Out of all Proportion.

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The Soho factor seemed to influence many a customer of this decidedly girly boutique. Whether it was the nature of the clothes, or the nature of the area, we seemed to attract a certain amount of unwanted attention of the male variety.

My first insight into this world came courtesy of a man in his fifties, who was looking to buy a gift for his so called girlfriend. I hoped she was more of a trophy sweetheart than his age equivalent, seeing that our clothes would have embarked on their voyage to mutton parading as lamb on any woman a day past twenty five.

As he thumbed our threads, indiscreetly perusing mine at the same time, I asked him what size his girlfriend was.

Nonchalantly he replied, his answer followed by an impolite demand that I try on the get up he had selected. Towards me he thrust the most miniscule skirt we stocked, and a barely there bikini top.

Horrified at the prospect of having to parade around in what barely constituted clothing, giving this tactless visitor grounds to be gawking, I informed him that my size was really rather far removed from that of his girlfriend. He grimaced and urged the clothes into my arms regardless.

“Try.” He commanded, whilst waving towards the fitting room and stunning my painstakingly composed manner with a tiny tap to my derriere.

As a vivid vision of me thwacking him across the cheek invaded my head, I grappled for a moment with what would have been my inherent response had this not been my place of work.

Eyeballing his unaffected stare it was through gritted teeth that I asked him where his girlfriend was. Awkwardly, his gaze averted to his feet, disappointed at my reaction.

“You’re not going to try them.” It was more a realisation than a question as he sheepishly hung his head, sidestepping my gaze.

“No.” I replied. “Definitely not.”

With that he let out a small, high pitched groan and wandered hastily out of the door.

Fortune’s Fool.

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After keenly acclimatising with my novel city surrounds, I started to become accustomed to the spiced variety of London’s inhabitants. Among these peculiar, habitually eccentric individuals, were the crystal gazers of Soho…

I often alluded to the fortune tellers’ apparent aptitude in glimpsing the future, by pointing out their inability to gauge my imminent refusal of their services. Surely they could save themselves the trouble before even crossing the threshold of my frosty reception? After several encounters I did advise one particularly persistent woman that she should put her skills to good use and increase her trade by only selecting the people who sought the telling of their fortunes. In response, she glared at me with her Romany eyes and muttered something under her breath. She then brandished her dirt ridden hand over my head and I suspected I had become subject to a deadly curse.

I was somewhat unbothered by the thought of having a curse cast upon me by a woman I deemed ‘un-psychic’, until one day during another unwelcome trip she informed a colleague of mine that her baby was going to die. I took great pleasure in telling the old woman that with no baby to speak of, her information was fatally flawed. Singing her mother tongue obscenities she retreated, and the girl I was working with, not quite triumphant in her fight to conceal her tears, made a dive for the back room.

In sympathy I shouted my opinion of our guest towards the girl, ‘silly old bat’ and ‘institutionalised’ making a definite appearance in my description.

It was then that she confided in me that she was indeed with child, but that she was yet to tell a single soul. This little nugget of information was to spark a spine tingle, in what felt like a slow motion reveal in a Hitchcock film whereby the femme fatale realises her time has come; the moment I considered that my card was well and truly marked.

Regardless of the subsequent eight months that the expectant mother bore with a nervous disposition following said prophecy, both mother and baby have since become and have remained healthy and happy. As for my cursed existence from there on in, it might have plunged and peaked here and there, but it has done so much akin to everyone else’s. Be that as it may, a couple of times a year, when things might be looking particularly troublesome, the clairvoyant’s callous sounds will dart into my head and for just a few seconds, I will be left wondering if my judgment day still looms in the distance…

Bright Lights Brighter Characters.

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Once I had traded my cosy countryside existence for a city life in London to attend university, I knew that my encounters would only get all the more peculiar…

It was promptly after my first footsteps into The London College of Fashion that I realised the floorboards of this university were very much their own catwalk and consequently my wardrobe was a very sad sight indeed. A part time job was most definitely required in order to fund this newfound student lifestyle and to at least attempt at keeping up with the fashion forward Joneses.

My first job in the big city saw me looking after a unique boutique just on the outskirts of Soho, a place that is home to many of the more colourful among us.

Much of my time was whiled away perusing the pages of the glossies, gushing over the latest enviable wares from fashion houses such as Chanel and McQueen, which, on my part time wage and a student loan, I could only endeavor to replicate by stretching to the Topshop copycat.

If I was graced with the delight of human interaction it was typically with a pink adorned girly girl, due to the saccharine infused, fairytale nature of the clothing we had on offer. It was for this very reason that anyone with a desire for something other than a glitter, ribbon, or pom pom festooned item of clothing soon stood out, from the moment their scheming hand settled on the door handle.

I was to become privy to all sorts of alien requests, one most notably from a notorious male celebrity who asked me if I could outfit him with a balaclava. It was rather a perplexing question when you took into account our windows decked with butterflies, soft pink chiffons and mannequins with blonde 1930’s curls. Seemingly quite surprised when I informed him that we didn’t sell such an item, he asked if I could recommend a shop that did. Needless to say the only advice I could offer consisted of a visit to the PVC and rubber bondage specialists in the heart of Soho. I wondered if I had smacked the proverbial nail on the head when he sheepishly laughed and retreated from my shop, heading in that very direction.

Day 50.

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Today’s happiness stars a shopping bag loaded with a fuchsia cockatoo and a boy’s batman sweatshirt. The bird will join our household zoo of exotic creatures in rainbow shades. The sweatshirt will join my hare-brained wardrobe. #100happydays #day50

Forget me not.

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I started my first retail job in a children’s shop at the innocent age of sixteen. Apart from having to tidy up after masses of misbehaving little ones, it became the norm of a Saturday job for a teenager funding her first summer holiday away from the eyes of a watchful parent or two. As was expected, I witnessed the odd tantrum, whether it was courtesy of a little girl not getting the party dress that she wanted, or a boisterous toddler not in appreciation of the smart outfit he had to wear for a weekend wedding in the country. Nevertheless this story comes from a new mother not quite keeping her eye on the ball, or her baby for that matter…

 

The boutique’s tumbling displays stretched around a wooden playpen. As was a mother’s prerogative to shop, so was a child’s to be entertained whilst waiting.

The playpen was filled with various second hand toys that reminded me of my childhood; the Fisher Price phone, the Playmobil house and a pack of wobbling Weebles.

After browsing for some time, the latest dithering stressed mother had decided to go for a coffee and return caffeine fuelled and decision made. I thanked her and went about tidying the chaos she’d left in her indecisiveness.

As I wandered towards the aforementioned mess I noticed the strap of a handbag snaking across the floor. Quickly seizing the bag, I ran out the door to see if I could set eyes upon its owner. She was, of course, nowhere to be seen. Ambling back into the shop I bent down to place it behind the counter in the hope that she would realise and return to collect it. As I did so, a noise emanated from behind me, in the direction of the playpen. I slowly stood up and turned around with trepidation to come face to face with a smiling toddler chewing on Mr Potato Head’s arm.

Panic washed over me as I wondered if the woman had expected a complimentary babysitting service alongside her coffee and decision time.

Nevertheless, amidst my horror and alarm, the little bright-eyed toddler was seemingly unbothered by the fact his mother had walked away without him, and more concerned that Mr Potato Head’s body wouldn’t completely fit in his dribbling mouth.

After what felt like a lifetime, but actually transpired to be just ten minutes, a panic stricken mother ran into the shop at full speed.

“My baby, my baby, I am so so sorry!”

“He’s fine” I replied, hauling his body out of the playpen as she took hold of his face, simultaneously inspecting him and giving him kisses in a bid to wipe away the guilt.

“You left your handbag too” I said, gesturing towards the bag I had found.

Embarrassed, she walked over to pick up the handbag and placed it on her toddler’s pushchair. After apologising profusely, she paid for her gift and went to open the door, checking she had all her belongings tucked up safely into the buggy. As her foot touched the pavement, she gave a knowing smile, rolled her eyes and came back to my side of the counter.

I somewhat begrudgingly passed the child into her arms as she apologised again and strapped him into his seat. As she left I couldn’t help but worry about what little adventure he may be subjected to next.