I’m currently reading Madame Doubtfire, the plot of which is set in England. One of the chapters tells of a shopping trip and perfectly describes the frustrations of finding what you need in Britain or, in my case, Ireland. Here, Daniel and his small daughter are on a search for a pair of dungarees—“hardy, machine-washable, room for growth, and NOT WHITE.”

Thinking about it afterwards, Daniel could not for the life of him work out where those two whole hours went. Admittedly, they went to several shops. The first had no dungarees at all, the second only white ones. The third had dungarees in red and blue and apple green, but they were labelled Caution: wash separately, so Daniel, remembering Miranda’s firm specifications, was forced to prise a wistful and somewhat resentful Natalie away. The fourth shop had machine-washable dungarees in grey, but not in Natalie’s size. The fifth had four pairs of dungarees in Natalie’s size, but none of them fitted. Nor did those labelled with the size above, nor the size above that.

‘They pinch,’ Natalie grumbled, pulling irritably at the crotch. ‘They’re too tight here. They hurt.’

‘Have you tried Notweeds?’ asked the saleslady, coldly.

So they tried Notweeds . . . as the glass doors swung open, the shop-girls sprang to life.

‘We’re closing now,’ they chanted in unison. The braver of the two laid her hand on the sleeve of Madame Doubtfire’s cardigan, to shoo her out.

Daniel was irritated. Drawing himself up to full height, he towered over the girl, and thundered, ‘Young lady, the notice affixed to that door says plainly that you close at half-past five.’

‘It’s practically that now,’ the girl argued.

‘There are still seven minutes left.’

‘That isn’t really long enough to try anything for size.’

‘Then we shall look.’

…Natalie practically had to be dragged between the racks of clothes. She trailed her feet along the floor so stubbornly, she left tracks even on the hardy shop carpet. She was horribly fractious, complaining loudly and bitterly: her feet were hurting; her legs ached; she wanted to go home; she was missing Blue Peter; she didn’t even like dungarees.

‘We don’t stock them anyway,’ crowed the shop-girl.

And that, dear reader, is why I sometimes wholeheartedly long for Walmart. (I’ll admit that other times I’m smitten with the charm of these shops—it’s just when I can’t find something I really do need that it’s frustrating.)

-Jennifer

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