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Alan and Robin Go Shopping

"What this room needs is a new lounge suite," I said.

"You’ve been saying that for the last nine months," Robin pointed out with delicate tact. "Perhaps it’s time to get your finger out?"

With me, to conceive of an idea is to put it into practice. We drove immediately to Harvey Norman Furniture in Porirua.

The store was huge. The showroom stretched on forever, vanishing into a grey swirling mist at the limits of vision. The lounge suites were arranged in order of price. Just inside the front door they were made of cardboard and string and cost 3/6d, but as we followed them deep into the bowels of the store they gradually became more expensive, more luxurious and considerably less cat proof.

"Can you imagine what Ginger’s claws would do that leather upholstery?" Robin shuddered with horror. "It doesn’t bear thinking about."

The prices seemed to go up by about a thousand dollars per kilometre travelled. By the time we got a thousand kilometres into the store we were well into millionaire territory. The suites were upholstered in phoenix feathers and came with matching pouffs carved from solid rubies. We decided it was time to look elsewhere. Just across the road was a bargain furniture shop. Perhaps they would have a bargain.

"’ello squire," said a greasy man, "wot can we do you for, eh?"

"We’re looking for a lounge suite."

"Oh, a lounge suite is it? We got lounge suites. Oh yes, do you a very nice line in lounge suites we can. ‘Ow about this one then?"

It was purple and it smirked. Robin sat in it and an expression of deep contentment spread all over her face. I sat down beside her. I felt as if I would go on sinking into the sofa forever. Even when the first kiss of bottom to cushion had taken up most of the softness there was still a small sensation of sinking by increments that just went on and on and on for ever. It was indescribably comfortable, blissfully snug. And purple.

"Do you a good price, squire. Just to get it off the floor. New stock coming in all the time; we got to clear the floor. Special floor price, just for you."

"It’s purple, " I said. "And I don’t like the expression on its face."

"Yes," said Robin whose favourite colour is purple. "Purple."

"I’m not sure purple will go with the lounge that we have."

"It might be a bit dark," she conceded.

"Comfortable though," I said.

Robin got a wistful look. "Purple…"

We went back to Harvey Norman Furniture. When we reached the three kilometre mark, where prices were just starting to climb from outrageous to impossible, I heard choirs of angels and golden trumpets, and a celestial spotlight shone on an elegant couch.

"I’m sure that wasn’t there last time we looked."

"No," agreed Robin. "It wasn’t."

The couch was upholstered in glowing golden fabric and there were polished wooden inlays on each side, a perfect match for our polished wooden floors and our polished wooden wall.

"That is just the perfect colour," said Robin.

"Yes dear," I said and meant it.

We sat in the couch. While it lacked the sybaritic comfort of the smirking purple bargain, it was not without its own hedonistic delights. We sank deep into the cushions, rested our arms on the arm rests so thoughtfully provided at just the proper angle and turned to look at each other.

"Let’s buy it!"

There remained only two problems. The floor display of this perfect suite had a three seater settee and two single chairs. We wanted a three seater and a two seater. We needed to confirm that this arrangement was configurable. The second problem was closely related to the first. We needed a Harvey Norman Furniture staff person to confirm this arrangement with, but there was none to be seen. Unlike the bargain furniture place where the greasy man attached himself immovably as soon as you entered the door, Harvey Norman Furniture was discreet, allowing you ample time to make your own mind up. Some might say they were too discreet. The store appeared denuded of staff.

"Perhaps I should just put the suite into my pocket and walk out," I mused. "A three seater and two single chairs isn’t too bad, when all’s said and done."

"It’ll never work," said Robin. "You’ll set off the magnetic alarm when you walk through the door. You are so impractical sometimes, Alan."

Suddenly I spotted a salesman hurrying past.

"Excuse me," I asked, "can you help?"

"Sorry," he said, looking harassed, "this isn’t my department. I’m just taking a shortcut to the electronic goods section. I think it’s about ten thousand kilometres that way." He gestured vaguely at the grey mist that roiled and heaved in the far distance and then plunged courageously into it. Faint screams emerged, and we never saw him again.

Then, just when I thought all hope was lost, the lovely Shari arrived.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"Yes please – can we have this one in a three and a two instead of a three and two ones?"

"But of course," she said, obligingly.

She took us over to her computer. "I forgot my glasses this morning," she said, squinting at the screen. "I hope I type it all in correctly." She began to bang the keys. As she typed, she murmured, "Amsterdam 3+2 silksuede, colour jonquil." She looked up and smiled radiantly. "It should be ready in four to six weeks."

"Do you deliver on Saturdays?" I asked.

"Oh yes – in fact I’ll let you into a secret." She leaned close and whispered, "Sometimes we even deliver on Sunday!" She sat back, delighted with herself.

"Perfect!" I said.

"Do you want it scotch guarded?" asked Shari. "It’s got a five year guarantee and it makes the fabric so much easier to look after and it’s only an extra $250."

"Yes," said Robin decisively. "We’ve got two cats who are prone to vomit. Scotch guard is good."

"There’s a $45 delivery fee."


"And GST is $282.78."


"Making a grand total of $3,545."

"That can’t be right." I’d been doing approximations in my head as she spoke. "That’s about $1000 too much."

Shari got flustered. "Oh I wish I hadn’t forgotten my glasses," she cried. "My arithmetic goes all to pot when I don’t wear my glasses because I can’t see my toes."

She tried again, muttering to herself as she typed things into the computer. Then she hauled out a calculator and typed furiously on that as well. She frowned at both machines. Then she took an abacus out of her desk drawer and blew the dust off it. Her fingers flew across the beads. "$2,545," she declared triumphantly and beamed at us. She held the abacus out to me so I could check her figures. I confirmed the calculation with a slide rule and a set of Napier’s Bones.

"It’s a deal!"

We had a new lounge suite.

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