It dazzles you with its large, cheap-looking, sky-blue typeface. It has arrays of page 3 model type mannequins wearing indecent lingerie in too-large windows. It will never, ever run out of hooped earrings. It will always run out of the two items in the window you actually considered. Everyone pretends they don't shop there when 90% of us do. It stormed my Yorkshire high street in 2003. It pretends not to use child labour through some half-arsed ethical policy. You guessed it- it's Primark.
When my sister arrived, I was still in denial about my state of living. Five weeks on, I still had three full bin bags lurking at the side of my door, discarded make-up wipes littered on my dresser and popcorn crumbs festering in my bed. This is the life, I thought. Who needs cleanliness when House is always on repeat?
"HAVE YOU LOOKED AT YOUR ROOM RECENTLY?" bellowed my sweet ginger raven.
"Oh yeah it's pretty big, the windows don't shut though," I replied.
"YOU HAVE BITS IN YOUR BED. BITS I AM NOT SURE OF," said my sisterly companion.
I said: "Tee hee, that will be the popcorn. Let's fling this to the side," as I flicked the bits out of the bed.
"YOU DO NOT HAVE A SHEET ON YOUR BED." Boomed the ginger biscuit.
"Well, if you saw my blog post about Ikea..." I floundered.
"NOR DO YOU HAVE A PILLOW COVER. I AM GOING TO TAKE THE BLANKET THAT HAS NOT BEEN ON THE FLOOR, AND PLACE IT OVER THE PILLOW. I DO NOT CARE IF YOU ARE COLD, FOR YOU ARE A DISGUSTING CREATURE WHO NEEDS TO LEARN!" shouted the girl who only just touches 5"4. Well, perhaps the latter part of that statement was made up, but the implication was made. I had become a squatter in my own home. And who better than your elder sister to shame you into place?
However, the place I had been shamed into venturing to lurked in the far corners of Madrid. Perhaps Madrilenos actually realise how fucking embarrassing it is to worship the cheap tackhole that is Primark, or perhaps they needed a big enough shopping centre on the outskirts to house the monster. When my sister and I made our arrival, it was clear both ponderings were true. We had arrived in Spanish shopping hell.
"People.are.walking.really.slowly," I said to my sister.
I do not think I have seen a shopping centre busier in my entire life. Not Trafford Centre, not Westfields, not anything. Or perhaps it was because people were moving so very slowly. Like a syrup, the shoppers oozed across the mall and let no particular flow determine their direction. The metro one row up, one row down system on the escalator is the only functional queueing system in the entire country (MacDonalds is a riot). People walked at each other from every possible direction, stepping on feet and tripping up old ladies to run after their wanton child. And that was if they were looking. Couples stopped in their tracks to point at windows or joke with their friends whilst 3-year-old Fredrico started raiding the bins. This place wasn't a jungle. It was retail suffocation.
Trailblazing the maze and solving arrows like menacing IQ puzzles, my sister and I might have stepped on a small child's head just to find and enter the P Palace. After elbowing hordes of syrupy shoppers, we had arrived at our destination. And it looked something like this:
Sometimes words fail me. This is certainly one of those occassions.
As I entered the shop, the tides had turned. Challenge mode had begun. GAME ON.
Level 1: Defeat the coats
Level 2: Partywear
Level 3: Shoes
Level 4: Gifts for friends
Level 5: More shoes
BOSS LEVEL: What you came for
Level 7: Miscellaneous
Level 8: The checkout
- I pick up a blue coat that looks seemingly inoffensive from the rack. It has a rather endearing fur collar that is fortunately, not made from animal. I take a closer look, and realise the buttons look almost offensive in their largeness. I drop the coat onto the head of a small child. I do not look back.
- This time I face an even larger crowd and swipe a purple-patterned pencil skirt from under the nose of a frantic woman. Realising that the William Morris flock pattern will never do anything good for my semi pear shape (large thighs, no bottom) I concede defeat after my sister mocks me.
- Why does every shoe have a pink zip? Where are all of the basic £2 white pumps I have grown to know and love? They are with the ballet pumps that I purchased, brown and inoffensive, in a size 5 because I think my toenail length has made me go up a size.
- I had many a request. I laughed them off. Primark is serious enough business when you are trying to get your own purchases.
- Sibling decides that she needs a pair of shoes, and actually considers the violently purple suede courts to team with red wrap dress. Fearing that her national average 5 "4 stature will be lost at the scene of the party, she concedes defeat and opts for a pair of black pumps that were conceived with the medieval period in mind.
- I head to the duvets and frantically decipher what is king, single, and double. When I realised that my first two options (the cheapest) had ran out, I opted for a criss cross heart pattern that looks like it has been stolen from a Scandinavian version of the gingerbread house.
- Hairgrips are swiped after finding the only blonde pair available. Maybe time to consider dyeing my hair back to its natural not-so-attractive mousey brown.
- Hysteria kicks in. I cannot quite believe I have made it. As I make my way towards the queue, I feverishly swipe pants, socks and a heart-shaped tangle teaser. Sibling forces me to put down the Moroccan oil. Ironically, these turn out to be my best purchases.
After leaving the shop, I scream in hysteria at completing the challenge. People start tutting behind me. I don't care; I am brilliant.