St Anthony found soap for me? You must think that I’ve lost it. You might think that I’m a Sense and Sensibility short of a whole set of Jane Austen novels. First St Anthony finds me tea during the holiday season and now soap? But bear with me, while I explain this astounding chain of events.
Looking for Christmas presents and shopping for treats for my godchild - is my excuse and pretext for going into TK Maxx on Kensington High Street. And TK Maxx is always full of manic shoppers who bruise each other as five of them frantically root in bargain bins, rifle through shelves and scour rail after rail of designer polyester. Then there’s the toiletry department where you can buy Armani perfume, and smell the same as though you had paid a fortune in Knightsbridge Armani central. The heavy-lidded sales assisstants stagger under the piles of clothes that they dump onto plastic shelves. They may get good peace-keeping training when they beg the customers not to gouge each other’s eyes out when several pairs of manicured claws grip a red hand bag at once. I’m sure you could get a job as a peace-keeper in any war zone on earth by merely saying; I managed to keep the ladies who were fighting over the purple shoes apart… There is a shop-in-Manhattan atmosphere in TK Maxx: everyone is searching every corner, and crawling on their hands and knees trying to find the right gear so they may look like the rich, sophisticated, label-designer dressed chic lady or gent for a fraction of the cost.
So during December, the height of shopping-fever, I found myself being jostled along by the elbows of my fellow shoppers in TK Maxx. Of all the cheap, glitzy evening dresses and of all the killer, spiky black heels – the one thing that really caught my attention was a box of rose soaps. I lifted the box to my face and inhaled the delicate but overpowering smell; like being in a rose garden in the middle of spring. I turned away from the tray of soaps; I’ve got to buy other presents and it doesn’t feel ‘right’ to buy a present pour moi when I have a ‘proper’ list of needed items. I turned back and smelled the box of soaps once more; there was something about the crazy flowery, butterfly-obsessed packaging that I loved too.
Another day, I carried the box of soaps to the till, but lost my nerve and returned them to their shelf. It’s ridiculous to buy fancy soaps as a selfish treat; this is 2011, not the Victorian era when soaps were all the rage.
But the smell of roses lingered, and I asked St Anthony; I’m not going to buy them for myself, but is there any way that I could get the rose-soaps?
The advertisers love telling us to buy gifts for ourselves, but it still feels lonely to buy oneself gifts at Christmas. And I made myself forget the soaps and never thought to mention this love-for-a-box-of-rose-soaps to anyone, not least the girls that I live with or my dearest friends.
Then a friend of mine, M L, gave me a gift-bag laden with wrapped gifts and goodies to be opened over Christmas. On St Stephen’s day I started merrily opening the packages; and to my utter amazement found the Exact same soaps that I had longed for.
I had to close my eyes and open them again to look at the box of soaps; were they really the soaps that I asked St Anthony for? Yes, they were. A hidden feature is that when you take out the soaps; you have a desk caddy, a gorgeously smelling tray that holds post-its and staples. Now, there must be hundreds of thousands of different soaps in London; why of all the soaps in all of London, England did my friend pick out this very set?
Some New Atheist friends of mine might say that it is a very intriguing coincidence and that because my friend knows me so well that she would have picked out rose soap for girly, over-feminine me. But look at the packaging; it doesn’t look like rose soap and I never told my friend that I like rose soaps or that I’d prayed to St Anthony for this one.
I used to think that it was perhaps coincidental that I’d prayed to St Anthony for HP printer full-of-ink: St Anthony, there must be someone out there who has a HP printer that they don’t need. Then I became friends with E R when she moved into my neighbourhood, and when she was moving away, she asked me ‘I’ve a HP printer with good ink supplies, want it?’
As for my lapsed Catholic friends who think this is just another one of my eccentric experiences, why not give St Anthony a try? ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’ is a Bible truism, and it aptly applies to St Anthony as well, he won’t mind if you ‘taste’ him and invite him too find tea, soap, a printer or whatever your necessity. You might be pleasantly surprised by St Anthony’s efficiency. And here’s a promise; I won’t smile triumphantly if you tell me that I was right about St Anthony…