The other thing we did in Norwich was visit M&S. I wanted some teeshirts, because most of my ancient ones have indelible stains on them – I’ve no idea why, greasy or grubby blobs that nothing will shift; I’m just a messy eater or something – or are faded. I really don’t buy clothes very often and, actually, I don’t think I’d bought anything at all this year except two pairs of really cheap sandals, until yesterday. When I announced my intention, LT said he could do with a pair or two of lightweight trousers and he knew exactly what he wanted and the size, so they didn’t need to be tried on, which is a huge bonus in anyone’s book.
We spotted the teeshirts quite quickly, but they were very cheap and thin, so I thought that possibly the better ones were upstairs (I’m too old to be quite that casually dressed, really) and we might as well check out the trousers first. Tim said, odds were that they wouldn’t have the right colour in the right waist/length combination because he’s a pretty standard size so they sell out and don’t replace them. That reminded me of when my children were small and I was buying them school uniform and that was what I found too, even thirty-plus years ago. I’d go in for a – let’s say – age 9-10 white school shirt and they’d have every other size but. So I’d think (it being half way through the summer holidays) that they would be getting in more stock soon. And I’d revisit every week and they never did. Sometimes, I’d move shirts about to a pattern I’d recognise but wasn’t obvious, and it was the same next week. This was annoying but not incomprehensible, before the days of automatic stocktaking in the time of barcodes, but it seems that it hasn’t changed.
In the chinos that Tim wanted, there were Pure Cotton Regular Fit, Regular Fit Linen Rich, Regular Fit Stormwear, Pure Cotton With Active Waist, Straight Fit Pure Cotton and Straight Fit Pure Cotton With Belt, which is too much choice to start with, in just one style of trousers. What he actually wanted was Super Lightweight Regular Fit, but they didn’t have any of those. Why they had Stormwear in a heatwave is open to debate. But we started looking through for his size. We found them in black, in the Pure Cotton Regular Fit and in navy, the colour he wanted, in Straight Fit Pure Cotton, which he’d have had to try on in case they were the wrong shape and, by that time, he couldn’t be arsed. Admittedly, we didn’t search the Linen Rich or Stormwear because he didn’t want those at all. So we came away without. It really did take me back all those years to when they had every size but the most popular and never restocked.
After a quick foray through the immense first floor women’s section, we ended back on the ground floor women’s casual again and I found there was actually a choice of tee-shirts in a whole section to itself. The choice, as in the trews, was puzzlingly wide. V neck, round neck, boat neck, vest, several different weights and sleeve lengths. What I liked and wanted in white, size 12 or 10, wasn’t available in anything under 14, though it did go up to 22. Subtract two even numbers for American sizes, of course. In the end, I did buy five teeshirts in various colours, excluding the hideous ones, and spent a little under thirty quid. I had shrugged and reckoned they were cheap enough to last a season and be put in the charity bin if necessary.
Later, I looked up the chinos online and found the ones Tim had wanted. It said there were two pairs in his colour and size in the Norwich branch, and four of the pure cotton ones. I don’t believe it. There wasn’t a single pair of Super Lightweight Regular Fit on show, though they did have winter weight in midsummer.
I’d not be surprised if Marks & Sparks had to close a lot of their shops, as other retailers have had to. Surely they’re too big to go under – but honestly, I haven’t found anything to buy there in years and had pretty well stopped looking. There’s too much stock that no one wants and they don’t have the lovely everyday basics that people do, in the size they need. It’s all own brand, for goodness sake. Why don’t they sharpen up a bit?
Anyway, today I went to buy fruit, get a new watch battery and pick up new contact lenses – all easily done with free parking in lovely Yagnub – and, as I ambled back to the car, caught the eye of the nice woman in the dress shop. So I deposited my shopping in the car and went back. I had a pleasant half hour browsing and trying on clothes and could have bought several outfits. I bought a dress and a skirt and, unasked, she knocked off nine quid. She didn’t have any teeshirts, but it reminds me why shopping local is much nicer than anything else. If only there were still a shop with men’s clothes here.