During her younger years the shops that we visited included a large pet shop with rabbits, hamsters, mice, puppies and a variety of birds in residence; a university bookshop where she liked to flick through anatomy books containing stills of partly dissected bodies; a joke shop and Jenners’ toy department. We’d then find a café that served fish fingers. By her mid-teens the nature of the shops and taste in food changed.
The pet, joke and toy shops gradually became an afterthought subordinated instead to clothes shops like River Island – before it went kitsch – and Cotton-fields. We now ate in eateries that catered for the more mature palate. My daughter now preferred home-made macaroni and cheese – mmm, I can still taste the rich creamy cheese sauce. However, the shop that appealed to her most was Flips an American themed clothes store formerly situated on South Bridge directly facing Chambers Street.
Normally I’d hang around waiting while she sampled a particular trend. She never asked my opinion – just tried on the garment, took it off and returned it to the rack – ‘Right dad, let’s go.’ On this particular Saturday she took a pair of shorts and a t-shirt into the changing room. I did the usual.
‘What do you think, dad?’
Was she asking my opinion? When I turned to answer I discovered the girl who went into the changing room emerged a young woman.
This was the moment that signalled to me I stop entering her bedroom without knocking and surrender the bathroom to her (which I only re-captured after she married). I also started casting a more protective eye over her albeit discretely. It was also a day of realisation for ‘Wally’. How it pined for those halcyon Saturdays when all it needed to worry about was the price of fish finger, chips and beans. Ah, stop moaning, Wally, she’s worth infinitely more than you can hold.