Thursday, 13 January 2011

Of course I take the hip flask shopping

Clothes shopping with one child is a nightmare, isn't it? With two kids? Double the pain. With triplets? Pass me the aspirins and medicinal brandy.

Out of necessity, I have developed tactics to manage it all - the clothes shopping, the terrible descent into the fourth circle of high-street consumer hell, the children.

From bitter experience I have learned the golden rule. One child at a time on the clothes shopping trip. No more. Absolutely not, no way. This at least means I am not simultaneously searching for blue leggings, pink skirts and trousers with fifteen zippered pockets up both legs which serve as mobile cataloging and databasing pouches while listening to constant whining and grumbling about feet and dogs.

By employing this basic tactic I have remained sane. It has meant that I have always returned home with at least one child suitably clothed and shod, the next one inspired and attentive, the third one patient, knowing their time will come. And I have not humiliated myself with a nervous breakdown in John Lewis.

Only once has this plan failed me. In Colchester. I had all three with me then. I excuse myself there thanks to mitigating factors involving a disappeared caravan and everyone sleeping on a floor. But, in fatigue and defeat, I sailed too close to an appalling flood of unstoppable tearfulness in a horrible shop selling horrible clothing. I recall leaning against a pillar, sinking down it slowly with my hands over my face while whispering 'I shall be alright in a moment go and look at shoes'. I came to my senses some time later, reeling like a drunkard, clutching a lot of tissues and waving a blue and white chequered maternity blouse which Shark says she quite likes because it's so inexplicably roomy.

But I have to break my golden rule. It is cold here and things are desperate on the clothing front. Squirrel is filled with holes. Tiger is held up by a length of string, and Shark? Don't ask what her leggings look like.

I must supply clothing, but I have three children all at once. Worse, I cannot breezily throw plastic at the problem since I am limited to a few dollars in cash (don't get me started on HSBC). And I don't know where a one-stop shop can possibly be to sell me blue leggings, pink skirts, and jeans with squirreling pockets down both legs, sealed by zips, not buttons, to stop the treasures falling out. I can only think of one solution to this multi-dimensional problem. A multi-dimensional one. Hundreds of stops at hundreds of street outlets, handling thousands of garments freshly stitched in Shenzhen. How straightforward can that be? I mean, we are only looking at maybe fifteen billion garments. We have to only find one. Three. Make that six. In all the right sizes, shapes, and most importantly, colour.

It's not looking promising. I could put money on the experience being at least eight hours long, filled with four-way discussions, financial fretting and arguments over a dog, held in the most noisy, crowded streets on planet earth. The only strategy I have thought of (apart from to get sorting while plugged into an ipod) is to provide a constant supply of coconut buns from every Japanese bakers between Sheung Wan and Hollywood Road in the hope that I can glue up everyone's faces.

Mostly it is thanks to the extraordinary patience and good humour of two hundred backstreet market traders that we get as far as we do. One black vest and a pair of pyjama bottoms after two hours crawling between 178 traders. But I can't keep going like this. After a prolonged assault on the cheap clothing stalls of old Hong Kong I have to give up, cross my fingers, and head to H&M.

After two hours there we emerge with a bag of sundry sale items (not even tear stained) including every pair of green zippery pocketed trousers that I can find in the right size for Squirrel, plus a promise that we will try a fresh assault somewhere else for Tiger's pink skirt, and yes, Shark, we will veer past the market trader we saw in Central where you saw the blue leggings. The ones you held off making a decision about until you'd seen the other 177 market stalls first.

But I have to look on the bright side, no? Otherwise I wouldn't be grit. I have developed a new tactic for Hong Kong clothes shopping with triplets on very little money (thanks, HSBC). Head to H&M at sale time, get the kids in the changing rooms, remove all their clothes, then run off to hide among the aisles pretending to locate something in green/pink/blue.

Of course I am not doing that. I am having ten minutes peace and quiet behind the leggings with a hip flask.


sharon said...

I think I'd take a barrel of brandy under those circumstances!

Deb said...

The absolute only way to shop with children is to carry a large supply of food and be poised to shove it in their mouths the second they open.

What is the HSBC? Do we hate them?

Grit said...

Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. They have customer service dated 1952. This has resulted in bolshy grit having no bank account here because i would not submit to procedures requiring certification of kept woman status. Unfortunately all the other banks are the same but HSBC were the first I encountered. The woman there also continuously looked beyond me to speak to Dig, so they hold a place of special resentment in my heart. But it has caused no small inconvenience.

windingcirclelifeschool said...

We too, do the one at a time when shopping with children as well..I have tried all 3 with 2 adults present and it just is too difficult to keep everyone happy.On the upside its one on one time?

ladybirdcook said...

H&M is always a wise choice, I'm afraid that my "buying clothes for three girls" method hasn't progressed much beyond dragging them there armed with a credit card. Now they are older I give them a budget (time and money) as we walk in and then just buy whatever they choose. They are learning slowly by experience that white floaty things that need ironing are less value for money than black jeans.