Six Soundbites from Strangers on Saturday
in chronological order
1. "Damian, you are not getting a Batman Scalextric."
Who and where?: A dark-haired woman to her son, who looked about seven or eight, in the cafe at John Lewis.
And why? I strongly suspect they had just been in the toy department, looking at the racks of Christmas gift ideas, and now the woman was reaping the reward for her recklessness, i.e. being nagged constantly until the festive season about all the lovely and expensive bits of plastic he saw there and now absolutely had to possess otherwise his life would be reduced to a meaningless ruin. For those who don't know or don't remember, a Scalextric is a toy racing set, where you stick various bits of plastic track together and race little electric cars around it. A bit of a boy's thing, but quite covetable if you're seven.
The conversation went on: "Damian, don't lean over the cake" / "Damian, be careful, you'll knock that over" / "Damian, don't do that." Accompanied by a running commentary of grumbles from Damian, of course.
What did we learn from this: This woman clearly never saw The Omen before naming her child.
We'll never know: What Damian actually gets for Christmas. But I'd start behaving in public if I were you, Damian. Remember, Santa's always watching...
2. "It's a size 10 and it makes me look six months pregnant!"
Who and where?: A young lady in the ladies' fitting rooms at John Lewis.
And why? Clearly she was trying on an unflattering garment, and goodness knows, there are plenty of those around at the moment. However, a British size 10 (= American size 6) is pretty small, so she must therefore have been darn slim in the first place, and therefore the pregnant comment was surely a gross exaggeration, probably aimed at drawing unwarranted attention to her whiny skinny self. And yeah, I say this as a British size 16 (that's an American 12 – some things about America are good, aren't they?).
The conversation went on: I don't actually know, because I got distracted by a very nice little top that I was trying on, which I then decided to buy (yay).
What did we learn from this: Fashion designers are rubbish. Eating pies is good.
We'll never know: Why are all the shops full of turquoise and chocolate brown at the moment, and almost no other colours? And why are so many women's shirts available that don't contain any space into which a bust could logically be fitted? And why does... oh, I'll shut up now.
3. "Oh. I think I've just wandered into heaven."
Who and where?: A brown-haired man with glasses, talking into his mobile phone in House of Fraser.
And why? He'd suddenly found himself in the ladies' lingerie department. He was talking in a chirpy manner, rather than an embarrassed or awestruck one, so I think he was able to cope with this unexpected displacement.
The conversation went on: He went back to his original conversation and wandered out of earshot.
What did we learn from this: That he believes heaven to be a room full of expensive ladies' underwear. No ladies in it, of course. Just the underwear.
We'll never know: Where the Oxford Street branches of hell and purgatory are located. Although if I was to hazard a guess, I'd place hell in the changing rooms at H&M at 5.30 pm on a busy Saturday, and purgatory in the Customer Services and Refunds queue at Marks & Spencer on the first opening day after Christmas.
4. "Victoria Beckham is 6 stone!!!"
Who and where?: A sixteen-year-old girl to her two mates in the magazine department of Selfridges.
And why? For the international readers, 6 stone is 84 pounds, or 38 kilos. That ain't much. And it ain't healthy.
The conversation went on: "Oh my god!" / "Victoria Beckham! Six stone!" / "No way!" / "No, six stone!!" and so on and so forth in an excitable teenage fashion for some time. An enquiry was then made as concerning the source of this piece of celebrity gossip, and specifically, whether it was Heat magazine, and if it was not Heat magazine, whether this cast any doubt on its veracity (Heat magazine being as renowned for scientific accuracy in its field as Nature or The Lancet, it appears).
What did we learn from this: Eating pies is good (see above).
We'll never know: What Victoria Beckham actually weighs... until we read it in Heat, of course.
5. "This was one of Ewan McGregor's first big things."
Who and where?: A blonde woman in the video department of HMV, talking to (I assume) her boyfriend.
And why? My imagination spontaneously came up with various interesting theories about this, but they were all foiled when I turned around and found her pointing at a DVD of Trainspotting.
The conversation went on: I don't know, since I had already spent a good ten minutes skulking behind various people in HMV, waiting for them to say something interesting, and I was starting to feel more than a bit awkward and silly about it.
What did we learn from this: My mind and the gutter – OTP, TRULUV4EVAR!!
We'll never know: What she considers Ewan's other big things to be, and whether she's had a good look at them lately.
6. "Margarita es así. Ni mala ni buena. Es distinta."
(translation: "Margarita's like that. Neither good nor bad. She's different.")
Who and where?: A middle-aged Spanish lady who was sitting next to me in Chowki (an Indian restaurant), with what seemed to be her son and daughter-in-law.
And why? Well, clearly there's something up with Margarita, and this lady (who incidentally sounded just like Chus Lampreave, who generally plays the "mad old lady" parts in Pedro Almodovar's films) felt moved to monologue on the subject for quite some time. She was so het up, in fact, that she resisted various attempts from her family to move her on to other topics of conversation such as what curries are made of, and what sights in London they should see the following day, in favour of harping on about Margarita and her wilful differentness.
The conversation went on: I sort of drifted off at this point, so the details escaped me, but Margarita's son, her flat, and her persistent headaches all came into it.
What did we learn from this: "Neither good nor bad – just different" is not a bad impression of oneself to transmit to the world. I'd like to think Margarita is some sort of admirable free spirit, but it's possible that she's just an annoying cow. At any rate, I'd rather be her than young Damian (he's SO not getting that Scalextric for Christmas).
We'll never know: What Margarita is saying about her....
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Now I must admit, I find myself running low on future themes for the Sunday Six – so I thought this might be a nice opportunity to