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Tuesday 21st October 2003

Perhaps the shopping centre is a magnet for the insane. Maybe they are brought there by the pesticle statue and stay to make a nuisance of themselves in the fine shops around it. But it seems to have more than its fair share of complaining loonies.
I went into Smiths to buy my newspapers to read as I was enjoying my coffee and unstolen ginger biscuits. As I tried to locate the Guardian in the strange perspex rack that is favoured by newsagent chains these days I became aware of a plumpish woman in her forties shadowing me rather closely round the display.
She didn't really seem to be looking at the papers. And yet despite beign a bit close to me she wasn't that interested in me either. I thought it was slightly queer.
I finally located the Guardian and plumped for the Sun as my tabloid of today (though I have to say I don't know why I bother. I don't enjoy it at all any more and think I get it out of habit rahter than anything else. It's not even ironically amusing anymore and it doesn't even have Striker in it. There that will be the last time I buy it.)
When I got to the till, the tweedy woman, wrapped in shawls and fluffy jumpers had beaten me to it. But she wasn't buying a paper. She had a bottle of water in front of her, but like the thin loonie of yesterday she was very cross about something.
"I'm not paying that," she said, "Sixty pence is the most you can charge for water, but that is ridiculous."
The staff didn't care, of course and returned her money and she harumphed off.
As I left I noticed the bottled water cost £1.25. She's right. That is a pretty ridiculous price. It was however very clearly marked. Had she noticed this and decided to draw the attention of the uninterested shop staff as a sort of protest (not unlike my unsuccessful attempt to get people to take up pick n mix and not pay all those months ago) or had she just seen a way of creating a bit of a fuss around herself and make herself feel important and indignant, before returning to her humdrum life of circling piles of newspapers?
And who is the real loony, the slightly unusual woman who follows you at speed around a newspaper stand and then doesn't even buy a newspaper or the person who will willingly pay £1.25 for 500cl of something that falls from the sky for nothing?


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