“Do you fancy coming to Widnes tomorrow, I need some kayaking kit?”
I have no real idea what this might mean or why Widnes is the obvious place to go for it. But then I’m not an expert shopper. If a shop contains no books, records or food then I’m out of my depth. Sarah, in contrast, can shop for anything and treats it as an art form.
So Saturday morning I’m in the passenger seat as we set off on Sarah’s Display Day.
Reaching Widnes we drive through the mostly empty set of elegant redbrick buildings that have clearly been the town centre in days gone by. Keep on going past a Tesco Humungous and eventually pull into a large car park a couple of miles on that’s claiming to be the Town Centre now.
Apparently this is not where the kayaking kit is going to be found. That’s for later on. And the trolley’s with us to be filled up with paper and card at Ryman’s Stationers. Paper and card for the service sheets and orders of service Sarah does as part of her being a Funeral Celebrant. So we’re effectively working here.
Immediately Sarah turns in. In my early days of knowing her she actually had a job for a while as a store designer at TJ’s. And though it ended bitterly it never dented her adoration of this northern chain of retail shrines.
And it turns out we’re in here for me!
“You need something to replace those red pumps that have been rubbing and making your ankles bleed. You can’t walk round in those walking boots on hot days like this. So there’s bound to be something in here!”
Indeed there is. And while I’m still getting my bearings in between ‘Trousers for Old Blokes’ and ‘Unfeasibly Skinny Jeans’ Sarah has produced two pairs of potentially suitable somethings.
Huge engineering works are taking place on the approach to the current bridge. Obviously part of the big project that will also see another bridge opening by autumn next year. At which point, apparently, both bridges will become toll roads. Thanks for that.
At which point, and partly because of bridge works and road closures – but only partly – I get us hopelessly lost somewhere in between Castlefields and Windmill Hill. Bringing about my brusque demotion to driving the car so that Sarah, an ace navigator as well as an expert shopper, can guide us competently to our idyllic destination.
At this point I’m not absolutely certain we won’t be leaving with a pointy little boat.
Next paddles are lovingly examined and at prices that would easily buy me a new record player are pronounced ‘reasonable.’ For technical reasons I don’t quite understand though, Sarah tells Andy she’s not yet ‘ready’ for her paddle.
As you’ll have gathered by now, kayaking is Sarah’s new thing. She’s joined a club and goes practicing on the River Dee. Getting ready to go sea kayaking round Anglesey in a few weeks.
A couple of years ago we were crossing the delicate steel bridge to South Stack Lighthouse, when some kayakers passed far below us in their colourful boats and kags. ‘I’d love to do that’ said Sarah. And now, of course, she will.
On the way to the till Sarah hoovers up a couple of minor accessories and then talks with Andy about coming back here (when she comes to get her paddle, no doubt) and having a go in their boats. It is a lovely place and absolutely top if canoes or kayaks are in any way your thing.
Well, for those of us who have kayaking needs.
Still enjoying the rare privilege of a drive in Sarah’s car I’m next directed to Warrington ‘for base layers.’
And in truth I get a couple of ‘base layers’ myself in here. Though I’ll be calling them T-shirts and wearing them to sit in cafés and talk about ‘Coming Home.’ My main sporting activity at the moment.
So we leave Warrington, with Sarah once again at the wheel of her own car. A boot full of ‘kayaking gear’ and Cheshire full of shopkeepers who are not just grateful, but know they’ve been able to witness a real expert at work on this day.
Content at the end of Sarah’s Expert Shopping Display Day!