River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

April 2005

Marion steers clear of controveresy by concentrating on her primary skill - shopping!

Readers of last month's letters page will know that I've been ticked off by Les Lawrence for my poor effort at writing 'Norfolk' in the previous issue of The Pump. This column stands corrected, humbly apologises and admits it is not good at dialects.

So this month I shall stick to a subject on which I can claim to be something of an expert. Modesty forbids that I should blow my own trumpet but my husband was not too far off the mark when he claimed that I have a black belt in shopping.

Some people (mostly of the male persuasion) dismiss shopping as nothing more than a necessary evil; maybe, but it's one I take seriously. I have already described in an earlier piece how, far from being the one-stop shopper beloved of supermarkets, I like to buy my food from individual suppliers even if this takes me on a meandering route from Denver windmill to Sergeant's at Stowbridge via the farm shop and the market fish stall.

But this effort pales into insignificance compared with the pains I take on a clothes-buying expedition. While I'm happy to pay top whack for good meat and fresh vegetables (I harbour dark suspicions about cheap food) when it comes

to clothes, I am only interested in bargains. Yes, I am that woman in the cartoon who arrives home laden with bulging carrier bags and announces triumphantly: "I've saved loads of money today!"

The simple little word 'sale' has me pawing the ground like an old warhorse hearing the distant sound of battle. I can't wait to be off, appropriately dressed in comfortable shoes and clothes that can be easily slipped on and off in an endless succession of curtained changing rooms. Because - and this is something that makes strong men weep - even if the very first garment you see in the shop is exactly what you had in mind, it is still essential to try everything else on (just in case) before buying the one you originally spotted.

In between the January and summer sales, I head for retail outlets and factory shops (my car automatically turns in at Jaeger's whenever it goes to King's Lynn) where all the stock is reduced price. OK, so it's a way for retailers to get rid of last year's lines but we black-belters know that if you choose something classic, that's not a problem.

Perhaps my love for a bargain was born many years ago when I lived in Singapore, where haggling was still standard practice. I have always had a bit of a drawl, so when a trader in Change Alley from whom I wished to buy a rather nasty plastic white handbag (to match my equally nasty white plastic shoes) tried to start the bargaining process with a laughably high price, I knew what the problem was. "I'm not an American", I told him firmly, and at once the dollars plummeted to a realistic, negotiable sum.

Confucius he say wise Chinese shopkeepers need a good ear for accents, too.

Marion Clarke

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