Today marks the first post-football season Saturday of the year. It is obvious everywhere one looks. Walk down any busy street in London and they will be there; lost-looking males, laden like a donkey with plastic shopping bags. They aimlessly follow their better halves or wait with the bags at shop entrances. Their vacant expressions hide a mind whirring with self-comforting calculations: ‘two weeks until the new season fixtures are published, eight weeks until pre-season friendlies start’.
Luckily, my wife was up and out on a shopping expedition before I awoke this morning. She returned at mid-day and undertook that great female ritual of extracting her purchases, one at a time, from the bag for all to admire. I felt like I was back in Elizabethan England and Sir Walter Raleigh was displaying the first potato and a fag.
The Mrs had been to Pound Land. Pound Land’s name is unique to Britain, but the premise is not. On the Continent it would be called Euro Land. In America there is The Dollar Shop. All work from the same, similar principle: everything in the shop cost £1, or €1 or $1.
I imagine the Pound Land HQ board meetings involve a dozen suits sitting around a table:
As far I can make out (and keep in mind dear readers, that I hate the act, experience or thought of shopping) Pound Land mechanise is divided into three categories:
1. STUFF THEY NEED
Ask any woman: I need to buy some napkins, a box of macaroni & cheese, a packet of random-coloured balloons, a copy of Anthea Turner’s autobiography and an ashtray. But I only have £5. Any idea as to where I could go? Expect one answer only, my brothers.
Women defend Pound Land’s integrity and its right to exist on the High Street like it is a United Nations Resolution. I suspect most have dual-citizenship. There is likely to be a secret page in every female’s passport that if held under ultra-violet light proudly displays
(national motto: They’ve got SOME good stuff there, you know.)
2. STUFF NOBODY NEEDS
This category accounts for 99.7% of Pound Land merchandise.
I despise the poncey or presumptuous. Nothing is more abhorrent than to watching those sulking TV chefs throwing the Lamb Noisettes on a bed of dauphine potatoes with a mint and juniper jus into the bin because the mint leaf garnish is at the wrong angle. Likewise, I do not need to buy my towels at Fortnum & Mason. George at Asda is perfectly fine for drying my arse when I get out of the shower.
Let’s be clear though: there is a line to be drawn at what is ‘reassuringly expensive.’ For this reason alone, perfume and cologne are things that should be purchased from reputable dealers, not from Pound Land. That being said, I do take the opportunity of liberally splashing the tester bottle about my person every time the Mrs drags me into her second country. I then spend the rest of the shopping trip cuddling her as much as possible and trying to identify if the smell is urinal block cake deodoriser or mini-cab air freshener. But the cologne and perfume section is always there, in every Pound Land, at the top of the aisle. The fragrances always have great names like MAN MUSK or AIRE L’SHARON. The target consumer demographic must be 5 year olds looking for mummy’s birthday present.
Then there is the fine art aisle. I resist the temptation to pick up the china figurine of a boy with a monstrously large head and creepy blue eyes who is praying. There is a YOU BREAK IT, YOU BOUGHT IT rule and should an accident occur I wouldn’t want anyone at the cashier to think I had purchased it intentionally.
As for the tinned sild (in oil); I don’t even know what that is. But as a rule of thumb: food should not be purchased at Pound Land. Ever.
3. STUFF NOBODY NEEDS BUT ‘HEY IT’S ONLY £1
This category makes up the bulk of Pound Land’s retail trade. The company survives on the notion of impulse buying. It thrives on their national motto ‘They’ve got SOME good stuff there, you know’ passing collectively from the lips of the nation’s wives and mothers.
It is stuff that you need, but you didn’t know you needed it. For example, today as my wife emptied her bag, item by item, she produced a three foot inflatable microphone. She looked at me, seeking approval.
I like a laugh, dear readers, thus I am certain to use the three foot inflatable microphone at some point in the not-too-distant future. We also enjoy throwing themed-parties so I am not saying the item would not be utilised. However, last night I clearly remember watching my wife writing her shopping list for today’s outing:
…there was no three foot inflatable microphone on that list. I swear there wasn’t.
Likewise, imagine if I, whilst perusing the evening newspaper were to offer, “Says here there is a sale on 3 foot inflatable microphones at BLOW UP STUFF 4 U. Reduced from £9.99 to £4.99. Want to take a drive out there tomorrow?” My suggestion, dear readers, would be met with the contempt it deserved. Rightfully so.
But transplant that same transaction so that it takes place within the MAN MUSK-scented aisles of Pound Land and suddenly, it is a must-have item. Women will even argue over the last 3 foot inflatable microphone, tugging it from each others’ grasp. The mic has taken that great leap from worthless shit to being wholly desirable.
So I managed to dodge the bullet of spending the first post-football-season Saturday with that legion of zombified men folk trailing behind their wives on an odyssey through London’s discount retailers.
I do not, this Saturday afternoon, reek of MAN MUSK.
I did not follow a few paces behind, like Prince Phillip, as The Queen of Bargains thumbed through the £1 greeting cards; holding one up and saying, “WISHING YOU A JOYOUS WHITSUN FROM ACROSS THE MILES: can’t think when we’ll use it but hey, it’s only a £1.”
Best of all dear readers, should the Apocalypse come, we are sorted for napkins and can take turns reading Anthea Turner’s autobiography by candle-light . Viva la Republic de Pound Land!
Keep the Faith,