Sunday, October 21, 2007

Born to shop

Shopping is a national pastime in Hong Kong, however I have never been one to "enjoy" the process of shopping unless it involves very expensive shoes or handbags and a suitably deferential shop assistant who brings me things, thus negating the need for me to move. I generally find the whole experience quite traumatic and unfulfilling, and would rather be sitting in a nice bar somewhere (drinking soft drinks, of course).

So, it was with some surprise that I found myself this afternoon in the worst possible combination of places. Firstly, I was in Causeway Bay. CWB is the busiest shopping area in the world and the mecca for all shoppers in HK on a weekend. It is hectic, hot, busy and generally horribly unfriendly as people cram onto the streets and push each other out of the way to rush to the next shop. Secondly, I was in IKEA. IKEA is a truly frightening place, designed to ensure you have to walk slowly around things you had no intention of buying before you went in, becoming increasingly frustrated with both the slow moving traffic and the inability to actually find what you went on for in the first place. Despite the best of intentions to only buy one or two items, you invariably come out with something plastic and colourful that you don't need. The Boy has it worse as the HK store insists on hanging key signs from the ceiling at head height if you are 6 feet or taller. So, while being shoved and slowed and generally hassled, he has the added benefit of hitting his head constantly. In the end all we discovered was that IKEA don't stock a bed of the right size for the room our new nanny will live in. And that we don't need a green plastic stool.

So, to the second task of the day, buying baby "essentials". Already very frazzled, we went to a baby "store" (if someone had told me I could have simply bought one in a shop, I could have avoided all this sickness and fatigue!). We thought we were prepared, we had read websites, books, asked the advice of friends. We knew what we wanted. Right until we got to a wall full of car seats. We did what any slightly bemused new parents to be when faced with this, we clicked the belts, we rocked them, we pushed the padding as if in some way the tablets of stone with the magic solution would appear to us. Choosing the cot had been easy, we went for the cheapest one that did what we wanted - but car seats are a more technical and costly purchase if you get it wrong. After a fair bit of squishing and rocking, we realised we needed professional help. In the absence of a man in a white coat with prozac, we found a shop assistant. So grateful were we that we then spent half an hour following her around the store as she told us what we needed. Two normally sensible, critical people blindly nodded and smiled as she informed us of the most popular brands of a range of items, why we needed a sprung matress for the cot rather than a foam one, and flashed a series of pink, yellow and blue items in front of us. Thankfully the Boy took over on the technical specs of baby monitors, by this time I had a strong urge to flee or find a dark quiet space and rock myself gently.

To say I fled once the credit card slip had been signed by the Boy would be an understatement. All I could think of was getting home to normality. There is now a very large bag hidden in a cupboard in the spare room, I am a bit scared of it if the truth be known, and think it will stay there until the Bump actually enters the world, preferably under lock and key. I am not quite sure what we actually bought in the end. I think there is a box with the word "nipple" on it, and something called a gro-bag. I am a bit worried about the latter, as formerly I always thought this was something you grew tomatoes in. I am not sure why my Bump needs fresh veggies, but I am sure it will all beome clear.

I am now going to have a little lie down before two friends, who have no intention of ever having children, come round tonight for supper to drag me back to normality.


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