I was in Wickes on Croydon’s Purley Way the other day. Not somewhere I would normally frequent, but I needed a quality undercoat for exterior stone and wood, and the local options were beyond lamentable. Visiting one of these places is a bit like going to an airport departure lounge: the sheer scale intentionally dwarfs any notion you may have of thrift, as eight-wheeled juggernauts filled to capacity with power tools and decking thunder their way towards the checkouts.
I weaved through the aisles, keeping as low a profile as I could muster, but then I noticed a well-dressed man hovering uncomfortably in the distance. He turned, looked up and in a flash was standing next to me in front of the two pack epoxies. It was Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet:
Martin: Sorry to bother you, but don’t I know you from somewhere?
Me: I doubt it. I don’t come here very often.
Martin: No, not from here. Aren’t you that bloke who…
Me: Martin, keep your voice down! I’m trying to get this over with as quickly as I can.
Martin: Sorry. What are you looking for?
Me: Undercoat. For exterior stone and wood.
Martin: You’re way off base, mate. You’ll be after the Home Decorating section, it’s on the other side of the building. If you go down the end …hang on, let me take you.
Me: Thank you.
So Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet and I made our way across the absurdly complex labyrinth, stopping only for him to pick up a couple of shiny aprons from Kitchenware and a retractable chalk line set from Building and Joinery.
Martin: You’re probably wondering why I’ve got two aprons, aren’t you?
Me: To be honest, I’m not. But I reckon you share cooking duties with your partner, and that you’re probably a bit OCD.
Martin: They’re both for me, actually.
Me: Ah. Are you going to tell me or not?
Martin: Take a wild guess. Look at the colour.
Me: I really haven’t got time for this.
Martin: Bright metal. Quite valuable. Think Ancient Egypt.
Me: So you’re about to buy two kitchen aprons that happen to be the same colour as your 1983 hit record? It’s a bit tenuous, Martin.
Martin: So what? There’s still a few people about who’ll get it. And anyway, what’s so special about your stupid paint?
Me: There’s nothing special about it at all. Except I didn’t have a hit back in the day called ‘Quality Undercoat for Exterior Stone and Wood’. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t be here now.
Martin: What about the chalk line set?
Me: Oh no…not True?
Martin: Oh yes.
Me: No one’s going to understand that reference. Even I’m struggling, and I work in the trade.
Martin: Yeah, whatever. Have a nice day.
And with that, he was gone. Still trying to figure out how he knows me, mind.