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A Devoted Shopper
(Extract from the book by Sue Townsend "The Queen and I". Abridged)
Sayako came out of the changing room in Sloane Street1 wearing this season's suit, as featured on the cover of English Vogue.2 Last season's suit lay on the changing room floor in an untidy heap. She surveyed herself in the full-length mirror. The manageress, svelte in black, stood behind her.
'That colour's very good on you,' she said, smiling professionally.
Sayako said, 'I take it and also I take it in strawberry and navy and primrose.'3
The manageress inwardly rejoiced. She would now reach this week's target.4 Her job would be safe for at least another month. God bless the Japanese!
Sayako walked over on stockinged feet5 to a display of suede loafers.
'And these shoes to match all suits in size four,' she said. Her role model was the fibreglass mannequin6 which lolled convincingly against the shop counter, wearing the same cream suit that Sayako was wearing, the loafers that Sayako had just ordered and a bag that Sayako was about to order in navy, strawberry, cream and primrose. The mannequin's blonde nylon wig shone under the spotlights. Her blue eyes were half closed as though she were encaptured by her own beauty.
She is so beautiful, thought Sayako. She took the wig from the mannequin's head and placed it on her own. It fitted perfectly.
'And I take this,' she said.
She then handed over a platinum card which bore the name of her father, the Emperor of Japan.
As the manageress tapped in the magic numbers from the card,7 Sayako tried on a soft green-coloured suede coat which was also being worn by a red-haired mannequin. The suede coat cost one penny less than a thousand pounds.
'What other colours do you have this in?' asked Sayako of the assistants, who were packing her suits, loafers, bags and wig.
'Just one other colour,' said an assistant (who thought, Jesus, we'll have a drink after work tonight).
She hurried to the back of the shop and quickly returned with a toffee-brown version of the sumptuous coat.8
'Yes,' said Sayako. 'I take both and, of course, boots to match, size four.' She pointed to the boots worn by the red-haired mannequin.
The pile on the counter grew. Her bodyguard standing inside the shop door shifted impatiently.
When the Princess and her purchases had been driven away, the manageress and her assistants screamed and yelled and hugged each other for joy.
Sayako sat in the back of the limousine and looked at London and its people. How funny English people are, she thought, with their wobbly faces and big noses and their skin! She laughed behind her hand. So white and pink and red. What bodies they had! So tall. It wasn't necessary to have so much height, was it. Her father was a small man and he was an Emperor.
As the car set off on its journey towards Windsor, where she was staying at the newly opened Royal Castle Hotel, Sayako's eyes closed. Shopping was so tiring. She had started at 10.30 in Harrod's lingerie department9 and now it was 6.15 and she had only taken an hour off for lunch. And when she got home she had that puzzling book to read, Three Men in a Boat. She had promised her father she would read at least five pages a day. It would improve her English, he said, and help her to understand the English psyche.
She had already ploughed through The Wind in the Willows,10 Alice in Wonderland and most of Jemima Puddleduck11 but she had found these books very difficult, full of talking animals dressed in the clothes of human beings.
At Hyde Park Comer the car stopped suddenly, the driver swore and Sayako opened her eyes. The bodyguard turned around to face her.
'A demonstration,' he said. 'Nothing to fear.'
She looked out of the window and saw a long line of middle-aged people crossing the road in front of the car. Many of them were wearing beige anoraks that Sayako, a devoted shopper, identified as coming from Marks and Spencer.12 A few were carrying signs on sticks.
Nobody appeared to take any notice of them, apart from a few impatient motorists.
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