WE'VE reached yet another stage of Lifting The Restrictions here in Ireland. As Vaccines roll out, as the numbers in our hospitals decline, what we hilariously refer to as non-essential retail has finally reopened.
It's considered non-essential, because it's basically clothes shops. During our 'essential retail only' part of Covid Lockdown, our food shops stayed open (obviously). Ditto our cafés, but only for take-outs. And pharmacies, hardware stores and electrical stores were all deemed daily necessities.
But not new knickers. Or socks. Or any children's clothes, apparently. I have visions of parents all over the country, sternly warning their young brood to press the growth pause button, as the months roll by.
My own three have passed that stage and in fairness, the girls and I are very much at the sock-sharing stage of our lives. If nothing else. Not to mention that essentials like figure hugging mini-skirt or cute floral-motif zip-up jackets arrive almost weekly in brown paper packages, bound up with heavy duty sticky-tape. We're thinking of inviting the postman to our family reunion this summer.
That said, there was probably less excitement on D-day, than when Penneys reopens after five months of closure. Penneys (Primark when it's abroad) is Ireland's iconic (and cheap) fast-fashion chain. The bigger ones sell everything from home furnishings to clothes, shoes, makeup and accessories for the whole family.
Tourists to our little island flock to Penneys and fill suitcases for everyone they've ever met. During the first week of its reopening, you had to book an appointment for an hour's shopping time. After that, there are queues around the block.
The day before it reopens, The Middle One announces she is taking the Penneys plunge.
'What do you need?' I demand. She's like royalty, rarely wears the same outfit twice.
'Knickers and socks.' This in a very reasonable tone. Too reasonable, I think. I know when I'm being softened up. She'll go in for essential underwear and stagger home with enough clothes to open a market stall.
I wait. She smiles. 'I also need new jeans. And a pair of runners.'
I sigh. 'Please make sure you need it and it can fit in your wardrobe.'
She looks at me in amazement. 'Of course it'll all fit in my wardrobe.'
She's probably right, I think. If only because the rest of her clothes live permanently on the floor.
I don't get to see the whole haul when she arrives home later that day. But she assures me that that the therapy part of retail therapy has definitely happened. Encouraged, I head out myself the following week.
I'm not an enthusiastic shopper. I mean, we have to be down to our last can of sweetcorn before I'm even persuaded to do 'The Big Shop'. And I'm a bit old for Penneys. Or any fast fashion, to be honest. Instead, I invest in a decent pair of 'walking' runners and a new storm-proof summer coat, in preparation for an Irish summer.
Right at the very end of May, just before it slips into the new month, we finally get a glimpse of the summer we need. The sun is shining and the breeze along the sea isn't a biting East wind. I'm going for a walk, I announce, lacing up my very clean, white runners. The Middle One isn't working that day and decides she'll come too.
We're at the strand when I notice the very unusual tracksuit bottoms she's wearing.
'Are they new?' I try to think what they remind me of.
'Yep, bought them in Penneys that day. Seriously, they are the most comfortable tracksuit bottoms I've every worn. I mean, look at this.' She pulls out the huge, elasticated waistband that stretches right over her flat stomach.
I start to giggle. Now I know why they looked familiar. Although I haven't had to wear them in years.
'They're not tracksuit bottoms,' I tell her, 'they're maternity trousers.'
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