Yesterday I broke my self-enforced Primark ban. I had been smirchlessly ethical for several months, but was finally lured in by the promise of cheap Halloween-themed tights for the spooky party season. Once I was in there, I almost immediately thought, 'In for a penny, in for a penny' and lapsed quite dramatically, eventually arriving at the tills bruised, battered and burdened with quite the pile. What would Panorama have said about that? I don't know. I don't watch Panorama. It's depressing. But like my dear friend Mrs G says, Primark's OK as long as you don't buy anything with hundreds of sequins on it. (Thus necessitating nimble underage fingers.) THIS IS A JOKE.
But shopping at Primark is never quite the bargain you think. In the same way that the whole menu at a cheap restaurant somehow tastes the same – whether you're eating fish, fowl or fondant – every item you buy from Primark swiftly acquires the same anti-lustre, and sense of mild abrasion against your skin. Fashion fatigue seems to set in all the more quickly.
One of the questions I have been thinking about recently, apart from why have the M&S instore bakery stopped doing cherry scones ('Mummy, what did you do during the great glacé cherry famine of 2008?), is when is it OK not to be thrifty? Cheap tomato ketchup? Sacrilege. Cheap bubble bath? Itchy skin-flakes. Cheap medication? Hmm…
Earlier this week, I decided to have a flu vaccination. If I get flu – proper, serious, I-really-mean-it flu – I can't work. If I can't work, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid, I might have to start taking in washing. My ironing skills are poor. You can see the urban tragedy that would unfold.
But where to go? Should I patronise Boots and pay £15 for a flu-free winter, or head to Superdrug and be immunised for the knockdown price of £9.95? What is the difference? Is Boots dishing out the Cristal of anti-flu medication? While Superdrug is the Asti Spumante? Or is it more like getting your hair cut? The higher price secures you the services of the Nuryev of vaccinators, while the lower gets you the work experience girl, who clumsily pre-swabs your delicate flesh with fingers swathed not in latex, but the debris from the bottom of a crisp packet. The top-end practitioner will enquire discreetly after your well-being, but then leave a companionable silence between the two of you, so you can relax and really enjoy the Immunisation Experience. The cheap version performs a tireless, squawking monologue, based on the considerable source material of her chequered dating history.
Being as neurotic as I am, it will come as no surprise to you that I chose reassuringly expensive. Your health is your wealth, right?