There are some people out there who actively enjoy and look forward to holiday shopping. I know this, because I have met them. Interestingly, they all have two things in common: they are a size 8 and they are child-free.
Being neither of these things, I looked forward to the recent holiday shopping I had to do a bit like I look forward to root canal treatment. On the plus side, I had managed to persuade the children to stay with Neil and not accompany me, after one too many 'MY MUM HAS GOT HER FRONT BOTTOM OUT AND IT'S AAAAAALLLL NUUUUUUUUDEYYYYY' changing room disasters in the last eight and a half years.
In an attempt to get organised, I had made a list of the items I needed to buy. I do this every single time, and never know why I bother. The chances of anything I end up buying actually resembling a single item on that list are pretty much non existent.
So, error number one was not having spent the last 12 months working to get my body down to a size 8.
Error number two was picking a time of the year to go shopping when the sales were on. (Although: is it just me, or are the sales on All. The Fucking. Time. these days?)
Error number three was somehow inexplicably ignoring all of the advice I have ever given myself ever AND WALKING STRAIGHT INTO THE MIDDLE OF DAY 1 OF THE NEXT SALE.
I don't know what possessed me. I don't like Next at the best of times: I think it's overpriced old lady clothing. However, clearly on autopilot, I turned left instead of walking straight on and was suddenly trapped in the middle of the third circle of hell.
You will, not unreasonably, argue that surely at this point I could have walked straight out - and you're right, that's what I thought too. Alas, the crowds had reformed behind me like the un-parting of the Red Sea, and therefore there was no alternative to walk further into the madness.
Sales turn people mad, I swear. Despite my hatred of Next clothing I bought three items of clothing for myself and two dresses for Beth, none of which I tried on and all solely down to the psychological manipulation which is a 50% off sticker in the middle of a price label. I bought these even despite the fact I had to stand in a queue for 27 minutes to do so, throughout which I was repeatedly stabbed in the back of the head with a coathanger being brandished by the lady standing behind me. 'Oh look, Laura, I keep stabbing that poor lady in the back of the head.' As she did it again. The expression you're imaging on my face is pretty much spot on.
Having escaped from Next, I inexplicably decided to compound the horrors of my morning by going into Primark. Primark and I have a very chequered past. The urge to hand out Vitamin C tablets to shoppers was as pronounced as ever. On the plus side, after the hell of Next, the people barging past you to grab a synthetic giraffe print net body stocking and questioning their children's parentage seemed almost civilised by comparison...
Finally, I visited H&M. I don't know why. I never know why I go into H&M. Firstly: I am a size 12. In H&M speak this means I will struggle to get a size Large over my ankle. Secondly: their mirrors. My god, their mirrors. If I wanted to look like I'd rolled in suet and stapled a packet of lard to my stomach I could create that magic in the comfort of my own home...
Sweating, depressed, vowing never to eat again and with not a single item on my original list purchased, I returned home, where I presented Beth with her two new dresses. She looked at me as though I had urinated on her foot.
'Why have you got me these?'
'Um... to wear?'
And that, as they say, was that.
Fucking holiday shopping. Next year I'm cutting to the chase and will simply be holidaying naked.