Saturday, May 31, 2008

Online clothes shopping for fat men

When you weigh an ounce or two more than 20 stones (that's 280 pounds for our Western neighbours... or nearly 128 kilos for our Eastern ones), you eventually come around to the conclusion that the local Dunnes Stores just isn't going to have a good supply of summer clothing that covers your beer belly.

The "smallest" size I can wear these days in tops or teeshirts is XXXL. Now, either the news reports about the slobbering spread of obesity in the Western world isn't getting through to the store buyers, or there are a heck of a lot of slightly built, fit building workers still roaming about. I say this because any given day there is hardly room to manoeuvre around displays of S, M and L sizes in the Menswear departments.

It's like finding a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to see an XXXL label on a teeshirt in our local shopping centres. I almost knocked Herself over a couple of weeks ago on seeing two (count them!) at the bottom of a pile of polo shirts.

So I've turned to the Internet for summer clothes. Lately I visited a UK-based site,, where I purchased the above classy number. I'll be wearing it this June Bank Holiday weekend as I tend the barbeque and no doubt shall be the life and soul of the party in it for.... oh.... two whole minutes, maybe.

Apart from the printed tees, the site supplies various coloured styles and other clothes up to 13XL sizes. (I'd like to see a label that says XXXXXXXXXXXXXL....!)

The "Anorexia" tee is available at £12.99 (€16.54) with postage and packing extra. In all I chose 5 items: "Anorexia"; the Duke Spirit Linen Mix, the Espionage Cotton tee, and two Izod Cotton Polo Shirts. The whole came to £72.95 (€93.00) inclusive of postage and packing.

By the way, €93.00 would purchase fifteen and a half summer tee shirts of good quality in my local Dunnes Stores outlet. Money sent abroad because they don't cater for my size. Think on, Department Store owners!

Everything came through in good time and good order, with the slight exception of the Izod shirts. The Website also caters for the TALL man as well as the wide, and Herself has been looking askance at me in my brightly coloured cotton dresses. I show her the maker's label and say:

"This is the style in Pakistan!"

But she isn't persuaded. So the moral of the story is to read the Sizing charts provided on the site and do as much online examination of the product as possible before placing an order. I'll definitely be shopping there again.

One might well ask why it is I'm paying for UK Sterling-priced products given the weakness of the US Dollar against the Euro. Well, the US-based sites I visited seem not to be aware of the rest of the world as a potential market. "There is no postal rate for your area" one online ordering system told me. "You'll be contacted with the details of the additional cost once your order is placed."

"One pig in a poke, please!"

Or, if they do, they equate the distance travelled in the post to be roughly equivalent to a trip from Earth to Mars, making the postage and packing rates wildly expensive.

If anyone locates a reasonably-priced US site that sells tees to places outside the USA, please let me know.

E-Bay is another place I've looked, again with mixed results. One guy had an offer of six teeshirts from his online shop for £40 Sterling and wanted another £40 p&p to send it 100 miles to Ireland!

We're not getting thinner, only poorer, it seems. I'm off now to get the garden into order for Sunday's barbie.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes

I finally blew up the hover mower. But the reprieve didn't last long as Herself hounded me out the door yesterday to B&Q to buy a new one.

We loaded up the trolley with new mower, plant food, an edger, rubble sacks and a gas regulator for the barbeque, paid for it all and trundled out.

There was our grandson, aged two-and-a-half, in the child seat of a shopping cart, on his way into the store being pushed by Daddy.

"Oh-ho! Oh-ho! Oh-ho!" says I.

The grandson looks around and sees Herself and I, grinning at him.

"Look, D," says his Daddy. "Who's that?"

"Santa Claus!" says D.

The Daily Grind

So, as you know, this little old geezer accosted me back in February '08 with an announcement that I was looking at him and that he didn't like people looking at him.

I hadn't been looking at him on the bus that morning, but I sure as eggs look at him every morning ever since! He uses the same bus stop as me in the morning and I always know at what point and at what distance he is from me.

Some research has provided a few details into who this fellah is. It seems he once sold charity gaming cards door to door in the area and was plagued by the attentions of children who (being children) used to get a rise out of him for the sake of being chased. I think he isn't the full shilling to begin with, but the story of the kids pestering him explains some of the more peculiar behaviour I've observed in him recently.

One morning as I hauled myself up the road on the way to another blessed day of being told by the telephoning public how useless I am, I spied yer man shuffling across the green area to my left. He dresses in a kind of shabby brown canvas jacket and is continually blowing his nose into a great white handkerchief, peering over it suspiciously through his black rimmed spectacles at anyone who might be about. He increased his pace on seeing me and walked ahead, shoulders in their customary hunch, his face down. Instead of turning left at the top of the road for the bus stop, he went right disappearing into the next line of semi-dees. He turned up about five minutes later at the stop. I figured he must have been calling into someone's house on the other road.

Then a few days after, I was a little later in leaving the house and saw him ahead of me, hunching along with his hands in his coat pockets. He stopped suddenly and stared straight ahead where a car on a school run had reversed out of a driveway a couple of houses up. He took two steps to the right and hid for a moment behind a hedge. The car paused halfway across the road as seatbelts and schoolbags and the usual morning chaos were sorted. He stepped out and seeing it was still there, stepped quickly back in again. When it pulled away he resumed his shuffle up the road, head lowered, handkerchief dabbing at his nose.

I saw him from afar another morning walking by the shop units in the local centre, heading for the bus. A schoolboy about twelve or thirteen years of age was coming in the opposite direction, not heeding him at all. Our fellow did a quick turn to the left to face into a shop front until the youngster passed by.

When the bus pulled in, he did his usual morning barge past everyone in the loose queue, flashed a pass at the driver and went up the bus slamming windows closed, keeping the outside world at bay.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Postcards from Second Life

Hard day at the office

There was a gentle, metalic clanking noise outside my office window the other day. It was the sort of noise one associates with pipes or beer kegs being rattled. A man's face rose slowly into view on the other side of the glass, a large piece of scaffolding in his hands. He was on top of a slightly wobbling tower of tubes and struts. He briefly looked up at the jungle ecosystem of my bosses' gutters then began to disassemble the platform he was standing on. In a quarter hour, he was back, this time suitably steadied and stabilised. His partner, below, passed up readymade pieces of the giant Mecanno kit, tied on various ropes and pulleys, crawled carefully up the outside and joined him at the top.

"They've finally come to clean the gutters," I said to the office at large. Some curious necks were craned towards the windows. In a few minutes large sods of peaty, weed-choked soil were pulled out and dropped into the courtyard below. The courtyard is surrounded on four sides by a three storey building. The scaffold was tugged and pushed along on large castors over the slabbed floor until the entire square had been properly cleaned. Then they took the whole apparatus down again and moved it bit by bit through the ground-floor corridors to the next courtyard on the other side of our communal office, the courtyard above which last year's seagull had been hatched.

This year's hatchling is almost fully grown though not as adventurous as the first one we saw. It sits dutifully on the ridge tile over a nook created by the louvre-windows waiting for its parents to return with lunch. I suppose not much happens in an average day sitting up on a roof. Nothing that includes visitors from below, anyway.

The man on the scaffold inched over to the gutter below the seagull's ledge. A long, white feathered neck rose up over the ridge tile above.

"Shree! Shree! Shree! Who the fuck are you?" it shrieked.

The man lowered himself a little to the platform and consulted with his partner on the ground. He rose up above the rim again, one eye on the bird which had both eyes on him.

"Shree! Shree! Shree! Get away from that, you bollix!"

A shadow passed over. There was a chorus of "Shree!" noises, as one of the parent birds landed beside the ledge nest.

The man gripped the head of a dandelion and pulled a sod of muck out of the gutter, dropping it into a bucket.

"Shree-Shree! Shree-Shree! Shree-Shree!" the two birds screamed at him. The chick nestled down a little behind the frame of the louvre window, perhaps to hide. The parent marched up and down the ridge tiles, neck thrust out aggressively. Everytime the man bent down to lower the bucket, the cries ceased. When his head was thrust back up into sight, threats and screams rained down on him from above.

At last the scaffold had trundled out of the danger zone and was being disassembled for another trip through the offices to the next courtyard. The birds gave one final triumphant "Shree-Shree-Shree!" then closed their eyes and rested in the afternoon sun.