Tag Archives: Tesco

Taco Night

Tacos crop up in lots of American films.

‘What kind of inordinate pleasure would unfold if we made them at home?’ I thought, and shared this with the kids.

‘Tacky’s?’ said Rufus.

‘Well…’

I feel sorry for Mexicans because of the way they get patronised.* (*that’s a ‘cute’ sentence; it’s wearing a beard and a buttoned-up plaid shirt.)

Stereotypes don’t flatter but the comical, lazy and short version dumped at the modern Mayans’ door never seems to get balanced with any better stuff.

Salma Hayek’s killing herself out there- a lone wolf battling the legacy of Speedy Gonzalez.

(Tangent: I thought Speedy was a kick-back character against the slow thing. I thought he might spawn Wolfgang the towel-folding pool attendant, or Pierre the garlic-hating vampire. Apparently he sprang from a joke about a Mexican man’s overly-eager bedroom performance. Man, do the Mexis get a bad rap.)

It’s hard to think of another country so comprehensively theme-wrapped; are Tex-Mex restaurants a result of this phenomenon or a contributory factor?

Historically, the only ones who chose these places for an evening were the maid of honour or best man who did the block booking.

They were a blur of Ay Caramba! throat-throttling music and Aztec dyed wall hangings, offset by the promise of salted margarita vorp.

Every item on the menu was a flour tortilla re-appearing Mr Benn-styley wrapped, crispy or deep-fried in cheese depending on your preference of heart attack- genius hangover food consumed while you’re in the throes of assembling one.

Take re-fried beans (and eat them; go on, just for a dare).

They manage to make something already inspirationally disagreeable and dial it up a notch.

Why did they stop there? Why wouldn’t ‘poo-marinated re-fried beans’ have worked harder towards another round of licking salt off your boyfriend’s neck only to marginally miss re-introducing tequila soup over it later in bed?

Anyway, there’s really no need to venture out for this kind of experience because Old El Paso have got it sewn up. In fact, you could say they’ve cornered the market; their trusty red and yellow food kits are available everywhere, including dry cleaners.

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Ahh, Old El Paso. Makes you want to smile just by-passing them on the food aisle every day for 10 years.

But not this week-end! On Saturday night, nostalgia won over. Today these leedle suckers, they come-a back-a to the casa wi me,’ I chortled to myself light of spirit in Tesco.

There’s not strictly speaking all that much inside Old El Paso boxes. They’re only that big so there’s space to fit in all the acidity regulators on the list of ingredients. If you turn off the lights the tough little casings glow in the dark.

Lock the kids in a cupboard so you can listen very carefully, and you’ll hear them singing a corrupt Mexican lullaby.

There were fajita building units too, though without the sizzling centrepiece skillet I knew there would be an excitement shortfall.

I also balked at the reconstituted guacamole possibly devised in the presence of an avocado but not necessarily inclusive of one (a large specimen of the Hass variety, for example, given an authoritative role as the substitute contents parade by: ‘Copydex? Yes.’ ‘Bile? Ok. ‘Psoriasis flakes?’ Wouldn’t be the same without them.’)

I darted between soured cream, tomatoes, grated cheese, limes and lettuce like Dale Winton doing Supermarket Sweep in a poncho.

I actually left with enough food to construct another winning development of luxury homes in Hammersmith (and with mostly the right materials).

And so it was I became that special kind of arse that feels the need to parcel every experience for kids as an event, in adherence with the secular commandment that they’re too numbed to enjoy something that can’t be made into a WordPress blog post.

TACO NIGHT was born and I knew it was going to be successful because we’ve got a pair of maracas and a wide-brimmed hat that’s been waiting all its life under the stairs for this opportunity.

I was going to bring Central America to W3. I was going to prop our desperate little evening. I probably wasn’t going to dress up as Frida Kahlo but, ‘See, kids, Mummy does ‘fun’. I told you I did, didn’t I? I did tell you that.’

Clock forward a few hours and the fiesta’s in the can, from whence barely 50% of it came.

The table’s a wreckage, strewn with the unsuccessful transportation of toppings to shell.

There was some anxiety about getting the ratio of guac to salsa wrong or, worse, forgetting the sprinkled cheese altogether on one of your ‘go’s’.

The jalapeno peppers were missed (forsaken because the overwhelming remainder would inevitably calcify in the fridge).

The powder-enhanced mince was tasty and if it rang of Soylent Green at all, you just put that out of your mind.

The re-fried beans- Sweet Jesus, the re-fried beans; the kids warned they’d issue a restraining order on them if necessary.

They aped solidified diarrhoea in appearance, tasted like a Bushtucker trial and used their unmistakable scent to falsely advertise the imminent satisfaction of a dog’s appetite: a 360 degree sensory experience of unparalleled invidiousness.

But overall, it was a minor novelty sensation.

Geth was the architect of structurally sound taco towers, with shredded lettuce roof terraces; Bruno discovered (and wore) his new favourite food; Rufus didn’t understand what the hell was going on but gave a nod to the deconstructed serving approach; and I got indigestion by taking incessant photographs but mostly enjoyed the inordinate pleasure unfolding.

2024 we’ll be back: Ariba, ariba! Andale, andale!

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Shoe Shops

While most Western retailers tumble over themselves to deafen their merchandise with marketing noise, there is one still humming a fifties tune: the shoe shop.

Not one whiff of originality has since darkened its doors: the same little display tripods for the left shoe in a size 5; the boring soft-top stools being hogged by the huffing-and-puffing shopping expedition hangers-on; functional lighting, music, labelling- all flicking The Bird at the shoemakers’ elves on every British high street.

More vexing than this environmental stagnation is its resolve to retain the customer service model of an old-fashioned department store- the one where the outlet-to-client shoe transaction is mediated by the lengthy intervention of a Member of Staff, using visual stocktaking to communicate news from the warehouse basement, with all the efficiency of a snail on valium.

‘Do you have these in a size 7?’

‘I’m afraid I only memorised the men’s slipper section, Madam. Let me leave you sitting in this store while I transport my body mass down a flight of stairs, amble along an aisle and separate the shoe boxes by lifting, shifting and other means of physical manoeuvring, to investigate. Then I’ll transport my mass back up the stairs to deliver the results, whereupon the boredom induced by my absence will have driven you to find another pair certain to dispatch me on a similar mission.’

The method in this madness could lie, of course, in the re-appearance of said assistant with other options (‘I don’t have a child’s size 9 football boot but I do have these size 8 ballet shoes’. ‘You’re right. He’s a spoilt little shit as it is. Let him curl up his toes and dance.’) But could not this also take place in the digital arena, a la Amazon?

I dream of a store of inspirational presentation that propels me to a screen where- in the manner of weighing a banana at Tesco’s self-service check-out- I punch in my preference and am immediately informed of its availability or, failing that, a photographic orgy of similar size 7’s for my deliberation. And (in the mad REM bit at the end of the dream) to receive that choice via a grabbing arm, like those machines that push you out a Twix after a swim at the leisure centre.

They’re already doing it in Tokyo, for sure- the only shame being that robots have rendered people and their footwear, redundant.

Online shopping is an alternative- though (not unlike internet dating) the profile picture is bound to conceal issues and you’ll end up having to send them back to a Greater London suburb you’ve never heard of.

In the meantime, it’s back to a reality of cheese counter tickets and pop socks; of agonising decisions at the till over whether to invest in the sensible up-selling suggestion of protective boot spray, that will dry out over 7 years under the kitchen sink; of searching for a full-length mirror rather than an ankle-only fragment because the foot part is how the shoes feel but the look on one’s face wearing them is what really matters.

Come what may, buying shoes for children looks set to continue as a lesson in sufferance, the success of the exercise being dependent on the reliable feedback of a nonsensical person given to random motion operating in a confined, soul-sucking space.

Assuming the turbulent river of taste has been navigated between parent and child, a miserable debacle ensues whereby sprog is released to run back and forth (but not in that silly way with the bendy legs and don’t you dare wander onto the no-refunds pavement) before being asked questions about toes touching ends and issues of comfort and prospective suitability, even though they have never once been able to satisfactorily respond to their own name.

All of which could reasonably send a parent to consult the little machine, where- after 3 hours of foot contortion and tangled tape measures- a size will be concluded that has no correlation to shoe world, where all brands differ. ‘Your measurement is your pure size,’ will explain the nice girl. ‘Imagine your face if you hadn’t abused it for years with alcohol and resentment- that’s your pure image; it doesn’t mean much but it helps when you’re trying on hats.’

Eventually, a pair will prevail. This will never, ever be the one you want- not because they don’t have it but because the shoe industry considers it a duty of their profession to test your ability to make decisions: would you rather your little darling wears the right size trainers with pink hearts or the wrong size ones with Fireman Sam? Do you hate flashing lights in the heel more than the thought of going to another shoe shop in Brent Cross on a Saturday?

It’s like Deal or No Deal but with man-made upper soles instead of Noel Edmonds.

And don’t even think of bringing them back unless they’re still in the box, as technically they would no longer be shoes. Once they’ve left the cardboard protection it’s like they’ve been defiled. Did you marry a virgin? Do you understand?

‘So let’s just check you’ve got everything.

Your child needs school shoes for school, plimsolls for school sports, trainers for other sport, boots for wet weather, sandals for holiday, a fun pair for parties and a smart pair for the grandparents.

Plus one pair of Crocs.’

‘What are they for?’

‘Everything. They’re the only shoes they’ll wear.

So that’ll be £2,000 and this little ticket.’

‘Which is..?’

‘A reminder to come back in 6 weeks.’

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Colin and me

I got a message from Colin Firth saying he was overwhelmed by the high life and wanted to chill out with someone friendly.

When I arrived at his house he looked less large and green than I had expected and it occurred to me that maybe I’d dreamt the whole thing when I fell asleep during ‘Shrek’.

But being Charm Itself he welcomed me in and we enjoyed a pair of Alpen Light cereal bars. We doubted the judgment of Tesco Online’s substitution of them for Nature Valley granola bars but they turned out to be quite tasty.

‘So Anne Hathaway. Mouth too big or do you think she rocks it?’, I quizzed mid-dunk.

He gave me that steely English reserve look he’s known for and coughed. After slightly too long I moved on to his staggering success, to which he responded with the old King humble speech (no stutter) but his left eye was twitching, which denotes a gargantuan ego, in my experience.

‘My first exposure to you was in the film ‘Another Country‘ when I was at boarding school. My friends fancied Rupert Everett but I suspected he was gaywise even back then and went bananas for your sulky schtick.’

‘Really, that’s too kind,’ he said humbly (eye twitching).

We established he is rarely mistaken for Colin Farrell (although how would he know: ‘Hey Colin, great hair in that movie!’– see what I mean?) before indulging in a bit of Darcy chat.

Of his path to glory he said he could take absolutely no credit whatsoever for anything he has ever done ever because it had all simply landed in his lap.

‘You mean you didn’t have to sleep with even the teensy weensiest casting director to get the role in ‘Nanny McPhee‘?’ I asked mischievously.

I took his silence as a yes, allowing him to take the lead in the conversation, which he did with considerable earnestness and at some length on the subject of ‘A Single Man’. I nodded a lot, resisting the urge to tell him his clear-lense spectacles had made the greatest impression on me of all.

‘But you’ve had fun too!,’ I exclaimed, trying to lighten the mood. ‘Bridget Jones. St. Trianian’s 2. Mamma Mia!’

For a split second I thought he was going to cry but he widened his mouth in the manner of a smile instead. At which point I suspected his teeth were not quite as nature intended and come to think of it not much else either.

But you don’t sit in a star’s living room and tell him his complexion is waxy, especially when he’s about to sing like a canary about Renee Zellweger’s weight gain.

Which he didn’t so much but he does think Hugh Grant is a peerless human being (hooker scandals notwithstanding), that Meryl Streep does a better English accent than him and that Uma Thurman could actually do with being a bit taller.

‘Do you remember making eye contact with me in the children’s play area of the Natural History Museum a few years ago?’ I probed, bringing him back down to earth.

He hesitated ever so slightly before saying, ‘Not exactly’, and looking uncomfortable. So in I jumped: ‘You’re absolutely right. It was the Natural Science Museum.’

I didn’t think I should miss the opportunity to show a bit of leg but his mind was elsewhere and before long he had me folding napkins for his dinner party.

I wanted so much to ask him about his child with Meg Tilly but he was humming a song from ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and it was just too good to interrupt.

When it came to an end I picked up my pot plant and kissed him on the cheek.

‘Do you know why women love you, Colin?’ I said as I sashayed out the door, his eye starting to twitch immediately. ‘Because you’re intense, sexually unthreatening and posh.’

And then hurried back to shout ‘But not like Prince Charles!’ through the letterbox.

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Telephone banking

Hello and welcome to yourfavouritebank.

Unfortunately, we’re experiencing a much higher-than-average call volume at the moment and all of our customer representatives are pre-recorded telling the customers they represent to call back.

We can’t imagine why anyone would want to speak to theirfavouritebank at the beginning of the week when we’ve been closed for two days, but if you want to try again at 4.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning we’re bound to be more prepared.

Otherwise, please find a comfy chair and choose from one of the following options:

If you’d like to speak to someone about opening a new account, go online at http://www.yourfavouritebank.com and open one.

If you’d like to speak to someone about your card being lost or stolen, go online at http://www.yourfavouritebank.com and email someone about it.

If you’d like to speak to someone about leaving the bank, go online at http://www.yourfavouritebank.com and email someone who will talk you out of it.

If none of the above options go anywhere close to describing the reason you’ve called us and you’d just like to speak to someone either dial The Samaritans or stay on the line while we play you some Richard Clayderman.

While we’re playing you Richard Clayderman, did you know that you can visit us online at http://www.yourfavouritebank.com and sign up to receive useful yourfavouritebank updates to your mobile phone?

Congratulations. You are one of only 10% of people who are willing to stay on the line this long and have now joined a queue of elite customers who will talk to the sole person who is employed by yourfavouritebank to answer the telephone.

While we wait for her to finish her tea, why don’t you type in your sixteen digit number followed by the hash key.

I’m sorry, you started typing it in before I’d finished speaking and I really hate that so I’m going to ask you to do it again and speak slower this time so you have to wait longer to re-type it.

Thank you. Now please enter the expiry date in the format day day month month full year full year.

You see you weren’t listening and only put in half the year but I don’t understand 13- I only understand 2013- so go back and do that again.

Thank you. Now please enter the secret code that not everyone can see on the back of your card.

Yes, that’s the one with the little question mark by it when you enter your details online because it’s a new and secretive way to fool criminals, who can only read the numbers on the front of your card.

Thank you for waiting and for being important to us. Susan is now back from her tea.

Hello and thank you for waiting. You’re speaking to Susan today. 2 hours 1o minutes? Oh, I AM sorry to hear that, Sophie- can I call you Sophie today? Oh, good, hello Sophie. You’ve got a nice voice.

Yes, I’m friendly-sounding too, aren’t I? That’s because I’m from a leafy village in Yorkshire. There’s also Asmita, my job-share co-worker who lives too far away for you to get angry with and Gladys, who lives in Wales and answers the phone for yourfavouriteinsurancecompany. She’s not stressed either.

Anyway, did you know that if you visit us online at doubleyoudoubleyoudoubleyoudotyourfavouritebankdotcom you can do all your banking that way instead of waiting 2 hours and 10 minutes to talk to me?

Never mind, thank you. O.K, so before we go any further, Sophie, please would you mind giving me the sixteen digit number on the front of your card?

Yes, I know you put it into your telephone but that’s nothing to do with me because I was drinking tea while you were being kept occupied by performing pointless manual tasks.

Now, concentrate really hard and tell me what the fourth number would be if you took two away from it and how much change I’d get from a five pound note if you added together the 12th and the 14th number and divided them by the secret squirrel code ON THE OTHER SECRET side of your bank card?

Fantastic, Love – you must have done this before- and for added security, please can you tell me your secret telephone password, passcode and passname? Yes, the last one is your porn name which is made up of the name of your first pet and your mother’s maiden name.

Goodness me, that IS amusing- thank you for that. Now, let’s see about this next one which is your mother’s best childhood memory embedded in your cup size scrambled up in where you went on holiday three years ago, when the dog was sick in the car.

I’m a fan of Spain too- especially the coast- and you were spot on with all of that but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m tempted to cut you off at this point to see if you’ve got the gumption to start all over again.

But you’re doing well and I don’t want to spoil it so keep your cool, ignore all other electronic devices and tell me who won best Oscar for the lead role in the 1988 film Rain Man and no- please don’t ask a friend- it has to be you answering these questions.

Not sure anyone has got this far before- well done, you. Now, close your eyes and think about your account and account activity and see if you can tell me what sort of day it was when you opened the bank account and what type of earring the bank manager was wearing?

Actually, Love, it was gold but I’ll turn a blind eye and ask you, out of the 302 transactions you’ve made over the past ten days, which one cost £23.45 pence and was it in the morning or the afternoon or the one you regretted almost immediately afterwards?

That’s correct but no regrets- they’re a waste of time. Let’s just press on and cast our minds back to June when a man in Baltimore, U.S.A, was considering hacking into your details via the Tesco grocery delivery website but had a cardiac arrest. If he hadn’t had one and had cleared your account what item would you have been unable to purchase at Topshop?

Flaming heck- you’re nearly there- you’ve got one question to go which is, if I threw a baby into the pool and it started drowning but you couldn’t swim, would you jump in to try to save it or try to fetch someone you knew could swim?

Hell fire, I’m in! This is incredible! The system’s up! I can see the lot! I can tell you all the details you’ve just told me only you don’t have to tell me them first!

And how can I help you today?

Someone seems to have made a two minute telephone call to somewhere other than yourfavouritebank and withdrawn £2,000, just like that?

Oh, I’m terribly sorry to hear that, Sophie. I’m afraid you’re going to have to go back and choose the menu option for the very, very nervous and wait to speak to be told to tell yourfavouritebank.com all about it.

In the meantime, if that’s all I can help you with today then stay on the line to complete a yourfavouritebank questionnaire and while you wait for me to come back from my next cuppa happen you’ll think twice about blathering your secret-squirrel-back-of-the-card code around the bar during happy hour.

Good night and thank you for calling yourfavouritebank.

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Sleeping

Sleeping is at once a necessity and a luxury. Being a restorative, unconscious kind of activity makes the lack of it more newsworthy than the doing of it.

It divides people into two camps: those who need a lot of it and those who don’t approve of it.

People who think they love sleeping are really saying they are monsters without it. They relish it for the reason that they find it exhausting to be ‘on’ for too long.

It is only a good idea to hang out with them if they are at a stage of their lives when they are able to drive in 12 hours every night. If they are about to get stressed or have a baby, run from them like the wind.

People who say they don’t like sleeping are generally boasting about their energy reserves, like a diver telling everyone how little oxygen they use. They feel guilty if they are caught with their eyes closed and lie copiously to cover their tracks if they have accidentally snoozed.

They are liable to be found slumped in a chair with a book on their chest, a foreign-language C.D on repeat and chicken stock burning dry on the stove.

When the two species get married they spend their lives blaming each other for being inconsiderate/lazy until they reach 70 and neither of them ever leave the bedroom unless to fetch a digestive biscuit from the kitchen.

Insomniacs get more sleep than everybody, spending large swathes of time in bed for fear they may miss the 3 minutes they believe they grab randomly. They see nothing suspicious in the large amounts of saliva that have dripped from their gaping, snoring mouths during their 12-hour sleepathon.

Bad sleeping habits can break a new relationship, from snoring, bed hogging and restlessness to sleep-talking, sleep-walking and recurrent nightmares.

No matter how much your date nodded enthusiastically when you talked about your favourite hobby, you might have to kick them out of bed for farting, quite literally.

There are as many different qualities of tiredness as grains of sand on the beach. At one end of the spectrum you feel like a weary cat ready to curl up next to the fire. At the other, you get a strange taste in your mouth and hallucinate about wiping out your family with a pick-axe.

Whether it’s the heavy-headed fogginess of a broken night or the neurotic, unclear thinking that results from workaholicism it is an advantage to be able to describe imaginatively the resulting misery, in order to distinguish it from that of pretenders who are clearly perkier than you:

‘I was so tired last week I lay down under the grapefruit section in Tesco in nothing but my pyjama bottoms’ will impress other Mums and get you more sympathy at an NCT meeting.

New mothers pretend that adrenalin and love for their baby override their desperate lack of shut-eye when actually it’s just the basic biology that their hearts are still beating. If they thought they could find an easy way to turn these off they’d fling the baby out the window immediately.

Like baking, sleeping is a precisely calibrated pursuit, involving the right temperature and correct measures of a pleasant environment and calmness. Mess with them and it all comes undone, at least partly explaining the other-worldly look of shift-workers and cabin crew.

Sustained body-clock tweaking ends at Sleep Aid City, where lives pills, potions, whale music and tapes that take you in elevators down, down, to the bottom of your consciousness. Getting out of bed and finishing a bar of Lindt chocolate is equally ineffective but immeasurably more enjoyable.

There is a point in most people’s lives when they realise their bed could be hotel quality if they went out and spent seven thousand pounds correctly equipping it. They order million thread count sheets, revise scientific tables of duvet tog values and press pillows stuffed with the hair of eskimo boy babies, failing to realise that a large part of the attraction of hotel slumber is to do with the fact that a young maiden whisks the sheets away to be laundered daily.

Should this epiphany persuade them to start ironing their own Extra King-Sized sheets and decorative European pillow covers, try to be their friend until they re-discover the plot.

A dream is your head careering around in a Scooby Doo van with its eyes closed. Of course it’s going to be ‘weird’ and deeply uninteresting to anyone who isn’t living in your brain. It is the embodiment of matter over mind, helpfully unraveling all the laborious work you have done during the day to try to forget painful things.

Many people are staggeringly unversed in the basics of dream symbology and will tell you quite happily in detail the next day how they killed you with a machete, as if it didn’t originate from their own evil brains.

Not being able to get off to sleep and oversleeping bring equal misfortune. The former leads your soul down dark paths via sheep while the latter leads others down it, carrying with it a whiff of impropriety, if not alcohol (and possibly sheep).

Ultimately, a decent night’s sleep is often all that divides the agony from the ecstasy in waking life, yielding one golden rule: if you stop a person from getting it or wake them out of one, it should only be for a very good reason.

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Nicole and me

Nicole Kidman called me on my mobile last week.

‘Hi, it’s Nicole Kidman,’ she said.

‘Bloody hell, how did you get my number?’ I asked.

‘My personal assistant got it. I’ve seen you around and I like your style. I think we could be friends. I like that thing you do with your hair when it gets in your eyes.’

I was buying aubergines in Tesco at the time. The reception cuts out and I just picked up ‘friends’ and ‘hair’ and filled in the rest.

But Nicole Kidman! I was excited.

‘Cool!’ (I wished I hadn’t said that but my emotions took over. I had to get my Clubcard out and pay the cashier and smile at her and pick an aubergine up from the floor that had rolled out of the bag. I couldn’t think quickly enough.)

‘Shall we go shopping together?’

All I heard was ‘Shall we?’ but I thought, hell yes, whatever Nic wants to do I’m on board. This will be a cracking story for my book group.

‘Yes, please!’, I said. (Again, it’s not really what I would have wanted to say ideally. She didn’t seem to notice.)

‘OK. I’ll meet you in the Hammersmith Broadway Starbucks on Friday morning. Your kid goes to nursery, right? We can do the girly thing.’

Oh my god, I couldn’t dream this stuff. This is really good.

”Brilliant, Nic. I’ll be there at 9.15.’ (I wanted to say that. I’m happy I said that.)

I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night.

I kept running through all the questions I wanted to ask her. I wondered if she would want to talk about Tom at all. They were married for a long time so I thought she would expect me to want to clear up some basic queries (no pun intended). My sister thought it looked staged when she shouted in elation to the Gods after signing her divorce papers. I wouldn’t tell her that.

‘I like foam on top of my latte too.’

That’s the first thing she said to me. Straight in there, as if we knew each other. She’s so full of class.

And she wasn’t disguised much either, which I thought she might be.

‘Cream’s even better,’ I quipped back.

I’d heard that Nic does this thing where she chews her food without swallowing it, to get the flavour but not the calories. My friend thought it was a great idea when I told her.

So I wasn’t sure if the cream reference would get her on edge- alluding so directly to a foodstuff with high fat content.

It didn’t. She’s a polished act.

‘Let’s head to Primark. You’re surprised I shop there, aren’t you? I don’t. But when in Rome…’

God, she’s got a sense of humour too. I bet she can be really funny.

We walked down the high street together. She’s taller than me and there’s nothing to her. So either she’s chewing and not swallowing or just not chewing in the first place.

I wanted to go to the HSBC cashpoint. But how do you tell Nicole Kidman that?

We just pressed on. She was happy to look at some kitchen sale items in Habitat though. I feel I’ve underestimated her in the past. She’s extremely easy-going.

‘These stripes would look good on you,’ she said, holding up a cashmere mix top.

I tried it on and we agreed I looked like Dennis the Menace.

My Mum called me. I kept losing reception again. She heard me say ‘Nicole Kidman’ and some other random words.

‘I think she looks like a witch these days,’ said Mum.

‘Oh, you’re so wrong, Mum. She’s gorgeous.’

‘What? What are you talking about? Where are you anyway? You’re breaking up. Are you in Tesco?’

I told her I’d call her later.

Nic was rummaging through the £3 basket for some steals. I had to say something.

‘Listen, Nicole, I’ve got a confession to make. I write a blog and the first post I did made you sound aloof. Then I did a conversation between you and Keith that made you both sound a bit Aussie and dumb. In the first one I was trying to be clever and in the second one I was trying to be funny. Sorry.’

Nic leant over to me and for a second I thought she was going to be mean but she just stretched out a slender hand and laid it on my arm. As simple as that. Then she gave me a sweet smile, I think. She’s gone quite heavy on the Botox, I have to admit.

We browsed around for ten more minutes and I asked her some film questions.

She said Baz Luhrmann is an Anglophile and Anthony Hopkins has got a thing for peanut butter. She said Ewan McGregor tried to touch her arse a couple of times and she felt quite open-minded about it. She said Tom Cruise is very heterosexual indeed and seemed to go into a reverie when she said it. She was in love with Stanley Kubrik. She put salt in Cher’s tea once. She’d like to see some amendments to tax duty on Sidney properties. She said so many things. I wished I’d had a tape recorder.

‘You have to realise that most of what you read in the magazines is true, Sophie.’ (She kept saying my name with that lovely lilting voice. I’m going to think of that going to sleep for at least a few weeks now.) ‘People think it’s all made up but it isn’t. We’re as crazy as they say, celebrities. That’s the point of us. Is that your opinion?’

‘Yes, I’d like to think that, Nic. There would be nothing fun in being everyday. It’s like people who win the lottery but say it won’t change them- they still want to live in a caravan.’

Then the alarm went off on my mobile and I told her I had to go and pick Bruno up from nursery. I was already late because I set it to go off at the most last minute moment, to capitalise on our time together.

I didn’t want to leave at all. It didn’t feel right running away from Nicole Kidman outside Marks and Spencers, seeing her get smaller and smaller as I turned back.

But before I went, I plucked up the courage to give her a hug and ask her a question.

‘Nicole,’ I said.

‘Yes, Sophie,’ she replied. She knew something rum was coming.

‘I’ve heard you’ve got male and female genitalia. I know it’s rude to ask. But have you?’

She sort of shook her head like she couldn’t believe how cheeky I was and moved the curls out of her face so she could laugh properly.

‘No, Sophie. That’s not true.’

‘Oh, sorry!’ I said and laughed myself, breaking into a sprint.

‘But George Clooney IS gay,’ she shouted after me and I could hear everyone outside Cafe Nero start to whisper.

Bloody brilliant Friday morning.

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Come on, girl

There comes a point when you can no longer turn a blind eye to what’s going on under the sofa.

But on this morning, I didn’t feel brain-dead enough to clean. I felt that I should be at a party, laughing, with my hair flying around in slow motion.

So I put on the Delinquent Remix of Taio Cruz’ Come on Girl, featuring Luciana, to liven up the chore.

It’s the sort of track that could temporarily improve the quality of a person’s life.

Danny and Sandy for a new generation.

The neighbours only stopped through-the-night-talking half an hour previously; I had a hunch that some beats backing up the Hoover, would send them straight to dreamland.

The track explodes with Taio shouting Hey!, as if the bassline-fest he’s rolling around in isn’t going to get your attention.

Violins and buzzy, clubby, fizzing, synthesizer noises.

Take those blankets off the sofa! Shake them down! Yeah!

Then a bassline, from out of a dark place, like a gorilla on 60-fags-a-day, hauling along the steel pipes of Luciana.

She sounds filthy, as if someone should be cleaning under her sofa too.

[Luciana]
Come on boy, come on boy, come on boy. Come on!

What a provocative invitation! Will he want to? Will he have to ask her where she wants him to go?

[Taio]
Come on girl, come on. Come on girl, come on!

Seems he’s thinking along the same lines. He just doesn’t want to budge.

Lift the cushions back up, wrap around the blanket. It’s getting hot in the living room.

Oh, here we go. Taio’s an expressive chap. Maybe he wants to introduce himself.

[Taio]
Baby-girl-you-know-that-I-just-wanna-take-you-to-the spot,
Do-things-to-you-that’d-definitely-gonna-get-you hot,
I-love-how-you-shake-that-little-booty-around-the club,

I-just-wanna-turn (breath) you (breath) me (breath) into-an us,
I-only-wanna-party-with-you–nobody-can-else-can do,
We–can-do-whatever- keep-it-public-or-if you,
Wanna-keep-it-private-and-undercover-that’s cool,
I-just-wanna stay (breath) –under- the-covers-with you

Crikey, they must have met before.

Put down the duster and press rewind, to get underneath that verse composition. Oh, I get it. Every word in each phrase is on the note of G, apart from the last one, which is an A. Very nice.

Then the Justin Timberlake notes jump to a high A and sound like someone giving you ice-cream on the beach.

Am I spoiling the moment?

[Taio]
Now I know that you want me, you’ve indicated,
It’s obvious I need to just make a decision,
Bout’ what I’m gonna say,
Tell me what I gotta say,
To take you away with me,
To take you away!

He’s not sure she’s got the message. Unless he’s telling her something she already knows and wants to hear again.

Which I’m starting to think he is.

But she’s ready now. She’s going to tell him she’s not that kind of girl.

It takes 2 dates, at least.

[Luciana]
You wanna take a bite?
Come whet my appetite,
Come, plug me in, do your thing, make my head spin,
So come on take me away,
You better take me away,
You better hit the spot,
If you want I can make you pop

Holy jumping junipers! This chick doesn’t do hard to get.

I’m guessing she may need the Tesco anti-bacterial spray more than the mantelpiece.

Or a thorough mopping down.

So let go, electro. Take it nice and slow…

O.K. Sit down. Maybe this isn’t something I should be cleaning to, after all.

Is there a word for auditory voyeurism?

Yes. Ecouterism.

They need to be left alone and so do I. If I start with the Windolene now, it could lead to mouthing in the mirror.

Plus maybe I shouldn’t keep the neighbours up all day.

So Taio didn’t help to get the cleaning done.

But he did make me feel good about being dirty.

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