I thought that pinwheel windmill would last forever, gaily turning on its wooden pole (oh yeah, we’d gone for a classy one) for years to come, reminding us of that beautiful sunny day when my daughter had moaned until she got a present.
But this evening we went into the garden to play bubbles (my son always shouts out for “bubbles” and gets everyone’s shoes and then when we’re outside he takes interest in everything except the bubbles, which quite often I am just blowing for my own amusement), my daughter screamed and came up to me holding the windmill in two chewed up pieces. I don’t want to call someone guilty without trial, but it seemed likely that Wolfie had attacked the windmill and chewed it up when I’d let her out into the garden to wee this morning.
My daughter cried harder than she’s ever cried and was inconsolable for five minutes, even when I promised to buy her a new one that was bigger and better. Then after five minutes she basically went from inconsolable to totally unconcerned and we got on with me blowing bubbles whilst my kids largely ignored me.
Still it was a great 48 hours of owning a tiny windmill.
I’d gone into London today to buy myself some new clothes. I gave my wife a lift to a meeting and then I went into the heart of our capital to find some trousers that would fit me (I am too thin for the clothes I was wearing 3 months ago, but still a bit too fat for the clothes I had when I lost weight last time). Plus aside from some very cheap supermarket jeans and shirts and a very expensive jumper for my podcast, I haven’t really bought any new clothes for a while.
I didn’t get all that much and was rushing a bit towards the end as I had to get back to pick up my wife, but I discovered a shop that sells Paul Smith remainders. Their jeans are usually about 150 quid a pair, but I got two pairs for about £80 and they looked the same as the expensive ones I’d tried on in John Lewis. But the 36 inch jeans were a little bit loose (and I can’t tell you how exciting that is for me), so I wanted to try on some of the 34 inch ones. I had a pair in my hands ready to go into the one fitting room when a man entered the shop. The three shop assistants immediately told him he had to get out, but he gruffly refused. It couldn’t be because he looked a bit messy, because they’d let me into the shop, and it became clear that he’d been in the last two days and walked out with unpaid for clothing.
He was pretty incoherent and also very massive and angry and the three shop assistants were not really any match for him - and I am not sure that they’d be being paid enough to risk their lives for some expensive trousers for idiots - but the manager gave it a good go. Without physically engaging the guy he tried to keep him away from the clothes racks and shepherd him out of the shop. The man was protesting his innocence and asking what he’d done to deserve this treatment. But while he was doing this he was fairly randomly selecting jackets off a rail.
I am not sure why he didn’t just walk out with them, but in his mind I think he was trying to prove he was just a regular customer and this was some sort of miscarriage of justice. And he went into he dressing room to try on his purchases. I was annoyed as I’d been waiting five minutes for the last guy to get out of there and this man had now queue-jumped (and I was already running a bit late to pick up my wife), but I didn’t feel like making a big deal about it. You don’t really need to go into the changing room to try on jackets anyway. You can do that in the shop.
The lady behind the counter was on the phone to the police, but clearly on hold, so this wasn’t much of a disincentive.
They thought about locking him in the dressing room, but didn’t do so. Perhaps because they thought they might get done for false imprisonment, but mostly I think because they knew this man could easily smash down the door.
He came out of the changing room, threw two jackets across the small shop and walked out. But he was wearing one of the jackets and he’d clearly gone in with three. He wasn’t fooling anyone and I wondered again why he hadn’t just taken all three, or just emptied the entire rack. In for a penny.
Finally the lady got through to the police, but they knew it was too late and it became clear they’d reported the last two thefts and no one had even come out to take a statement. It was quite exhilarating to realise that stealing could be so brazen and easy. I was now queuing to buy my jeans, having given up on having time to try on the other ones. But why didn’t I just say. “Hey, if he’s allowed to have free clothes, then so am I.”
I didn’t though. I always pay for everything from shops.
The assistant apologised to me for the drama, but there was no need - I knew he’d given me a free blog. I felt sorry for everyone involved - the staff having to deal with this volatile situation and the man who troubled by addiction or mental illness or poverty or all three had to resort to this behaviour to get by.
It’s amazing to see the conventions of society so brazenly flouted though. We could all do this and there’s really nothing anyone could do. I mean, there’d quickly be no shops, but what a great week we could have before that.
I suspect they might beef up security for a short while and that the man will be caught at some point, but I doubt that very much will happen to him and the cycle will keep repeating.
But why did he take so little and why go to the remainder outlet rather than the main shop? I don’t think his mind was working that logically or if it was, he knew that this smaller shop would not have the resources to stop him.
It was a bit of a thrill to be caught up in this heist. I can never countenance shop lifting. Even from people who sell trousers for £150 which they can still make money from selling for £40. Who is the real criminal?
It’s the bloke stealing the jacket.
The pretty brilliant series 15 of RHLSTP continues to spew out great podcasts. Today we released the one with James Acaster.
Oh and I also recorded a pretty controversial chapter of Stone Clearing this morning. It's here.