Friday, 23 July 2010

Plus One

The last time I came within hat admiring distance of the Duchess of Cornwall was about three years ago, in a deluge, in Cawsand Square with a party of schoolchildren. I wore a bright blue Kagoule and thrust a soggy box of fudge at her Highness. She kindly accepted it, smiled benevolently at me and got into a minibus. When Hubby told me on Sunday that he was going the next day to a ceremony at Truro Cathedral where the Duchess was going to be presenting awards, I was quite excited.
“What’s the rig?”, I asked.
“My uniform”, he replied, “What else? A fascinator?”
“Droll. I know what you’ll wear because, give or take a few medals and the odd cummerbund, it’s always the same thing but what should I wear? Hmm, let’s see, I’ve got that lovely, navy blue two piece suit and my court shoes, or the pink, floral silk dress, or the Hobbs spotty number? What about a hat? It’s a bit short notice to find a hat.” I was merely thinking out loud, not genuinely asking for his advice.
“Alice. You are not invited”, Hubby said, flatly. I threw my hand up to my chest as though I’d been shot.
“Not invited?” I gasped, it hardly seemed possible.
“No love. Not invited. I’m standing in for the Captain as it is”.
“But surely the Captain was expected to have a plus one. Can’t I be your plus one?”
“No” and that was the end of the discussion. The next day, as Hubby rubbed shoulders with Royalty I decided to have my own adventure.
When I got to Taunton Dean, I pulled into the service station and texted the after-school club to book my girls in until such a time that Hubby had finished schmoozing and could retrieve them. That done, I texted Hubby to inform him of my plans and his involvement therein. Immediately, my mobile buzzed, informing me of a new text message. It read, DO NOT SPEND ANY MONEY. Like that, in capitals. Funny how he could shout at me via a text. I put my phone back into my bag and continued my journey until I got to IKEA in Bristol.
I had a pleasant lunch, resisted the temptation of meatballs and gravy, mooched about and then, funny old thing, but bit by bit my trolley filled up. Eventually, when I could no longer push the trolley lest a Health and Safety officer should apprehend me, I went to the check out. I paid, refilled the trolley and humped an enormous shelving unit, with ‘Two People Must Lift This Item’ emblazoned on it, under the trolley. Rubbing the small of my back, I stood up straight very gingerly, made my way to the Swedish shop, bought a few Scandinavian comestibles, a coffee and an ice-cream and leant against a bar top to eat and drink them before loading the car and driving home again. It was at this juncture that uncharacteristically, I checked my receipt. The fitted sheet that I’d bought in a peculiar chartreuse colour that had been thrust into my hand by a mature shop assistant with, “It’s been reduced from £19.99 to £3.25” had been charged to my account for £19.99. I can put up with chartreuse for £3.25 but not twenty quid.
“I say, excuse me”, I said to the check-out girl, “There seems to have been a mistake with a price here”.
“Customer returns”, she said, not even looking in my direction. Customer Returns was like Argos. I had to get a number then wait until my number was called. I was feeling rather weary at this point and still had a drive, now during rush hour, to contend with. Finally my number was called.
I went up to the desk. “I am a little aggrieved”, I said very calmly, “That I have to go through this process when it wasn’t my mistake. I have a long journey ahead of me and could well do without this rigmarole”. The woman in question said not a word but tapped, repeatedly with the end of her biro, at a sign on her desk. It was one of those you see everywhere these days in places where customer dissatisfaction is rife which elicits verbal abuse and how they don’t have to put up with it. I agree, no-one should feel threatened at work, similarly, surely we as customers, whether in a bus, hospital, airport or IKEA have the right to express that dissatisfaction?
“But I’m just trying to say that this isn’t my mistake. I would like a refund” I was exasperated but not angry. She pressed a button. “Violent customer”, she said into a microphone and before you could say Gravadlax, a surly supervisor materialised.
Later that evening as I fitted my £19.99 chartreuse sheet to my mattress, Hubby walked in. “You know Alice. That’s not a dissimilar colour to Camilla’s suit”. Hubby wished he’d had a panic button to press thereafter.

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