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Thursday, 29 January 2009

it's good to talk

Last night I went on a girls’ night. We talked about how much we talked. How men (generalising wildly) look to provide a basic solution to an issue. (Don’t like someone? Tell them. Or ignore them. Don’t agonise. No need to mention it again. Sit down and read the paper.) They don’t do the endless circling of waffle around a subject, niggling and needling and reassessing, which for us is the means of distillation and of arriving at a solution we probably knew was there all along.
Just as E will buy the first pair of shoes he sees, if they fit and he likes them whereas I feel an instinctive horror at not exhausting every possibility at least twice. Round and round the shops, in trudging indecisive horror, to arrive back where I started three hours later.
A waste of time, perhaps, but at least you know. He says he doesn’t need to ‘know’, or doesn’t need to prove that he already ‘knew’.
And then it gets complicated.

I don’t, though, have much trouble with service. My experience, as a kind and caring individual, tells me that it’s those who invite it who always get the surly waitress, the offhand Postie, the Bored Saturday Shop Girl.
Besides, I’ve worked in shops and bars and, God, does the time drag. So, if a reluctant menial is a bit arsey, I tend to be grateful that it’s mere disdain coming my way and not a session with an Uzi because, let’s face it, day after day folding jumpers or looking in the back for a “Capri” in “heather” in a size 5, and having it drilled into you that the poxy customer is always right must do your head in.

The florist, however, had perfected rude brevity; I was both shocked and impressed. The haiku would be a tedious epic poem to her. Her grudging articulations of sound, vowel-less txt spk, were wrapped in cushions of cross silence, pauses I felt obliged to pack with foolish guff.

“So you do make button-holes?” I was on the phone to her and had got nowhere.
“ …….ys …….”
“And, er, is it better to order them, or just turn up on the day and hope …”
“ ….rdr ….”
“OK, um, is there a book, or photos, I could look at, before I decide and …?”
“…. N ….. ‘s rss r c’nashns.”
Mr Ambassador, you spoil us.

I drove to the shop, giving her the benefit of the doubt, that she might be a phone-phobic princess, and also intrigued to see if she really was as bad in person as she was on the blower. She was.
I decided not to buy and felt quite rebellious. Normally I am so well-behaved that I feel obliged to stump up just because I’ve walked in.
I asked if she sold florists’ wire and tape.
“ ….n ….” And then, in an uncharacteristic splurge of speech but still hammering home the Can’t Sell Won’t Sell stance, “Tks p 2 mch rm.”

A sign saying “Keep the Village Alive, Support Your Local Traders” banged on the door on my way out.
So I took me to the Garden Centre and, between such horticultural necessities as puffy hot water bottles and ceramic hedgehogs in amusing poses, I encountered a little display (tkng p v ltl rm actually) boasting all that the amateur florist could need.
And then I did my Little Red Hen act and came up with these.

Being impecunious, and flushed with success having made some bizarre curtains for the sitting room in strips of silk (the lighting's a bit odd here),

I have decided to have a go at another set.
This time for the garage.
(“You must stop calling it the garage,” said my dog-walking friend, “you must call it the library.” This is a woman whose idea of fun is 3 fitness classes on the bounce, so ‘garage’ it is).
They need to be 12’ across, and since I can’t begin to compute what a professional would charge for such monstrous curtains, I took myself off to the fabric shops to spend a fortune in saving money and doing it myself.

Cheltenham soon proved itself to be pretty dire. The big place has a new boss which has resulted in all the old staff being near to tears and snippy with each other, indulging in a “me, sir, me sir” jostling of one upmanship.
“Carol!” said one guy loudly and reprovingly, “Rolls!” he indicated with a bony finger the endless rolls of fabric left behind by Carol in pursuit of furnishing me with various quarter metres (I have “ideas” for these garage curtains which is calling for much crossing of fingers and purchase of quarter metres).
“’m with a customer, Jonathan!” Carol pointed out tartly, ‘customer’ clearly scoring over abandoned rolls.
Jonathan pursed his lips and ostentatiously set about reducing the discard mountain in a ‘we’ll say no more about it’ sort of way.
Carol rolled her eyes and stabbed at the till buttons.

But this was only scraps. I needed more, the base material.
So I found a shop with my favourite word in the window, “Sale.”
Inside I was ignored, not even a flicker of boredom inched my way. This suited me fine. But what was passing amusing was, on drawing near the desk, to realise that I had been so roundly ignored because the two assistants were bitching about ‘the warehouse.’ Whatever THAT is.
“Costs nothing to say hello,” Big and Brunette was saying, wide-eyed, scarcely able to countenance the bad manners of others.
Old and Knackered Colleague shook her head in a would you believe it sort of way, “Manners don’t cost,” she agreed. “That Fiona! Honestly!”
“Just oils the wheels,” said B&B smugly, hoicking up her impressive busty substances. “Dun’t take much.”
I tried to fix them with a bit of a Look, but it wasn’t going to happen, not to a mere customer. Not when there was someone to slag off.

It was clear that I needed to go down the M5, batter the purse and kill a couple of hours in John Lewis.
I popped the dog in the boot and set off.
Upstairs I found more bits and pieces, and a woman in the queue, baffled by my random selection, asked what I was up to, so I explained, and she seemed interested, and then we discussed the pink and yellow bags she was making for her granddaughters. Twins of 4, very hard work. And then the till woman laughed that she couldn’t sew for tuppence, and stabbed herself on a pin-cushion as if in illustration and laughed again, only more manically and looking around anxiously for a plaster.

Downstairs, in what they call Fab F, I finally found my base material, not perfect (obviously) but it will do.
As the short and stout maiden, with the tape measure slung busily round her neck, made the shearing scissored cut – somewhere around 15 metres in – I said, “Not that I’m going to, but what would happen if I said I’d changed my mind?”
S&S frowned.
“I mean, would you call Security, or what?”
“We trust our customers,” S&S said bleakly. Then, despite herself, “Why d’you ask that?”
“I just wondered,” I said, “well, just making conversation.”
“We have all sorts of customers,” she said, “I’d put you in the patient category, I saw you standing there, waiting. You should see some of them. Men usually. Won’t wait when you’re measuring. Get cross, threaten to complain. I take no notice, but I tell them, I say, ‘I’m busy,’ I say, ‘you’ll have to wait.”
I felt unduly flattered at having secured her approval. You don’t get comment, let alone something one could fashion as praise, however dull, as an adult and it’s always strange to realise that you have been noticed and categorised.

A young lad staggered out to the car with my rolls of material. We chatted about his spider collection (27 glass cases; first one bought when 7; spiders cost £20 when small, £150 when big; they live for 9 years. He let one out. Once. )
“Have you got a girlfriend?” I asked.
“We’re about to move in together,” he said, “I’ve got to get rid of the spiders, re-home them.”
“Don’t look at me, I said, “In fact, I wouldn’t have let you even touch the material if I’d known where those hands have been.”
He gave me an empty ‘my girlfriend’s like that’ look. His long spider-lite life lay ahead of him.

I got home and smuggled the material in. E was there so I launched into a distraction chat, planning how I could pretend that the material had Always Been There. He cleared his throat, cranking his vocal chords into action.
“I haven’t talked to anyone all day,” he said.
“How come?” I said puzzled, wondering if he had a bit of florist in him, “It’s impossible not to.”
He shrugged. “No one came down my end of the office.”


Edward said...

Oi! I do not have a bit of florist in me, thank you.

Very, very funny blog. What a fascinating life you lead. I had no idea.

nuttycow said...

Great post M.

Am a little concerned about the garage/library though. Is there a danger of getting run over while settling in a for a pinch of pride and prej?

Anonymous said...

How exactly did you engage that young man in a discussion over his spider collection?

Did he open the conversation with a witty remark about tarantulas or do you usually approach strangers in the hope of an arachnid obsession?

Just curious!

Milla said...

I made some embarrassed comment about the state of the car when he was trying to topple the rolls of material in. He said it was like his bedroom, then that his bedroom wasn't "that bad" I was outraged because my "the car's a mess" thing didn't particularly apply for once, not when I had a good peer at it. Somehow it was fairly tidy. Then he mentioned the spiders which was clearly a COMPLETE non-sequitur!

Dumdad said...

I wonder what Spider-lite Boy's girlfriend is like? He says he's going to rehome his beloved spiders but I bet he hides them somewhere in the house. She's going to get a big shock one day when a £150 specimen escapes....

Anonymous said...

You take Lolly shopping with you? Does she help? I only wish I could sew, let alone make curtains.

Great post, Milla.

CJ xx

ChrisH said...

Well, I am seriously impressed! You don't give the impression of being a curtain-making kind of girl and those look as if they require more patience than I have. (I do make curtains but it does involve an awful lot of bad language). Hasn't anyone told you not to ask young men whether they've got girlfriends?? So true about men; my eg being Christmas cards; me: 'I HATE writing cards', Tom, 'Well don't do any then.'

Expat mum said...

Trousers too tight?
Male solution - buy bigger ones.
Female solution - leave them hanging for about ten years as you're "going to get back into them".

KittyB said...

Why take Lolly to John Lewis? That's what Laundry rooms are for - to lock dogs up in while shopping.
Those are some stripey curtains, you've taken a leaf from my book - when in doubt, use ALL the fabrics. Why choose? How jolly they look.

Arosebyanyothername said...

Great curtains! What are the 'garage' ones going to be like. I have made patchwork curtains and I was very pleased with those.
Very interesting blog too - I laughed a lot - which I could write like that.

elizabethm said...

Great curtains, great blog. You are so right about men and the ease with which they problem solve. I can do it with shopping, so not a ditherer because I can hardly bear to be there. My problem is that I actually enjoy the analysing of feelings, behaviour, who said what to whom, and my best beloved hates it. I suppose that is what friends are for.

Elizabethd said...

Loved the curtains, and am now intrigued as to what you are going to do with all those bits of fabric? A touch of patchwork maybe?
It is something that I notice immediately I go into an English shop. Attitude....couldnt care less. I wait for the pleasant 'Bonjour' or equivalent that one hears here, it would be unthinkable to ignore a customer.

Pipany said...

Wow, those look seriously hard to make curtains Milla. Very impressed. As for men and talking...hmm is all I can manage right now. Oh very impressed with the buttonholes too. New career mayhap? xx

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh I loved this.. meandered through those shops with you and fingered all the material and looked at the Excitments you can buy in Garden Centres... very very funny!
Look forward to my next visit but have to go as son Needs The Computer Now. Dammit.

softinthehead said...

Great post Milla, what a busy lady you are - very impressed.

EuropaWorld said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fennie said...

Another great post, Milla. But you do make it hard for yourself. I am most certainly not into making curtains. But charity shops seem to have quite adequate specimens. Still most people seem to react as they are spoken to. Tell them they must have a very hard job dealing with customers all day long and they gush (where did I hear that word?) and can't do enough for you. Worst assistants though must be in Cuba. You can queue for an hour to reach the till. Then the assistant without warning goes to lunch. You are expected to wait an hour at the till until she comes back. But if you leave the shop it may be empty by the time you come back. That is bad service and enough to make anyone keep spiders. Lovely vignette of Gloucestershire life.
I've always wanted to know how spiders get into new houses.

mountainear said...

Took son shopping. Bought suit, shirt, tie. Tried on shoe. Bought shoes. Easy peasy. There is definitely a male/female divide. Men don't do curtains, throws and cushions?

Frances said...

Hello Milla,

I do like the look of those curtains! The precision is spectacular, and the colors are grand. Huge compliments to you.

This entire post and the one just prior (which I had somehow missed) were such a pleasure to read.

When I am in the shop, I always try to see my staff members's behavior as it would be seen by a customer. Some of the staff are always alert, friendly, able to keep their eyes on several situations and do well with all those situations.

Alas, some just cannot, or will not stay focused. Part of my day is always spent in a subtle (I hope) attempt to keep them engaged. Exhausting!


lampworkbeader said...

A whole world of retail explained for us all. thankyou Milla

Pondside said...

I had a hard time getting past the dog in the trunk - assuming that's what a boot is. You must truly love her.
The curtains done, you're going to make more. Bravo! I have to admit that way back when you broached the subject I thought you were just chatting - never imagined that you'd be posting a photo of completed curtains and talking about sewing more.
You are, obviously, on the road to becoming a domestic goddess.

Exmoorjane said...

Well, Angelina is here, grumpily, feeling hard-done-by and pouting. Curtains are pretty amazing actually though.....am impressed despite myself - particularly when looking at conspicuously bare windows...
SPiders though? Wrong. So wrong.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

have given up on curtains here - well on the top of a hill who can see in anyway? Love the buttonholes - and the curtains of course.

Cait O'Connor said...

So so funny Milla! You must write a book.
I have only one curtain here on the front door.

DJ Kirkby said...

Oh dear...from your first paragraph I have now concluded that I am, in fact, a man! Love the corsages you made and also the curtains! xo

Sally's Chateau said...

Tee hee what a terrific Monday morning tonic your blogspot is. Those curtains remind me of those multi coloured lollies, cool tho' from someone who struggles to thread a ruddy needle.

blogthatmama said...

Had no idea you were so crafty, Milla, or patient! Great post.

Preseli Mags said...

Not being of the curtain-making persuasion myself, I'm VERY impressed with yours. I had no idea that you could do that sort of thing too. I'm now feeling very inadequate! I loved the non-sequiteur conversation about spiders. Presumably Lolly was still in the car at that point? She must be a very well-behaved dog. Mine would have eaten spider boy and then followed it up by being sick on the new material.

CAMILLA said...

Milla - great curtains, great post, as Cait has said..... YOU MUST WRITE THAT BOOK.!! Wish I could sew..... just can just about muster a button.... sigh.


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