This is the story of a fun shopping trip I had with my eldest daughter on Saturday. I will do my best to try and bring the character of the area and the sights to life and I hope you enjoy this trip as much as I did.
There is a suburb of Southampton called Portswood. It has a right old mish mash of shops and a very diverse clientele. Portswood is bordered by a very wealthy residential area, student land, and a whole host of cultural communities.
Portswood has a great shopping centre which is spread along the High Street. I suppose it runs for half a mile in length, and each side of the street has a range of banks, pharmacies, charity shops, greengrocers, clothing outlets, bakers, etc. There is a Post Office on one side and a library on the other. There are also various fast food take aways and a couple of restaurants. There is even a high end supermarket (for all the wealthy people) and a low end frozen food shop (for the not so wealthy people). There is a beautiful bridal shop and a Blockbusters video store. There used to be a Woolworths store but alas, the store is now an empty shell as the company have gone into administration.
The High Street (equivalent to Main Street in the USA) used to be the main place to shop in England when we were growing up, but these days most of the shopping is done in the newer malls or shopping centres that are on the outskirts of town, leaving the High Street full of more interesting shops and restaurants, many of them lower end but very diverse.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, on Saturday morning, my eldest daughter and her bump which is now a definite, easily recognisable bump) called to ask if I’d like to go and hit the charity shops with her to see if we could find some maternity clothes. We used to go shopping together regularly, but haven’t done this for ages, so I was quite excited about having a girly afternoon with my eldest baby. My daughter had apparently just had a temper tantrum because nothing fitted, so she was in need of something to fit her expanding waistline.
So, I prepared myself with flat boots, plenty of carrier bags, money and a promise of “don’t impulse buy”. Off we went and actually managed to park quite easily, which is a rarity nowadays when shopping in England.
As soon as we got out of the car, Gemma (not her real name) needed the loo (restroom), despite having gone just ten minutes earlier at my house. As luck would have it, there was a public toilet at the entrance to the car park. I waited outside as I knew what was lurking in there (I really dislike having to use public toilets). I heard her close the cubical door which was then followed by cries of “eeerrrr” , “oh no” and “why did I come in here?” I patiently waited, giggling away, until she reappeared, muttering about “now she knows why she carried antibacterial hand wash in her bag” and “why don’t they clean these places?”
So off we went to attack the High Street.
We followed our previously well trodden route which takes us down one side of the road, cross at the pedestrian crossing, and back up the other side. That way, we miss nothing!
The first thing we noticed were that a couple of local businesses had closed down, one a national butcher chain. However, we didn’t let this deter us and we soon found ourselves inside the Barnados Charity shop. There it was, a cream lampshade, just calling to me! “Debbie, I want to be in your bedroom, buy me, buy me“. It was £1.50 ($2.50) and it was brand new! First purchase made… oh yes, I was supposed to be looking for maternity clothes… rummage, rummage, nope nothing let’s move on.
So on we went… past the fish & chip shop, past a newsagents, past a Pound Shop (equivalent to a Dollar Store), past a bingo hall, past an Indian restaurant, and there was our second target the Scope shop which is a Charity for cerebral palsy and disabled people in general. Rummage, rummage, “oh look at those gorgeous emerald green patent shoes, they look brand new” only to be met with “for goodness sake Mother, they may have been ok when you were ten years old, but not now!” Oh ok… back to the hunt for maternity wear. Then, I saw it waving at me from a hanger… a gorgeous white crinkle cotton blouse… well, I had to have it, didn’t I? I only have about 5 white crinkle cotton tops so I really did need it. Nice hats for weddings etc, no, don’t need those… onto the books… nope nothing there for me but Gemma found one she wanted… nice handbags and “Oh what a gorgeous pair of boots” can I really get my size 7’s (US 9) into a size 5 though? No maternity clothes.
So onward our quest progressed…
We went past the frozen food shop for the not so wealthy people… past the pub, oh didn’t know there was a pub there, but it’s next to the betting office so probably not a nice pub… past the dry cleaners and across the road to the other side.
Now here’s where I first noticed that there were a lot of foreign accents, and I mean A LOT. As we were looking at the beautiful Cinderella style wedding dresses in the bridal shop window, this poor unfortunate lady walked past us. Over here, long, blouson style tops are in fashion and are worn over jeans, trousers or maybe leggings. Well this lady who sounded Russian obviously didn’t know about the trouser part because she had her bright yellow blouson style top on – which only just covered her derriere I might add – over the top of a pair of grey lacy tights (pantyhose). Well, I wanted to run after her and point out her mistake, but Gemma held me back. At the bottom of the ladies rather large grey lacy covered legs, were a pair of interesting yellow ankle boots and on the top of her head was a grey beret, so it looked like grey head, yellow body, grey large lacy legs, yellow feet… oh dear! But seeing people dressed, ummm, differently, is all part of the colour of Portswood. You will see Asian ladies in Sari’s, students wearing typical student attire, old ladies in things they really shouldn’t be wearing and then normal people like me and Gemma.
So on we went, past the mobile phone shop… past an internet cafe, oh that’s new… past a bank… past a low end shoe shop… past a hardware shop… then into another charity shop, this one was the Cancer Research shop. The lady behind the counter was a real character. She was what I’d call a rough diamond. She had badly bleached blonde hair with two inch dark grey roots which was badly in need of a good cut, lots of cleavage showing, a chain dangling a stone studded ‘R’ around her neck which her cleavage threatened to eat at any second and both hands full of rings… but she was lovely.
By this time, I was fed up with rummage for maternity wear and asked straight out if she had any. She went and found a gorgeous top for Gemma and we matched it up with some trousers too. As I was talking to the lovely lady, I spotted a beautiful pinky coloured cashmere cardigan which had been displayed on a wall. I asked to look at it, which of course involved the use of a step ladder and the voluptuous cleavage threatened to escape as the lovely lady made her way back down the ladder with my best find of the day. It still had the Marks & Spencers tags attached. It was made with cashmere & angora… price £8.95!!! Originally, it would have been £40-50. M & S sells good quality clothing that lasts for years. It’s not cheap though, but it’s also not the most expensive, but everyone here loves Marks & Sparks as we call it.
Then the bargains flowed, shop after shop we found some great stuff… maternity combat trousers, big baggy tops, a sparkly evening top for me and then… oh I just have to have you… my little darlings, you’ve just been waiting for me to find you… what caught my eye? A pair of gold, satin covered, open backed, kitten heeled shoes with a little jewel on each side… I know, they sound terrible but they are just perfect for a party I’m going to next weekend. I’ll be wearing a black trouser suit with a lovely cream top and the shoes will be discreetly, yet still on show, tucked under the black hems. Now of course, I might not be able to walk in them and I imagine dancing will probably be out of the question… maybe after a few lemonades I might attempt a dance, we’ll see.
Back to Portswood…
We found a Polish shop. No, not a Polish shop that sells Polish. A Polish shop for Polish food shopping. We have the country’s largest Polish community here, and shops to cater for their needs are popping up everywhere. So we went in to see what delights they had. Well there was jar after jar of some lovely looking things, no idea what they were though.
When we eventually crossed the road at the top of the High Street, we were laden down with bags. Our feet were aching and Gemma was needing another bathroom moment but decided to wait… wonder why? We went into an Asian food shop where Gemma found some Botong for her South African husband. Botong is, I think, raw meat flavoured with goodness knows what and made to look like a sausage. Gemma tricked me once into tasting some and assured me it was cooked. I won’t tell you how it tasted or how my stomach reacted, I’ll leave that to your imagination. Anyway, Gemma thought her husband wouldn’t notice how many bags she had if she took that home for him… smart girl 😉
Then it happened..
We approached a fabulous shop selling all kinds of fresh fruit, vegtables and flowers. Over here, it’s quite common for shops to display their goods outside the front of the shop so you can select what you want and then go inside to pay. As we got closer to the door, Gemma started making some interesting sounds… almost like pleasurable gasps really. Then it hit me… the smell of fresh fish. Whilst my stomach was turning over and threatening to evacuate it’s contents, Gemma was in sniffing heaven. Great big gulps of fishy smell went into that girl… it’s a craving she has, the smell of fish… I waited outside turning a shade of green and trying to sniff the air coming the other way while she went and sniffed around and eventually came out with a bag of fresh fish and a gleaming happy face.
We then returned to the car, weary and tired but happy with our bargains. I made sure the fish was put in the boot (trunk) before we made our way home.
Can’t wait to go again…