Things to do today. Leaflets to print, parcels to post and, most importantly, Christmas shopping to be started. Everything on my list has a degree of urgency - a deadline - and I can almost hear the ticking of a clock as the countdown gets underway.....
The most urgent things on my list take me to the far side of Shrewsbury - the unlovely bit that no one would want to visit. Tourists on the town's Darwin Trail don't make it this far; the attractive town centre with its winding shuts and passages and half-timbered buildings gives way to the utilitarian, the business units, car show rooms, light industry and the sort of useful places that are handy to know about should you need a small obscure fitting for an obscure part of your life that is falling apart.
I fetch up at Sundorne Retail Park - the gateway to this development is guarded by an almost abstract (can there be such a thing?) sculpture. As I wait for the lights to change I decide it probably represents the sun, on a stick. It's a grey old place, unloved, devoid of cheer. The vast sheds, housing the usual suspects - DFS, Allied Carpets, Staples, Homebase wave optimistic banners urging us in, but on this dull morning they too are flagging. The car parks are empty and the municipal planting is ragged at the edges. There's a scurry of activity over at MFI whose closing down 'Everything Must Go!!' sale has attracted kitchen fitters from across the county. Those fitters can be seen hauling pieces of show kitchens into anonymous white vans, pausing only to light up or clamp a mobile phone to their ear. Nothing like a bargain is there?I wonder - and am seriously tempted - if I could do all my Christmas shopping here thus avoiding the crush in town itself. This is obviously what the retailers in Sundorne are hoping I'll decide to do. They have pulled out all the stops to entice me with what may not be traditional Christmas fayre but might be an interesting alternative. Homebase's purple and pink themed point of sale cards are a case in point: 'Oh look!' I hear some lucky recipient exclaim 'A Daisy Ironing Board!' or, and more curiously, how about some festive decorating filler? Great price! Fab!
I impulse buy a fitted sheet and some new lights for the tree. A can of de-icer seems a good idea too. It's stacked incongruously under some gross little decorated trees and some 'Good Girl' Christmas Cat Stockings. I ponder the grammar of this for a while before taking it at face value. I do not know any cats who would welcome a Christmas stocking filled with cat treats so they stay on the shelf. Things crossed off shopping list - nil.
In Staples I could do much better - I have a love of stationery and this is stationery heaven. Give me a paperclip and a ream of paper and I'm happy indeed. But I don't think my nearest and dearest share this love - so again nothing ticked off the list. Allied Carpets, DFS and Dunelm Mill? Nah. There'll be no carpets, couches and curtains under our tree this year.
So there was nothing for it but to head into town where the spirit was a bit more festive but ever so slightly subdued. Do I scent an air of retail desperation? Not even Woolworth in its cut-price death throes seemed busy - maybe everyone was slogging it out in the basement out of sight. With that clock ticking away I trudged the streets - everything started to look much the same after a while and my purse remained firmly closed. All this stuff - all this material flim-flam - all looking for a buyer. How much is really needed or wanted?
And the outcome of my trip? I bought a book (for me) and a DVD as a gift, and 3 packs of cards and an M & S Chinese meal. Not a very productive shopping trip was it? Which means I'll have to go back next week. With a list and a plan. Groan....
PS I'm easy to please - as I said above, a box of colourful paperclips will do nicely.