Wings of desire

June 2, 2010

I still don’t understand this 24-hour culture.

Call me old fashioned, but why would anyone want to pop out to the shops at 2 a.m.? What can you possibly need at 2 a.m. that you can’t wait until the morning for?

If you’re sane, you’d obviously wait until the milk float hisses by (okay, I know there aren’t that many of them nowadays, so the bin men, all rattling and ‘this vehicle is reversing’), and then get up and pop out for whatever it is you need.

The ex-wife wasn’t sane, though, so when she once prodded me in the dead of night I didn’t react. She had quite a habit of prodding me and I had quite a habit of pretending not to notice. The prodding was usually to get me to shift a bit further to the edge of the bed. She said I made her hot (not in the good way, you understand). Anyway, that night I kept my eyes shut and automatically shuffled left. She prodded me again, this time harder in the small of my back with a (for such a large woman) bony elbow.

‘What?’ I grunted.

‘You need to get up. You have to go to the supermarket.’

‘Now? Whatever for?’

‘It’s my womanly time, you silly man. An emergency.’

I sighed. The woman was always having a period. That’s why we never had sex.

‘And?’

‘And I’ve run out of – well, you know. Sanitary stuff.’

‘Bloody hell, woman,’ I said. I peered at the green fluorescent numbers on the bedside table. ‘It’s 2 a.m.’

She prodded me harder, her bony elbow making me wince.

‘You can go in your pyjamas,’ she said. ‘Just make it quick.’

I didn’t. Go in my pyjamas, I mean. I was wearing rather fetching cream ones from Hackett, I remember, with a blue silk trim, but nice as they were, they still looked like pyjamas.

I showered (I like a shower after having been in my pyjamas, no matter the time) while pondering what to wear. I didn’t – and still don’t for that matter – own popping-out-to-the-shops-at-2 a.m. clothes. My work clothes were laid out on the landing, ready for the next day, but I didn’t want to crease them, and yesterday’s clothes were already in the wash basket. I opted for a pair of cream chinos and a black polo neck and, looking fairly dashing, though I say it myself, left the house to shrill tones of my wife grumbling that if I took much longer she’d call an ambulance.

I drove to Watford where I knew there was a 24-7 hypermarket.

I didn’t – and still don’t, really – understand who goes shopping in the middle of the night.

Let me tell you. There are a great many people who go shopping in the middle of the night. Just not people I know. And quite possibly not people you know, either.

The car park was full of jeeps – the sort with pictures of rhinos on the spare wheel.

The supermarket was full of ladies – the sort with slogans like ‘hot bum’ on their (ample) pyjama bottoms – yes, pyjama bottoms – pushing trolleys full of, well, food.

Doughnuts, mainly. Some of them ate the doughnuts while they shopped. I later learned that the store is particular popular for its freshly baked doughnuts. Still, it didn’t explain the alarming number of ladies in their pyjamas at such an unearthly time of night. It did explain, though, why so many North Londoners are, well, portly.

I picked up a variety box of twelve doughnuts – to see what the fuss was about, really – and made my way to the “feminine products” aisle. Somewhat embarrassed ( I am a bloke after all), I scoured the hundreds of products quaintly labelled “female protection.”

I realised that stupidly I hadn’t asked the ex-wife what she wanted. Discreet. Super. Maxi. Ultra. Normal. Night time. Day time. The one with a girl wearing white jeans. The one with a girl roller skating. Blue packs. Green packs. Multi packs. Utterly confused, I stood and stared and ate a doughnut.

A woman in a fluffy pink dressing gown and matching slippers shuffled by, glanced at me with barely disguised disgust, and picked a green packet off the shelf.

‘Pervert,’ she muttered.

I took her lead and plumped for a green packet too.

‘Didn’t they have the ones with wings?’ the ex-wife complained on my return. ‘I wanted the ones with wings!’

Wings? I had no idea what she was talking about, but ate another doughnut.

That night I dreamt of women in winged pyjamas flying towards winged doughnuts.

I think that was Freud telling me something.

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