A morning shopping. Every girl's dream, you'd think. All the shops of the High Street there before us, my wife and I with a few hours to kill in a strange city before our train home. We didn't buy anything, save for a kitchen essential from a department store, but we spent a long time in that not buying anything and we saw a lot of shops.
I'm lucky to be able to go shopping with my wife. It's something we can do together that we both enjoy, and it gives me access to a world that would otherwise be closed to me. I play the Dutiful Husband to a T, following her through the rails, carrying her prospective purchases and holding her coat and bag while she disappears into the fitting room. If anyone has ever noticed that occasionally one of the things she buys that she doesn't try on is many sizes too large for her, then nobody's said anything.
Yet for all that it's something I can never be part of. I'm better off than the red-faced blokes wishing the earth would swallow them up as their other half peruses the underwear, but even then I'm still an island of drab in a sea of colour. Sometimes, as yesterday, this gets to me and I come away from the experience depressed instead of on the high I should be, and yet again as yesterday my low mood gets to my wife and affects her too.
This time it was standing outside the fitting room that did it. A large party of women were there, I think they were shopping for outfits for a wedding, and they were all so happy. From the attractive twenty-something in the green number to the beaming short fat middle-aged lady who looked for all the world like a boldly rose-printed tea-cosy, they were there to have fun and it showed. And for the first time, while waiting for my wife to emerge having tried on the orange dress that turned out not to fit as she'd hoped, I wished I could have been anywhere else.
Like a moth near a candle flame, I can perform several orbits of the light that fascinates me. But eventually, as yesterday, I'm going to pass too close to it and get singed. Unlike the moth though, in time I'll come back for more.