Celine's eyes looked past the woman walking purposefully towards her, searching the airport crowd for a familiar face, but the unfamiliar one kept on going, fixing her with a beady stare and knowing grin until she locked eyes and recognised me. Very satisfactory moment filled with exclamations and standing back looking me up and down, saying "I can't believe it" and "what's your secret" etc etc. She was most gratifyingly impressed with my transformation. Funnily enough, I have been slightly nervous of how my friends here would react because change is always a little difficult to accept. When you get to know someone, their characteristics and character become enmeshed, so when one aspect changes almost beyond recognition, it might fundamentally shift the sands of the relationship. However, Celine is honest and direct, so it would be clear what her reaction would be from the outset and it was wholly positive. In fact, she was so positive, that we have spent the entire day redesigning my wardrobe and modelling the contents already. Bliss. I have been waiting for months to shop in Bangalore for beautiful Indian tops THAT FIT. I have held off buying too many new things in the UK, despite the fact that I have had to have all new clothes, not once, but twice, especially in anticipation of this moment. Even my interim wardrobe is now too big. So when we passed the road on which my favourite mall is, I asked whether we could stop off there. Big mistake. Being jet-lagged and excited about being able to fit into clothes for the first time ever in your favourite shop in the world is a staggeringly bad combination for the wallet. I fully expected a phone call from visa at some point asking "Are you SURE about this?" Of course, although these are not dirt cheap clothes because it is a proper shop, they are still beautifully made for significantly less than in the UK and also in ranges of colours, trims, decoration and styles that are not readily available in Barrow-in-Furness.
The adrenalin surge of excitement filled my almost empty jet-lagged body and shunted it rapidly into high gear. I became ultra-decisive but minimally restrained. Everything was so tempting. Turquioses, golds, reds, oranges, pinks, greens, blues, sequins, embroidery, beads. They were delicious. For some time, simply stroking the clothes was enough, and then the basket started to fill up. One of the many, many serving ladies employed by shops to look busy and help the customers part with their hard earned cash, kept following me, then sidling up to me as I rattled through the racks, stroking or picking items up apparently without discrimination.
She made the mistake of saying softly, "Too small madam, you need big size." Well. Deceptively calmly, I asked what size she thought I needed. Of course, the Indian frame is much smaller than the European one and she was the height of my shoulder, so I expect I looked enormous to her, but, hey, she should have been around a year ago.
"You need XL madam"
Quieter still, I asked "What size is XL?"
"44 centimetres, I hope?"
"Yes madam." Puzzled look. "Um, no Madam, 44 inches"
Outraged, the volume escalated without intent. "THESE" I yelped, pointing to my boobs, "Are NOT 44 inches" To her teeny weeny, slight, petite, delicate eyes, which were basically on the level with them, they probably looked 54 inches, but I was completely indignant. These babies have been measured on a regular basis over the last year and I know EXACTLY how big they were and they were not 44 inches.
We had a stand-off.
The only way of resolving the issue was by scientific means. I made her get her tape measure out and measure them then and there on the shop floor. I was right. They weren't. Not even close. I celebrated my triumph by buying her beautiful clothes. It so much FUN when you can fit into things! Of course, once we left the shop, adrenalin surge over, clutching our many, many purchases, my poor jet-lagged body, depleted of any remaining energy, was a mere husk. Once home, I collapsed on the bed, hugging my new finery and fell into a deep and lengthy sleep.