So this morning, Tony got up early and made blueberry pancakes for all of us from scratch. And then he got Arddun changed, loaded the car with the duffel bag full of swimming gear, bundled her in, and took off to Dickson pools.

Leaving me to go #shopping# (you have to trill that word like a bird on prozac) All By Myself.

Just got back, and feeling refreshed and enthused enough to blog – which is saying something, because I haven’t been ready or willing to blog in ages. It wasn’t just the retail therapy that gave me this post-Christmas jollies – it was the crowd. It was the energy. It was the fact that shelves were full and prices were halved. It was the fact that everything was still sparkling and Christmassy. Ray from Far Away asked on Facebook if the Boxing Day Sales were rather pugilistic – and perhaps there is a little bit of jostling and negotiation. There has to be. But that’s the best part.

I know my Singapore friends and family are going to want to smack me over the head with a two-by-four for waxing lyrical about the next part, but I even enjoyed waiting in queues today. Someone was shouting over the crowd to his girlfriend about how nuts it all was, and I grinned at him. I adored it. People. I was surrounded by them. They were happy. They were relaxed. They actually wanted to be there.

Okay, perhaps that was going a little too far. The women chiefly wanted to be there. The children tolerate it because there might be something in it for them, and the men tolerate it because they love their women and just ate their weight in turkey and Christmas sweets. Plus, parking at the Canberra Centre was $2 for the whole day. But you can tell that the men weren’t really into it, by how full the Man Benches were. Just rows and rows strewn about the Canberra Centre of bored men guarding a moat of shopping bags, and scrolling through their smartphones while cussing the lousy reception.

That was the only dampener of my shopping spree.

I’m sure Myer didn’t intend this to happen, but the changing room at the lingerie department has about 3 chairs at the entrance of the changing room – presumably for women to gather their strength after hours of waiting for a cubicle. But those three chairs collectively became a Man Bench.

This meant that each time you queued up to go in, the Man Bench got to mull over your taste in undergarments on 30-50% discount.

What happens, of course, is that you end up squishing everything into a ball in one hand so you can hide it by your right side, while using all your other shopping bags on your left as a modesty shield. This is fine until you reach the front and have to show the sales assistant how many pieces you’re bringing in. “Four,” you mutter while she unfurls this wad of creased padding by Elle Macpherson. And then you try to sidle in with your back against the Man Bench. You do not make eye-contact.

This doesn’t prove to be a problem for some other breed of women who seem oblivious to the gawking of the Man Bench. Spotting a generous girth and blessed by far superior badongadongs, they manage to flap all stringy/animal-printed/hot-pink laced/disproportionately tiny undergarments in the air while shouting “SIX PIECES, PLEASE!” to ANYONE IN ZIMBABWE WHO WOULD LISTEN the sales assistant.

Of course the first time round, they don’t fit – so you’re there debating the merits of making an educated guess on better sizes vs. braving that Man Bench again. In the end, the 30-50% discount sign wins and you queue once again, but this time you get so good at preparing the wad beforehand, things feel a lot less slo-mo.

Apart from that, I managed to get a few birthday gifts for others, and a book and CD for Arddun. And two blue dresses – one frilly, one straight. And an ultraslim iPad mini keyboard folio thingy for my Christmas gift from Tony (w00t!) at $40 discount (double w00t!)

And I sat on a Man Bench the middle of the mall, cloudy apple juice in one hand, and just soaked everything in – the happy noise, the snippets of conversation, the busyness. It was just so good to connect with my inner City girl again. (I know – I only just got back from Singapore in early November!) I love Canberra and how it’s really a glorified country town – which is a fabulous thing in itself. But it can sometimes seem so lifeless, so empty, so cold.

I need to remember to do this every year if I can.