Last night – on a wide-ranging array of travels this week – I travelled out Oxford way to have dinner with my daughter and boyfriend who had not long returned from last weekend’s Singapore F1 Grand Prix.
Having arrived with nearly two hours to kill because of a previous pub lunch engagement near Newbury, I decided to visit Bicester Village which, I am told, has a reputation well beyond the shores of the United Kingdom as the Knightsbridge of the Midlands.
I should own up. I am not one of life’s natural shoppers. For one thing, I am hopeless at it. Over the past five decades I’ve lost count of the fashion or size disasters that I’ve managed to inflict upon myself, simply because I tend to buy the first thing I find that I think doesn’t seem to look crap on me … and then head with relief straight for the exit and the sanctuary of home.
And then put the later realisation that whatever-it-was doesn’t suit me down to experience.
Until the next time.
Trudging round high street stores in search of an item of clothing, or indeed anything else, ranks for me as the equivalent of visiting the dentist to have three teeth pulled and then some root canal work on top for good measure.
I would not go so far as to suggest that shopping – in Women Are From Venus, Men Are From Mars style – is one of the thing that divides the genders, but most ladies I know certainly regard the prospect of hitting the high street with the same sort of relish that I face a long afternoon of televised sport with a Cornish pasty and a fridge-full of cold beers at the ready.
Having established my credentials as a non-expert, I feel confident enough to report that Bicester Village is a shoppers’ paradise.
I say that firstly, because once you’ve left your vehicle in the sports stadium-sized car park you drift towards the main drag of the complex – a pedestrianised mini-Oxford Street of every major high-end shopping brand (as far as I can tell) in the world from Vivienne Westwood to Saville Row tailors and Karen Millen.
Secondly, it was heavily-populated (70% women) by human beings of all generations, buzzing about on their shopping expeditions, enjoying the September afternoon sunshine and just socialising.
It didn’t seem credible until yesterday, but my daughter said Bicester Village is sufficiently famous that some overseas tourists fly to Britain just to come to it and massive coaches bring fans from all parts of the country every day of the year. I should estimate that 60% of the visitors yesterday were expensive-looking tourists of either Sub-Continent or Fast Eastern origin.
When I mentioned earlier that all generations were present, I should have clarified that most of my (older) generation were mothers shopping with their daughters. As a gentleman without a woman in tow, I felt of an interloper, to be honest.
I lost my favourite Tag watch recently and visited the Tag shop to have a half-hearted look for a replacement. It was a while back, of course – maybe a decade – but my watch now missing cost about £450. A similar example, or at least an updated version of something that looked relatively similar, started at about £2,300 and went up to £4,800.
In this context, I was rather glad that I bought a temporary replacement at a chandlery emporium for £29.99 three weeks ago. I think I’ll stick with that one until the battery runs out or it otherwise breaks down …