Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ins and Outs

Yesterday, with the opening of a new entrepreneurial retail centre in the nearby cityette of Gloucester, we thought we'd go and take a ganzy. It's called the Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet apparently, cost £400 million quid and was opened by a hermaphrodite chap called Gok Wan (?) so it comes with a high pedigree.

We turned up all relaxed like, and immediately had to enter a cavernous concrete maze of pay and display parking that looked like it'd been designed by MC Escher during his oft-forgotten "daft" phase. £3 if you're going to be more than an hour. I was immediately irked, and I hadn't even exited the car yet. I could feel my irk-gland throbbing. "No more irking", it seemed to beg.

I used the time-honoured display of righteous anger used by generations of Englishmen when confronted by monosyllabic hordes out to get what they can from you, be it blood, land or money, and I tutted. Quite loudly as well. That'll teach the blighters. I then followed tiny, tiny signs through labyrinthine lanes, eventually finding the exit and parking the dependant-mobile in a nearby alleyway instead. I can't stand the idea of paying for the privilege of spending my own money. It makes me want to harrumph.



After paying a local urchin £3 to watch the vehicle, we wandered over to what was essentially a giant shopping mall, past fluorescent vested parking Nazis intent on you not parking anywhere for free (Ha! Suck on my free space, motor-fascists), past the strangely popular brass band welcoming people on this, the second day of it's opening, and avoiding eye-contact with shiny-suited employees determined to persuade you, by grimacing example, that you will have fun, damn you!

It was like entering Hell itself.

I checked to see if there were any triple-headed hounds hiding behind the oompah band, or maybe a diverted canal called the Styx, but no. I think the ferryman had been reallocated a position at the parking barriers, his long, bony, fleshless hands quite useful for getting gum out of the ticket slots.

"A coin to cross the barrier, oh lost and doom-ed soul of Gloucester. We also take Visa."

It was filled with shiny-faced crowds, sweating with the effort of spending money and scrabbling to get to bargains that would only be on sale for the next three or four years. There were quite a few empty shops, which made me wonder as to the wisdom of expecting a new retail outlet to do well in the middle of a global recession.

Still, we thought we would enter the fray, join in, make the most of it, pretend that we wanted to be there. We'd driven ten miles so we owed it to ourselves to make the effort. I took a breath, forced a little smile at my family, and strode forth into the breach.

After ten minutes I was so close to taking all my clothes off and screaming "KNIVES!" outside Marks and Spencer's that the Missus suggest we cut our losses and fight our way back out, like spawning salmon having second thoughts about all that 'dying for a shag' business after all, and nipping back downstream to the beach, thank you very much.

Now, I don't have any phobias, but if anything comes close, it's jabbering crowds of shoppers combined with limited escape routes. They make the vein in the side of my head throb like when you accidentally slam your penis in the fridge door a few times.
You know . . .

What? I said accidentally . . .

Moving on . . .

So I needed somewhere to recuperate, and the good lady missus, noticing the cracks in my clenched teeth, suggested we make our way to the wetlands trust at Slimbridge.

What better way than a quick walk around the local bird sanctuary that I love, occasionally lobbing birdseed just out of reach of unappreciative overweight ducks. I love doing that. Nothing waddles more amusingly than a fat duck. Even the fit, healthy ones waddle, so you can imagine what the obese ones are like.

I could feel the stress hormones in my brain return to their normal levels. I took a quick picture of those mad Crested Screamers I like, but mainly because they looked like they only had one matching pair of legs between them:

I exhaled for the first time in four hours and all was suddenly well.

I could enjoy the day without other living things invading my personal space, or poking me for reasons known only to themselves.

Then I had a close encounter with a psychotic moorhen, who seemed to take exception to my epidermis, and so tried to remove as much of it as possible with it's beak. We took a spot of video, partly because that sort of attack doesn't happen every day, but mainly to show the sympathy I got from my loving offspring as I was mauled by a wild creature. He's off camera, but I think you'll get the gist:

The whole day was like two polar opposites of torment and enjoyment. I was thinking that many people might concur with this, only suggesting the good and bad parts are in fact the other way round. For some, the idea of spending an hour or two in the cold, looking at birds and getting all excited because you saw a Kingfisher for half a second might be anathema to their sensibilities.

I can respect that, in the same way I respect people who eat grapefruit. I don't understand it, but I respect it.

At least you don't get pecked very often in a shopping mall.


  1. I feel the need to report back that yes, you can indeed get pecked at one of our shopping malls around here!

    I feel your pain at the new mall opening adventure, I have attended a couple of theses "events" because my wife felt the need to look for bargains.

    If forced into more mall experiences, I expect that at some point in my future, the evening news will feature me being led out by the police in handcuffs, while reports from my neighbors will be something like "he seemed like a nice, quite man."

  2. It's funny how little ones get joy out of pain,somethings never changed...I was laughing along with him!!

  3. You should try being pecked by ducks. Obviously, you are into pain. The poor hen was merely looking for the food you are supposed to have in that hand. And now your child thinks it might be enjoyable to inflict pain. His girlfriends will all hate you (except for that masochistic one with all the piercings and the spiked dog collar) for it later.

  4. SkylersDad - lol. Quiet chap. Always kept himself to himself.

    Thinkinfyou - Thanks for that. I'm underwhelmed by all the sympathy!

    Douglas - Spiked dog collar you say? That's marryin' material right there!

  5. Hehe, I feel your pain about the Gawk On mall. No fun if too crowded! Good to hear the later half was better.

  6. I wonder why so many English people love birds?

    And I love birds by the way.

  7. Honestly, men just don't appreciate the beauty of retail therapy!

    Gok would ... I love Gok, I want him for my BFF

    Actually, I'm starting to love your posts so much that I'm considering forcing you into being my BFF ... if Gok's too busy, that is.

    Fat ducks are the best, although that vicious yet discerning coot or whatever the heck it was now has a firm place in my affections.

    Hope your weekend is just dandy!

  8. Jules -- We all traveled to a zoo last year. The ducks -- well, the drakes at least -- seemed especially athletic. I witnessed my first, and hopefully my last, duck gang rape. Five on one. It was horrifying. The poor dear was almost drowned.

  9. Ah, you are one of those bird-loving English. Ever thought of getting a parrot for your shoulder?

  10. Eric - Cheers mate. I usually dont mind malls in the mmiddle of the week when too many joyless proles aren't there, but I don't know how people stand them at the weekend.

    Dr Z - Whats not to love. They're like tiny gummy dinosaurs with more interesting scales.

    Girl I - If I was your BFF I would, like Gok, probably look at your boobs, but for entirely different reasons.

    Ava - I understand that it isn't unheard of for female ducks to drown during the overly-brutal attention of groups of males. I blame Grand theft Auto.

    GB - I tend to think thats more a case of a parrot getting a human for its foot.

  11. Jules, you poor thing, you both tutted AND harrumphed?
    I've pursed my lips and shaken my head -- ever so slightly -- in sympathy.
    I've personally never understood the idea of paying to get somewhere where you can pay some more, but apparently it's worked somewhere and they're hoping for a repeat performance.
    The trip to the wetlands was well-timed.
    I've raised a Long Hammer in your honor, my friend.

    my WV is "swooperp". Sounds like something that may have happened to the moorhen.

  12. i can not abide shopping, sugar, so going to a mall to just check it out is like visiting the lowest depths of hell for the experience. so, i'll say no more about that, but...i love y'all way of de-stressing! a lovely walk and the sound of that baby's laughter was joyful! i think i love you! ;) xoxoxo (and your dear missus and child, too!)

  13. You know Jules, you are an artist in terms of your selection of words. Word of the day? Cityette.

  14. Pearl - Cheers. And well done on the limited expression of annoyance and anger. The British trick is to save it up in a tight little dark ball at the centre of your psyche, and then release it all at once by taking over the world. Temporarily, anyway.

    Savannah - Aw shucks *buries head in shoulder and giggles like a girly*

    Inspector Clouseau - Thank you. Not sure if it'll get accepted by Chambers or Oxford though.

  15. I'm pretty sure I have an overdeveloped irk gland, especially when it comes to crowds.

    You are a brave man, and I'm glad the birds helped the blood pressure!

  16. I prefer Cheltenham for shopping. Ah, Montpellier... but then I wouldn't thank anyone for being dragged round a bird sanctuary either. There's a place for ducks and it's inside a pancake liberally smothered with hoisin.

    Nice blog!

  17. Vic - I think hyperirkopathy is hereditary as well.

    Mr London Street - Ooh, now you're talking. Crispy duck, mind, rather than shopping, although Montpelier is quite nice.

  18. I enjoyed this post. And the video - although the small voice off's tendency to merry schadenfreude reminded me of a child not unrelated to me. I always seemed to bring joy to her at moments I could not share. There may be trouble ahead...

  19. Brother Tobias - Glad you liked it. I would laugh at you suffering because of someone else's schadenfreud, if it wasn't so ironic.


I'm going to risk taking comment moderation off for a bit, so if you're a web-bot, a robot, a bot-fly or a bottom-dwelling sediment-feeder, then please refrain from commenting.

Otherwise, have a go. S'fun.