Of all the things you shouldn’t do with your children over the summer holidays, shopping for the new school term must be one of them.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those activities which you have to do and instead of making three separate trips with mine, I decided (stupidly) to do it in one go in the exotic location of Fareham.
Let’s be honest, Fareham is exotic compared to Gosport.
Most of the shops are open, there are fish in the precinct to nibble dead skin off your feet (not that I’ve seen that particular mode of pedicure in action) and there’s an inside area.
Compare that to Gosport’s empty shops, litter blowing down its wind-tunnel of a high street and lack of any creatures (bar several mangey dogs tied tightly up outside the Post Office) and you get the picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Gosport. But when it comes to buying uniforms across a wide age ratio, school bags and shoes, Fareham wins.
That’s not to say I like shopping with children. They’re like sheep and follow you around plaintively baa-ing.
Then there’s the arguments about who’s going to carry the bags, who gets which one and whether there’s a disproportionate amount of someone else’s clothing in them. Goodness me.
And then of course there’s the revolt moment when the sheep get tired of following and head off in three different directions, just as you find the ultimate dress in the sales (after you’ve already explained it’s just one rack that you’re looking at, honestly).
You suddenly find yourself trying to round up one daughter from the lingerie section (earnestly inspecting the next level of underwear with deep hope), the second daughter from the high heels and your son from the corner, where he’s hiding in order to delve into the new books he’s just bought.
Maybe this is why there are so many dogs tied up in Gosport. They’re sheep dogs, strategically placed by owners of toddlers ready to spring into round-up action.
Oh sorry, did I say toddlers? I meant semi-teenagers. Sadly, it doesn’t get any easier.