Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Another incident from a while ago.

Yesterday I went up to the stock room to be confronted by the sight of a 60-odd year old woman in a sparkly Madonna t-shirt, trousers inexplicably unzipped to display her (thankfully enormous) white knickers, and a great big grin on her face.

She had wandered out of the delivery bay around the corner, like some kind of weird unearthly vision, at the same time as I arrived upstairs, where unbeknownst to me she had gone to try on the top. Of course my eyes were at first drawn against their will to her crotch, and frankly I was speechless for several moments while she gleefully asked, in her childish voice, 'what d'you think?'! Ungluing my gaze from the open trousers, I realised she was talking about the t-shirt, despite the fact that her fingers were plucking at the edge of her pants (some may get the wrong idea here, imagine a little girl who's lifted her skirt up to fiddle with the hem out of girlish shyness, unwittingly displaying her undergarments to all and sundry). I can't imagine the expression on my face, but thankfully Victoria is not the intuitive type. She went on to explain that she was going for her gold star in line dancing, so I told her that she'd better have it to make sure she looked the part.

Victoria is a little girl of about 12 stuck in an old lady's body. She has short, lanky grey hair, and wears the same jeans, american eagle t-shirt and mangy old green fleece every Thursday - every day for all I know. She smells of the great unwashed, but in hers as in some other cases it is forgivable. Her moods are irrational and extreme - some weeks she won't say a word, others she won't stop talking, regardless of whether or not there's anybody in the room. If there's a bee in her bonnet, she'll smack the table in a fit of rage - many a time I've expected her to burst into tears over some trial or other - and talking her down is nigh-on impossible. But if she's happy, due to say some success with a Tudor re-enactment or bonfire display, she'll be chattering and giggling away under her breath all morning. She even proudly brings in her certificates and trophies for dancing to show us all.

She's another one with a tragic tale (haven't they all!). When she was a child, people who weren't 'normal' were swept under the carpet - her parents sent her to a convent to live, where she probably spent a significant amount of her adult life. When she first started at the shop she was like a little church mouse, barely audible - she'd come down to the office to ask permission to use the toilet.

I asked her about where she lived now and if she had any family. Turns out she has a flat (housing association or assisted living, I suppose) , and a social worker checks up on her - and she is married. They come into the shop together sometimes to buy costumes for their dancing and shows. If there is any proof in this world that there is someone for everyone, surely she and her hubby are it.

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