THERE'S something strange about Summer holiday shopping in early April. Or at least, there is in Ireland.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not bemoaning our climate. After all, we don't see months of snow in winter, so common in more Northern countries. Nor do our temperatures soar much beyond the mid twenties, (centigrade) on our hottest Summer day.
Windswept, westerly and warmed by the Gulf Stream, we Irish can, at the very least, always begin a conversation by talking about the weather.
But last week, when the rain beat down relentlessly, I found myself in one of our more popular indoor shopping centres here in Dublin. They're relatively new in Ireland, indoor shopping centres. Twenty years ago, you'd be hard pushed to find one with a roof, despite the fact that it rains nearly every day in this country. I'm not complaining. On the most horrible days, you can leave your coat in the car and enjoy the micro-climate of this catacomb of commerce.
Anyway, there I was. Rain washing the skylights high above my head. Nippy enough outside, that I haven't peeled off any winter layers, thanks very much.
And steeling myself to buy a swimsuit.
Not just any swimsuit, you understand. I'm not twenty anymore. Indeed, at that age, I could nearly buy a swimsuit without even trying it on first, and it'd be perfect. But that's a boast for another day.
A new swimsuit now has to flatter curves. Even the ones that aren't supposed to be there. Especially those. It has to lift bits of oneself. And it has to um, flatten other bits. It has to have invisible panels and generous tucks.
It has to work a bit of magic.
'Are the dressing rooms heated?' I ask the assistant on the way in. She blinks, then spots the selection of half-nothings on my arm.
'Last one on the right is nearest the overhead fan heater.'
Some twenty minutes later I emerge, triumphant. I don't think I've been this happy since I found my perfect wedding dress all those years ago.
And I think it's probably the same price.
'I'll take this one please,' I smile, handing over the others to the assistant, who starts to hang them on the rail beside her.
'You know, there's a beautiful wrap to match that,' she says, 'and have you seen the sandals over there? Divine. They'll be gone in a few weeks. They get snapped up so quickly.'
I quell the anxiety I always feel when I've been shopping for too long.
'I know. That's why I'm buying a swimsuit today. In April. For my holiday at the end of July.' I can hear a slight edge to my voice.
'Sure by then we'll be starting to get the Autumn ranges in. You won't get the selection you'll get now.' Her tone is even, her smile professional.
I head to the cash desk, determined not to be swayed. But a pair of high, wedged sandals catch my eye. They're beautiful. I hesitate. It wouldn't hurt to try them on.
They add three inches to my height. And they're so comfortable I could practically run in them. For a mad moment, I picture myself, on a beach somewhere, strolling along in my new swimsuit, the sandals elongating my legs.
And for that split second, I am twenty again.
So I'm waiting now for the weather to properly change. No more of this four seasons in a single day lark. At the very least, I want to be able to walk down to my local village. Three inches taller.
Failing that, I'll turn the heat up in my house for a few hours, and freak out my family.
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