‘I’ve run out of eggs!’ The husband was visibly agitated. Red lights flashed. Sirens wailed.

For the husband likes his eggs. That’s to put it mildly. The more exciting version would run thus: if the flat were burning down, the husband would run out with his eggs. I have had more than three decades to learn my station in life. And it’s definitely lower than eggs.

I bent my head to the task at hand. My task. Joining my Swansea Bay blanket. Or at least Swansea Bay if I could see it now, Swansea having fallen prey to varying forms of precipitation all through the new year.

The dots connected for the husband. ‘I’ll go get them then,’ he said, resignation dripping off every word.

I twitched back to attention. ‘I’ll make you a grocery list.’ The resignation drip became a shower. Close competition with the world outside.

I began scribbling a hurried list. Then checked myself into a slower, more laborious pace of writing. The last time I had entrusted a grocery list to the husband, he’d come back without half the things on it. ‘Oh, is that what that scribble was?’

Stuff and nonsense, of course. True my handwriting is not what it used to be, thanks to everything being typed these days, but it is still better than the son’s chicken scratches. And the husband can read that.

There’s also the small issue of optimal quantities. Cooking doesn’t come easy to me. So when I cook, I like to make sure the freezer is as well stocked as our tummies. Whereas the husband, let’s just say he genuinely believes seven loaves and five fish can feed a multitude. And then wonders at the empty feeling in his middle region.

The truth of the matter is that the husband is a one bag shopper. When the bag is full, he stops shopping. Only eggs might break that barrier. But then, they’re usually the first to enter the bag.

The husband took one look at the list and shuddered. ‘This is going to be a full shop then?’

I took pity. ‘Weekly shop?’ I said, gently rubbing his arm. He disappeared into his man cave. Some minutes later, I heard the plaintive refrain, ‘While my guitar gently weeps…’.

I was not to be moved. A glance at the world outside my window strengthened my resolve. No way I was going out in that.

I like to believe I had bonded with my blue and pink backpack during the Summer Lockdown. That my backpack and I were a source of inspiration for the people we passed. Making them believe that shopping can be fun even without access to car and bus. All you needed for perfection was pain spray when you finally slid the backpack off your shoulders at home. And the sight of the guilt on the husband’s face. Heaven!

But this was the wild, wet Winter Lockdown. ‘No way,’ said my backpack. I agreed.

The husband re-emerged from his tryst with the weeping guitar in the afternoon. ‘Where’s that list then?’ He winced visibly when I handed it over.

He was back within the hour. I was suspicious. Needlessly, as it happened. Every last thing on my list was there in that bag. All I could do was swipe left for the suspicion. And swipe right back on my face the appropriate expression of guilt. It was the least I could do.

Amma and the Cold Wave

‘Any ideas on what to look for when I order a room heater?’ asked the son.

‘I thought you had radiators in your flat?’

‘Not for me,’ he replied, ‘for Amma and Appa.’

‘For Amma and Appa?’ I asked in amazement. ‘I ordered them two heaters in November!’

‘So why is Amma complaining of the cold?’ Typical of the son. He is posed a problem. Ergo, he turns it into a puzzle for me. Side train of thought: Why does Amma communicate more to the son? Am I a bad daughter? Is this what the son is internalising? Is he being overburdened with all this? Does that make me a bad mother? Oh, I don’t like where this is going!

Return to conversation at hand. The ‘Why?’ continues to hang in the air. Then we both sigh collectively, with the husband lending full-lung support. ‘Amma!’

For Amma it is. True Delhi is in the midst of a bitter cold wave. True also that Amma is like a child. So the call the next day is predictable.

‘It’s so cold, beta, I can’t feel the teeth in my mouth.’ The video call shows Amma in scarf, hat, sweater, fleece jacket, faux fur booties…. If I didn’t know the tip of Amma’s nose so well, I’d have cried ‘Wrong number’ and called off.

‘Have you taken out the fleece blanket?’

‘That is too thin.’

‘Ma, you have to spread it over your bedsheet.’

‘So we sleep over it?’

‘Just give it to Appa. He knows what to do with it.’

‘Appa’s always sleeping.’ Time to interject. Start her on the topic of Appa’s dastardly crimes and we could be continuing into tomorrow. I don’t think WhatsApp would approve.

‘Why are you not using the heater?’

‘Who said I am not using? I use it when I watch TV.’

‘Watch TV in your bedroom. It’s a smaller room. Both of you sit there and put on the heater there. Keep the door closed.’

‘But the heater is not plugged in there and I can’t reach the power point.’

‘Ask the Jeeves to plug it in.’

‘But today’s Sunday.’

‘Yes, Ma, but tomorrow is Monday, ask him then.’

There was a pause in which Amma debated with herself the matter of raising with me what all this heater use would do to the electricity bill. After having graced the earth for eighty-one years, Amma still does not believe herself entitled to a winter’s worth of room heater. Her alter ego obviously advised her against the move for she moved in with a lateral argument, ‘Room heaters are very drying to the skin. I start itching.’

My turn to facepalm. When the husband first rolled out this itchy brainwave, the son and I laughed it out of court. But over the years, I’ve become brainwashed. The son is holding out. Amma slipped into willing complicity. It came from the Son-in-Law after all. And there it was now, come back to bite.

An aside here. Amma has always had an itchy back. The only reasons she has remained married to Appa are generational holdbacks and his immense skills as a back scratcher. So, the heater causing her itch was asking my imagination to stretch like a rubber band. I could already hear the snap.

The husband cut in. ‘Amma, use the heater!’

‘Okay, beta.’ The plaintive note persisted. Amma felt put upon.

I sighed as I called off. Despite the SIL intervention, this conversation was propped for repeat mode for the next few weeks. Till the winter was over. And summer began. And we moved to the AC conversation.

In Search of a Resolute Resolution

The conversation with the son was trying to wind itself down. And failing. Partly it was him. Trying to be nice to his ageing, needy mum. Partly it was me. How do you tell the product of years of your sweat and toil, ‘Sorry, but my toast is getting cold.’

There was also the small matter of whom he’d spent New Year’s Eve with. Me baiting, him slipping off the hook. That could be the only reason why, apropos of nothing, came the question, ‘Any new year resolutions, Ma?’

‘No, not really.’

‘Why?’ Several suggestions hung expectantly in the air. Up the exercise ante. Stop wearing nighties all day. Stop fishing for information on my sex life. Stop writing ridiculous stuff about Dad and me. Sadly, none of them appealed. Not to me at least.

I cast around for buying time options. ‘I don’t know. New year resolutions have never really appealed. I have a really bad track record…’

Well, in my defence, I do. The first resolution I remember was in 1980. It was Board exam year and I resolved to give the study books my best shot. No radio. No fiction. Only Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Ugh! And what happened? The Board moved the exam to February 1981. I still maintain that it’s easier to give something your best shot when the event in question is happening this year, not next.

Fast forward some eight years. Newly married, hormones sated for the time being, I resolved to concentrate on my career. God had other ideas. He gave me a new set of hormones. The pregnancy ones.

That’s been the cycle thus far. After years of no resolutions, last year, I looked at my hips and shook my head sadly. ‘You have to go,’ I told them. And joined a gym. In February. We all know how that played out.

So, no new year resolutions for me. But the son is more of an optimist. And more like a dog with a ball. Won’t let go. I stalled for time, knowing it would come back to head-butt me.

Two days later, I checked – as I frequently do, what you gonna do? – the list of Bollywood films released in 2020. And how many of them I’d watched. I was horrified. Only twenty-five? That was just two films a month! In a good year, I average more than one a week.

‘I’ve made a new year resolution,’ I told the son brightly the next time he called. ‘I’m going to watch all the films that were released in 2020. And I’m already thirty down. Another sixty-eight to go. It’s working this time.’

I could hear the thwack of the facepalm some eight hundred miles away. But the son is my son. Just the teeniest pause later came the retort, ‘When will you watch the films of 2021?’

Smile Please!

‘Christmas is over. New Year is over. Now shall we do the Passport?’ chirruped the husband rather too chirpily. On the fourth of January.

Before you do a double take, let me assure you, Passport isn’t a newly resuscitated pagan festival. Also, New Year’s Eve had been sedate. Very sedate. The husband will vouch that I was snoring in bed by 22.30 hours. With a cold.

So, it wasn’t celebration overdose that had pulled the reins on the form-filling process. It might have been that we were busy filing my income-tax returns. It might also have had something to do with a certain someone having rediscovered his guitar, but I am a good wife, my lips are sealed, I will say no more.

In any case, there was no need at all to chirrup. That loud. I looked bleary-eyed at him. ‘Now?’ I asked through red-rimmed eyes. ‘I have a cold. An aching head.’

The husband gave me a look. One of his famous ones. One that is usually supposed to take the place of a scathing retort. As the son will vouch. But today, it seemed, I deserved more.

‘If we had to wait for when you didn’t have a cold….’

‘Okay, okay,’ I jumped in hastily, muffling a sneeze. ‘Let’s do it.’

The husband was right in that I do have more than anyone’s fair share of colds. It could have something to do with my adenoids being yanked out in my early teens. Or it could be that it was January and we were in the middle of a cold wave.

But that was not the point of dissension. It was that the husband had a cauldron full of bubbles and boils that were supposed to make me cold-free. And I had allergies – mythical or otherwise – to most of them. This is an argument we’ll probably be continuing when we sit in matching urns placed side by side on the son’s sideboard. Or relegated to the topmost kitchen shelf from where we’ll have a vantage view of how the probable bahu is not cooking that dish the way we did.

Right now, it was our laptops that were side by side. ‘Right,’ said the husband, ‘where’s your phone? We have to take photos of you.’

I stared at him aghast. ‘Like this?’ I wailed out aloud. ‘Have you taken a look at me? My eyes? My nose?’ I rushed to the mirror. ‘And that pimple is still there!’ The Overbooked book club’s play had not evoked chicken pox in me after all, only a pimple. Still, a rare event in my life. And it was still there. On the tip of my nose.

‘It’s okay,’ said the husband impatiently. ‘You look fine. Let’s just get it done with.’

And we did.

Now I’m waiting uneasily to hear back from the authorities. Uneasily because no country worth its salt would issue a passport to anything that looks like I do in that photo. Worse thought: if they do issue me that passport, I’ll have to live with that photo for the next ten years. Time to go into hibernation, I’m thinking.

I’ll Take the Chicken Pox, Thank You!

The husband was on holiday. And in festive cheer. For Christmas had been splendid, thanks to some very unselfish friends who’d pulled us into their Covid bubble. And wined and dined us. The works. Even crackers.

Four days later, the husband was still in expansive mode. And winging straight out of the blue came the offer, ‘Shall we go up the Brecon Beacons on Saturday and look for snow?’

The husband is like that. Just as I’m convinced I’m not even a blip on his phone screen, he’ll do something amazing. Like remembering I love looking for snow. Now I have little love for snow under my feet. But when it’s up on the mountains and I’m swathed in the warm fug blowing from the car’s heater, it’s quite my favourite outdoor activity.

Nevertheless, I looked at the husband suspiciously. Was this an early birthday present stunt? Totally within the realms of possibility, said the left half of my brain. You’re being mean, squealed the right half.

‘But I can’t!’ I wailed combining the two and swatting away the ‘Yessss!’ that was forming on my lips. ‘I’ve got the Zoom play on Saturday!’

With all compliments to my book club for the wonderful idea, I still had a tiny quibble with it. I had to perform a part in said play. And this, to me, was like decorating a red velvet cake with boiled shrimp. As an audience, you’d have found in me a rare prize. As an actor, well, I’d have been a throwaway.

The WhatsApp message had come around promptly the day after Christmas. Asking us to choose our parts. Just initials to pick from. So that no one would hog the largest part. I had the opposite problem. I wanted to pick the tiniest part. Preferably a walk-on one. Well, maybe not, this was on Zoom after all. I didn’t want anyone to see the lower part of me.

So I hemmed and hawed. The husband says most nasty things disappear if you ignore them. This one didn’t. The procrastinatory lull was dispersed abruptly when I got an urgent WhatsApp hiss from the book club chief: ‘Pick your part!!!’ I muttered a Hail Mary and picked. And prayed every night after. Till I got my lines. Five bits? I had to act out five bits of dialogue?

I was hyperventilating. Babbling hysterically. Till even the Bitmojis had run out of expressions. The husband threw up his hands. And called the son. Whom we hadn’t seen since a hasty Christmas morning call.

‘What’s the problem?’ asked the light of our lives. ‘Just say the lines. You don’t even have to learn them. Only read them aloud.’ What did he know? He was a thespian. Landing all the main parts in school plays. Even aspiring to Bollywood. Instead, he became a lawyer. Same skill set, different profession.

‘I’d rather have chicken pox all over again,’ I said, panic hitting top scales in my voice. But I meant it.

When I was nine, I caught the chicken pox. It was a most nasty experience, but I was ecstatic. For, you see, I had escaped. From the more traumatic experience of appearing on stage. To recite Lochinvar. Before an audience. I had prayed fervently for an exit clause. And my prayers had been answered. Not even the thought that there would be no trips to the movies for more than a month dimmed the shine in my eyes. On second thoughts, that might have been the fever.

But that’s been the story of my life. Even going up to receive a prize for standing third in grade five induced hysteria. And now I have to speak – five times! – in a Zoom play. I can already hear that part swearing at me. Bemoaning its misfortune. At bagging me. This one is going to take a helluva lot of Hail Marys.

Voyeurism at a Social Distance

The husband came into the room. I hastily shoved down my laptop lid. But the voices inside continued. How I wished I’d programmed the damn thing to auto shut off when I closed the lid.

‘What on earth are you watching?’ exclaimed the husband. I looked at him sheepishly. ‘Errmm, Bollywood Wives,’ I said finally.

It’s always a pleasure to see the husband at a loss for words, even when the cause is my own undoing. His rants against Bigg Boss are famous across two continents.

You see, the husband and me? And our TV watching habits? A bit like chalk and cheese, I would put it. I like to put people under a microscope. Poke around in their dirty linen. The husband, on the other hand, does double duty. One eye on the mindless action film airing that night. The other on his WhatsApp screen. He currently holds the Guinness World Record for watching the Jason Bourne films the most number of times. Without remembering he’s watched them. Believe me, I like Matt Damon too, but those films come on once every month! And he watches them every single time.

Cut to present moment. By the time the husband had recovered sufficiently to croak, ‘Why?’, I had my answer ready. ‘Education,’ I offered brightly.

He sniggered. ‘Not Shah Rukh?’

‘Not at all,’ I said disdainfully. Choosing not to reveal that the final episode centred on Shah Rukh Khan’s party. Naturally, because the series was produced by Karan Johar. But like a red rag to the husband’s bull. Who has a thing about SRK. Just as I did. But a different kind of thing. I was a jabra fan. Even infusing the son with my fervour. Till two things happened. The son grew up. I was mowed down from the fan ranks by Ra.One

‘Really educative,’ I offered even more brightly. And I meant it. I like to think I’m a writer. That my material is people. Hence, people-watching. And if you can’t find people to watch around you, as you can’t these days, you take them where you find them. Even if they’re on Bollywood Wives.

And what an education that has been! I found there are places in Mumbai (and maybe elsewhere too, for the world has gone bonkers, I feel) where you can go and cook your own meal. And pay for the privilege. Imagine! I do that every day. For free.

I learnt all about fillers. Not Christmas stocking fillers. Not sandwich fillers. But fillers that are injected into your face to remove those nasty, nasty wrinkles.

‘I hope you…’ began the husband, looking just that little bit alarmed when I educated him in turn. ‘Oh no,’ I replied, continuing in the over-bright vein. ‘I just eat enough chocolate to keep my face plump and wrinkle-free the natural way.’

‘You’re bonkers!’ he said as he retreated to his man cave. Shaking his head.

Uncharacteristically, the son was more expansive. ‘If you root around,’ he told me, ‘you might be able to find something called Dilli Darlings. Would be right up your street.’ I was instantly suspicious. Was this the famous generational sarcasm on display? I turned to the husband. Who was watching Jason Bourne. In utter content.

Gang Aft A-Gley

It was Appa’s birthday on Friday. I’d done all the prep. Appa plus cake in Noida. Us plus cake in Swansea. A bottle of rosé cooling in the fridge. Our fridge. All was well with my world. And at that portentous moment, I decided to take the weekend off. To celebrate. Chill. But. The best-laid plans and all that. For the cosmos took notice.

First off, I learnt I’d not won a short story competition. On chocolate. Which was the topic. A little disappointing that, considering how much chocolate the husband consumes. On a daily basis. You would think some of it would have reached me by osmosis.

‘It’s not you, it’s them,’ said the men in my life. Most gratifyingly. But still. What’s not to like about a story on clouds of white chocolate laced with whisky engulfing you, huh?

Two, I realised Christmas was within touching distance and the husband and I would be spending it here in the UK. For the very first time in the ten years since we’d moved here. Usually we fly to the comforts of Amma’s most excellent biryani. Followed by a chhola bhatura from Haldiram’s on Boxing Day. Ooh! But not this year. Thank you, Covid-19.

Three, when I hastily called up the M&S home page in a frantic effort to resuscitate said Christmas, I learnt that their Wellington was sold out and that the goose I found myself slavering over would probably feed the two of us well into 2021.

Four, the blanket I’d almost finished crocheting stabbed me in the back. Inexplicably, it was now much longer than it was wide. Like, Aditya Roy Kapur might find it cosy length-wise, but nothing larger than a size zero Kareena Kapoor could get into it width-wise.

It did not help that the husband was wearing his most patronising smirk. And deflecting back to me all the delusions I’d winged out of my head that it was not my fault. It was the friend who’d sent me the dimensions who was to blame. But he was having none of that.

‘When you consider how many blankets you’ve crocheted…’ he said. For the tenth time that day. I swear it was the tenth. I was counting. Anything to keep my mind off that wretched blanket.

Five, the husband chose to make jeera aloo. He’s periodically consumed by the thought of consuming jeera aloo. He’s even learnt to make it. As he did Friday night. Never mind the pepper chicken curry I’d made for the celebration. After the rosé and before the black forest gateau.

In the event, neither was called for. For the husband is a taster. It doesn’t make a whit of difference who’s cooking, you’ll find him on the offside, ladle to mouth. And he likes to ladle it out to those in close proximity. My stomach bunched up into knots after the fourth time of ladling. And that was the end of the celebration.

Six, and most serious, Netflix chose to run out of episodes. Of Anne with an E. Without the story being done. This really was the heart breaker. The tear-jerker. The tragic climax to my chill time. The final straw. Ginger Anne and I have been friends for the last three decades. And now she’d gone AWOL.

Revenge was called for on the universe. I decided I would not change the towels. Which I do most anally every Sunday. Instead, I would change them on Monday. So there!

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

‘Get me some bread!’ yelled the husband from his man cave. It must have been the click of the front-door lock that gave me away. For I was trying to make a quiet, dignified exit.

The husband must also have sent out a mind probe. For I was venturing out in search of precisely that – bread! Blame it on my WhatsApp groups. The Show Offers. The Mad Hatters. The Literarians. All of them posting photos of their baking skills. Crusty sourdough loaves that looked as if they’d come right off The Great British Bake-Off stamped with Paul Hollywood’s signature handshake.

Anyway, that’s why I found myself in the supermarket twenty minutes later, peering up at the various kinds of sourdough on offer. I finally picked up two loaves and took them to the slicing counter. To be met with a blank look. ‘Sorry, we don’t slice bread anymore,’ said the suspiciously teenaged looking boy there. ‘Covid regulations,’ he offered unhelpfully. Barefaced lie, I retorted. In my head.

Swearing under my breath, I trudged a further twenty minutes to Supermarket 2. Where I found the last two sourdough loaves on offer. Just looking at them made me hungry. Predictably, there was no one at the bakery counter to slice them for me. I halloo’d with full vim and vigour, but not even an echo in return.

It was a difficult manoeuvre, but I did it. Found a store assistant even as I guarded my loaves with my life. He – let’s call him Davey – was definitely not a teenager. Not a spot of acne on him. ‘I’ll just go round the back and find someone,’ he promised.

And he disappeared. While I waited, clutching desperately onto my loaves. A good five minutes passed, I swear on my Fitbit. I would not be deterred, I told myself. Then the PA system crackled into life. And Davey materialised by my side.

‘Hear that?’ he said, beaming with pride. ‘I got them to make an announcement. Someone should be here soon.’

‘Wonderful!’ I beamed right back. But all the beaming failed to conjure up a bread slicer person. Another five minutes passed. Davey came back to check on me. And found me still clutching whole loaves.

He shook his head in consternation. ‘Ahh, love, if I had gloves, I could have had a go at it for you.’ He disappeared again. I sighed. The disappearing act was entertaining all right, but there are limits to even my boredom threshold. I looked down at my loaves. Could I slice them at home? I shook my head – I’m not that optimistic.

Davey sprung up again before me, a pair of disposable gloves in his hand. ‘Got them from the deli counter,’ he told me cheerfully.

It took him the better part of three minutes to get those gloves on. What can I say? The deli counter is womanned by, well, women. And our Davey was a Welsh giant.

Gloves on, it was disappearing time again. This time into the bowels of the bakery. With my precious loaves. Another four minutes passed. I was moaning under my breath by now, ‘My bread, oh my bread!’

I should have had more faith. In Davey. Who appeared just then, a loaf of sliced sourdough and rye in each hand.

‘Took me a while to get the hang of the machine, never used it before,’ he said genially, nodding at said loaves. ‘They’re probably not sliced as well as them would have done it.’

‘They can’t be worse than what I’d have done to them at home,’ I chirped, grinning beatifically at him.

Oh Davey, my hero!

What Goes Around Comes Around

‘I’m not watching Bigg Boss anymore.’ It was Amma. We’d synced our muhurats for the Sunday call.

‘Why?’ Really, I don’t know why I bothered. Amma and I were caught in a never-ending loop on this one. We both got super hyper at the beginning of October when the new season of Bigg Boss began. That’s what Big Brother is called in India, by the way. They had to differentiate between all the Big Brothers we already have looking over our shoulder.

The fact remains that Bigg Boss is a mega-event on my social calendar. Pathetic, I agree. But that’s three months ticked off. It means a lot.

Not so much for Amma. Who loved the première and all the dancing and singing. But then her enthusiasm for BB would begin to wane in inverse proportion to its waxing for the newest tear-jerker the air waves beamed her way.

‘They fight all the time. Too much chik chik.’ My mouth fell open. I mean, isn’t that the USP of BB? A bundle of wannabes in a pressure cooker situation. Fighting 24/7 on prime-time television. It’s like watching a David Attenborough film. With the wrong kind of animals.

Just as I opened my mouth to say as much, I got a sharp jab in the ribs from the husband. ‘Desist!’ said the frown on his face.

I changed tack. ‘So what are you watching these days?’ I know, I know. But in these days of Covid-19, there are very few ‘safe’ topics for chats with parents.

‘There’s a remake of Kasautii Zindagii Kay. All new actors. Very nice.’

A second jab from the husband was not needed. I was dumbfounded. Lost for words. Those who know me will report this is a blue moon kind of occurrence.

Amma continued to tell me about her new love, blithely unaware of the fist she’d swung into my gut. Round 1 of this particular TV series had run to 1400-plus episodes. Five days a week, six-and-a-half years. And now barely twelve years later, they were airing a remake?

I swung into adult daughter mode. ‘How can you watch that crap? The first time was bad enough. A remake? Seriously? Why don’t you read a book instead? At least it won’t fry your brains.’

From the corner of my eye, I could see the husband doing his pigeon act. Code for ‘slow down, she’s your mum!’ But I was in full spate.

The phone call got disconnected soon after. Maudlin OTT television serials are Amma’s secret fix. And this is a conversation that’s been on repeat loop for several years. When I’m in Noida, she will often wait up for the late night repeat of her favourite shows. When she knows I’m safely upstairs, snoring. It’s a different matter that she herself snores through most of it and then has to catch the afternoon repeat the next day. Along with my disapproving asides.

For now, I sniffed her aside and continued to wallow in the trials and tribulations of this year’s BB contestants. Till the son called one evening. And found me in tears. ‘I’ve lost my BB video link,’ I wailed and snotted over his metaphorical shoulder.

The adult-son disgust in his voice came through too clearly to ebb the tear fest. ‘You’re still watching that crap?  Seriously, Ma! You should be ashamed of yourself! An intelligent person like you! Why don’t you read a book instead?’

You could say generational justice. What goes around comes around. I don’t care. All water off a duck’s back. I am Amma’s daughter. And I’m a Celebrity started Sunday.

Not Quite the Tag I wanted

Last week, I found the gilet of my dreams. Why was I dreaming of gilets? Well, Lockdown 2.0 was not proving as interesting as its predecessor. My mind was at as loose an end as Donald Trump out on the golf course in Virginia.

Besides, I’d been pretty good about shopping online for a time now. If you ignore my wool cravings, that is. The itch was building up.

And I could blame the weather all I liked, but my walks were not happening. A new gilet would surely tempt me to step out? I’m quite talented like that. At making the leap from whim to need, I mean.

And this gilet was truly lovely. The colour of a well-aged claret. Plus a hood to protect my precious headphones in a sudden shower. And buttons on the pockets to prevent my stuff falling out.

Diversion… It has always been a mystery to me why women’s clothes have so few places to, well, store stuff. Men’s clothes hit the sweet spot. Women’s? Maybe a shallow pocket if you were lucky. You know, the kind of pocket that tumbles out its contents the moment you bend.

To ice the cake, the gilet was less than half its regular price. I radiated virtue as I pressed ‘Pay Now’. I was doing a good deed. What could go wrong?

Plenty. As I discovered soon enough. In fact, the very next week, when I went grocery shopping. In my new gilet.

I was hoisting my rather heavy backpack onto my back as I walked out of the supermarket when the alarm began beeping as if announcing lockdown. How could that be? We were already in lockdown.

The security guard checked my shopping, gingerly keeping his distance. No contraband there. He cautiously bent towards me with his wand. ‘It’s coming from your neck,’ he said, obviously wondering whether I’d tucked away a string of sausages there. I took off my brand-new gilet, and there – the security tag was still on!

Frantic explanations followed. I jabbed away at my phone to fetch up the email receipt that might prove I was not a shoplifter. Murphy’s law or just plain MJ karma: the phone’s mobile data was also in lockdown.

The guard had watched my contortions with great fascination at first. Especially as he’d ascertained the gilet was not from his store. But an impatient queue was building up behind me. ‘You might want to get that off then, love,’ he said finally.

I went in search of the culprit store. It was closed. Of course. But I needed to offload. Both the beeping alarm experience and the tag on my neck. Desperate times… I walked into the first store I found open. Except that it was a pharmacy. Which probably did not contain anything that was tagged. Except me right then. I stoically made my way to the counter.

‘I have a bit of a peculiar problem,’ I explained haltingly. Try explaining why you need a security tag taken off something you’re wearing and you’ll get why several halts were required. The girl shook her head at me in disbelief from a safe distance.

Yesterday, I went in search of the real store. The girl at the counter there also looked at me in disbelief. As she finally yanked off the tag, she said, ‘You know, that has never happened before. There’s never ever a security tag on an online purchase.’

I know, love. But this is me, these things only ever happen to me.