shoved full of cheese and cremant, all summer-like, and he came up to let the booze sale go through. He looked at me and said this:

“Can I ask you something? You’ve got four or five kids, right?”

“I’ve got six,” I say. I love this line of questioning. It pretty much only goes to a good place. Well, a good place or someone will tell me that I’ve missed a kid in headcount and one of them is still waiting to be picked up from school or something. Anyway.

“Well.” Nods approvingly. “How come you look so good?”

BINGO! SCREAM! Someone noticed me! NOT INVISIBLE! The summery dress worked its mystery once again! I STILL GOT IT!

“Well,” I say, giving him the Lady Di eye. “I pretty much don’t eat much anymore, and the light in here is surprisingly great. Thank you!”. He politely chuckles a little, and I FLOAT out of there with my processed snacks, probably mincing a tiny bit.

This was all a most welcome little conversation. But now? Now I have begun acting really oddly when I go back in. The first thing I do, currently less alluringly dressed, wrapped in my layers to avoid the distressing cold snap, waist hidden, dirty wool coat greying at the cuffs, is look for him. I search him out among the reduced bread trolley and chilled ready-meal aisle as soon as the escalator deposits me on the grocery floor.

I search him out because how can we NOT acknowledge each other now that he has professed his feelings? My eyes dart eagerly around for him (also scanning the weekly specials wall) and when I see him, we say “hi”. It is so awkward. My near-daily shop is becoming dominated by our wordless dance. Led entirely by me. It’s my eyes that greedily seek him out. My hair that I hastily rearrange once I see the back of his Waitrose green uniform and his jauntily placed headset. I wonder now, post-fake-summer, post-surprise Zara frock, if he still thinks I look good. What can I do to get that floaty feeling back? How can I find the sweet spot of being many-childrened and heavily-burdened by such things as whether I have remembered to bring enough reusable bags but also, hot enough to have the checkout guy come up to me and tell me a kind thing?

This is simply an exquisite pain; one I am very happy to have to endure. I hope my Waitrose man feels the same and is not kicking himself he got a middle-aged lady all over-excited.

In Other News

I fear I am becoming menopausal because I cannot sleep anymore. For the past three nights I have lain in bed, ever-so-slightly itchy, with my hip feeling all arthritic on my right-hand side. The hours have ticked by slowly, and I have been in and out of sleep but mostly out. Is it time yet for HRT? Will HRT make my hair thicken up? Will my neck bloom out in a puffy youthful way to hide the crepeing? Will HRT let me sleep once more – snore-compromised, sure, but still. This new middle-age is a myriad of fresh horror, and I fear it has only just begun.

I went to the hairdressers on Saturday and asked for ‘something to cover the greys and some kind of cut that might help get rid of the afghan hound effect’ and the colourist asked me very confusing questions about tints and ashiness and whether I wanted a warm brown or an ashy blonde. It was tied up with what would happen when the regrowth came through and it was just one of those times when you wished the expert would just do the thing, whatever that thing was. So then she suggested I drink a bellini, which I did, and things felt quite cosy and comfortable and when she found out I had so many children she said I really deserved a second, which turned into a third, and ended with a forth. When they were finishing up (by this time I had white hair which has since settled into a peachy orange white) I asked how many people took advantage of the free cocktails and drank too much, and they said hardly anyone. I tried to look sober and made a quick exit. Lessons? Grownups don’t think getting a haircut is actually a party thrown just for them.

I’ve made a new friend. Like when Anne of Green Gables met Diana, and they both knew they had found their bosom buddy, I think I have found my new bosom. It’s really fun, a little like being in love all over again. There are texts and laffs and visits. It’s actually rather wonderful to know that that part of you, even when you are crepey and you thought you had completed your tribe, is just as ready to find and adore a new person as it ever was. As I have oft said before, the joy of female friendship is a wonderful, expansive, deeply satisfying thing. One day I shall grow old in a women’s only commune like Holly Hunter in that Jane Campion show Top of the Lake, with long grey hair (thick, prob through the HRT) and everyone sharing cooking duties and doing crafting and drinking as many bellinis as they like without feeling weird about it after.

Here’s Casper turning 13. This was a staged photo because the first lot had shadows that did not show my aged face to its best advantage. See how enthused everyone is to have to do it all over again. We didn’t bother relighting the candles, either:

This is Friday night at a Spring Ceilidh (barn dancing for Celts) to celebrate the birth of the adorable Chris. See here the adorable local Hot Priest also:

The baby eating a sausage roll on a freezing picnic situation he insisted we pursue:

Me, the dog, and a bunch of other parents in our new roles as Campaigners Against Multi-Academy Trusts. (‘Twas in the Evening Standard and all.) Note distinct lack of waist:

And to nearly end things, it’s your Annual Reminder I Was Once In An Ad for Mother’s Day. Never forget.

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6 Responses to Love in a Supermarket Kind of Climate

  1. Adorable Chris and adorable hot priest says:

    We just doing our “why aren’t we in this blog” routine, and there we were!

  2. rose says:

    fabulous pics!
    You are clearly too young to NEED HRT…… BUT!!! It is a FAR better thing to start early and postpone some of the ravages of time! Believe me, I am old, I know! Start early and do not let them pry away the prescription early. NO REASON TO DRY UP AND WITHER AWAY early!
    Delighted you are having grand time and getting compliments (deserved) and making wonderful friendships (also a grand idea to keep doing this for the rest of tme.) The baby is growing up awfully fast and is as wonderful as all his elders. Wishing you Much JOY!

  3. Cara Allbon says:

    Such a great read. Compliments are always so nice, especially from strangers! So amazing to have six boys, good on you, and all your family. What great memories you all make.

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you! Yes, it’s all go here! Just been looking at photos of the kids when they were little and I’m missing them like that!

  4. Sally says:

    I miss my little kids too! But it is cool to see them becoming their own independent selves…but those babies…cute voices, cute cheeks ( all 4 of them!), sleepy cuteness…and so much more!
    You need to check out Petra Bagust’s podcast ‘Grey Areas’ I think it is BRILLIANT! Just what us middle aging women need to hear.

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