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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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No appetite for recession? Come shopping with us

The day they started talking about double dip, I started craving an ice cream.

You know the kind. Chocolate sprinklings and raspberry sauce, dripping from the top of creamy vanilla ice in a crispy, biscuity cone... dipped twice for extra taste-bud appeal.

This, according to a new young acquaintance of mine, would be scrumdiddlyumptious – a fresh word on me, but one I’m using quite frequently now.

I’ve been practising it in front of the mirror, trying it out on friends and family in phone calls, seeking assessment and approval from living language experts, Michelin-starred chefs and the window cleaner.

Scrumdiddlyumptious. They all agree. It’s a very good word.

Thank you, Ben.

Double dip, it turns out, is not so attractive as my new word. Not in some parts, anyway.

It’s not nearly so tasty as an ice cream with raspberry sauce and chocolate and some folks are less than excited by it.

In some parts, mere mention of a second dipping was enough to tip grown men into furious temper.

In Westminster they yelled and scowled and wagged angry fingers – each blaming the other for a second chilling. It was an unappetising, ill-mannered display by anybody’s standards.

Not sweet at all, this double dip. This one meant that anybody who has been feeling the pinch for the last couple of years, will probably feel it for a while longer yet. Another couple, perhaps – barring lottery jackpots or a win on the horses.

Like an ice cream headache, the kind that hits you straight between the eyebrows just as you’re starting to enjoy that last big lick, double dip will bring stinging tears.

Not everywhere though. Its rude arrival here in Carlisle prompted a queue round the block for a rather special double dip response – new furniture and a fond farewell to a much-loved store.

You have to feel proud of such steely refusal to be cowed by dubious jargon from anonymous pin-stripes in the Office For National Statistics.

While that lot sweated the difference between 0.1 percent economic growth and 0.2 per cent consumer spending shrinkage, our lot hit the high road to leather chairs, mahogany wardrobes and crystal table lamps.

That, I venture, is precisely the way to bury bad news – have nowt to do with it.

Pull on your boots, never mind the rain, skip breakfast and go shopping.

And boy, did they shop. Chapmans, much loved furniture retailer for more than 160 years, brought eager-beaver spenders out in their droves, as the store invited customers to spend, spend, spend in a closing down sale.

Funny how people grow so firmly and affectionately attached to shops.

Funny in a curious way – not in a laugh-out-loud fashion.

Shopping is no laughing matter and, as we saw this week, it takes more than an extended recession to persuade any of us to treat it with any less reverence than it is due.

Up before dawn, in line ahead of morning birdsong, warmed by a fizz of excitement and fired up with ambitions for a bargain. Now, that’s the way to do it.

When you’ve had your eye on a scrumdiddly-umptious silver chest of drawers for a month or two, what else would you do on double dip day but dip in for a third time – and hang the consequences.

It makes you proud of the northern grit rattling through our veins. While southern softies and angry political finger-waggers were losing their tempers in other parts of the country, here we were keeping our cool in a queue – an extremely long queue – eager and more than willing to bolster the local economy with a shopping spree.

The buzz of the crowds apparently brought tears to the eyes of Chapmans’ staff. So thronged were the sales floors, doors had to be closed against some waiting bargain-hunters at one point.

That’s what I call proper shopping. That’s what I call putting the rest of the world in its place and getting on with living – because none of us will ever get enough of that.

I suppose, in a sense, I must be tipping my hat to the spirit of Carlisle and Cumbria, which stubbornly refuses to be told how to conform and goes its predestined way to look after its own.

And I guess I’m also doffing my cap to seven-year-old Ben, who has summed up that spirit perfectly.

It’s scrumdiddlyumptious.

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