Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Girlfight at Piccadilly Pound World

I can understand why other people might find them seedy, depressing or even downright scary. They're filled with tatty junk you don't really need. And they're shady. But dammit, I love pound stores.

I can't walk by one without wanting to go in. I rarely buy anything, but I've spent far too much time meandering along the aisles lined with new-but-already-forlorn plastic toys and overstock toothbrush holders in a blissful stupor. I don't buy the Kylie stationery set (proudly labelled "unofficial"), two-for-a-pound tissue boxes or novelty knickers bearing the mysterious legend Sundays are Dull. But I like to know that I can.

And shopping in Pound World can be exciting, and it's not just the thrill of finding passably decent batik cushion covers I'm talking about. Today I was taking a quick, illicit lunchtime run through PW. I was in the second aisle fingering a gift pack of three mini bottles of metallic nail varnish. The aisles are narrow at Piccadilly Pound World, and the shop was crowded. I brushed lightly against a woman in the cosmetics section as I passed her, murmuring an apology. I looked up from the nail varnish to find everyone in the aisle staring at me. The woman had whipped around and was loudly berating me. I put the varnish down, somewhat embarassed.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I did apologise, but you mustn't have heard me. "

"Well maybe next time you speak up so people can hear" she shouted. "Hmmmh. I don't think you even apologized at all. "She fixed me with a beady look that told me that not only was this woman not taking any shit, but she actually wanted to fight with me and I'd better fuck off. But I didn't. I stepped toward her.

"Okay. I'M SORRY" I bellowed at her. "Did you hear that?"

She shot an incredulous look at her friend, a slightly shorter and squatter version of herself. And then her chin retreated six inches backwards and her eyebrows shot to the ceiling. Her words emerged in a low hiss of malice: Don't you start with me or you might get messed UP today.

"Oh great. That's all I need," I said, turning on my heel and exiting the pound store, seemingly propelled by the force of my own sarcasm.

But my heart was pounding all the way to Oxford Street. I didn't want to get messed UP today.

In honor of my angry friend, I've decided to share my three favourite pound stores in the Manchester city centre:

  • Naturally, Piccadilly Pound World is my favourite. I like to live dangerously.

  • Second place goes to the Pound £mpire on the corner of Piccadilly and Lever Street. It's got narrow aisles and is always unbelievably crowded, but with good reason - there are some decent pickings here, including the sort of could-be-expensive candles which make great housewarming/babyshower gifts for people you don't like very much.

  • And the third is not really a pound store, but it might as well be: Primark. Right now they've got those excellent vests for £2 that you will insist on buying in eight shades, and by next summer all of them will have either shrunk, stretched in anatomically odd places, or acquired a colourful network of stains across le balcon. But who cares? They're practically disposable. Don't forget about upstairs, where there are perfectly good knickers and jimjams for less than a kebab.

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