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Being witness to an adult punch-up is never a very edifying experience. At least at school when there was a fight you knew that a stocky little geography teacher would appear on the scene before anyone got too badly hurt. He’d bang the culprits’ heads together and march them off to be caned to within an inch of their lives and then, even more alarmingly, he’d make them shake hands. These, days I suppose he has to show them how to fill in the correct forms in order for them to be able to sue the school with the minimum of fuss.

Anyway, seeing two grown-ups in a scuffle is always horrible because there’s no-one to stop the participants fighting to the death, except for a girl with bleached blonde hair yelling ‘Leave him, Dave, he’s not worth it!’. It always seems to be the same girl; she must have a good agent.

That’s why fisticuffs is seen as a last resort by 99% of sentient beings. This makes it all the more remarkable that, lately, people are getting biffed on the chin at the summer sales. My word, I can only imagine how much you would have to really, really love a beige sofa or some flowery curtains to come to blows over them. Whenever I’ve read of these scrapes in the paper, I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of the people involved. Let’s see, then…. so, your wife has told you that you need a new fridge even though the one you’ve got is only ten years old and still doing a grand job. She says she’s seen one in Acme Electronics and the assistant says that it’ll be half price from Saturday but there are only two in stock so you’d better get there early. So, you wake up at 5 am on your day off, make a flask of coffee and whizz down to the shop. On arrival, you find 40 people with sleeping bags and vacant expressions lined up outside. The doors open and everyone legs it into the shop, trampling the old and the infirm underfoot. You manage to make it to the fridge section only to find one has already been sold to an Olympic sprinter in a pac-a-mac, which leaves the one you and some other hapless husband are hugging simultaneously. He says ‘I saw it first’, you say ‘Did not’ and he says ‘Did too’. This rapier-like verbal sparring continues for a few minutes until he says ‘Well, my dad can fight your dad’ which causes the red mist to descend. You let go of the fridge and cuff him around the chops. Then you go to prison and get cuffed around the chops while he gets the fridge, and your wife leaves you for man who can offer a better class of domestic appliance.

At which point in this series of events did it all seem like a good idea? When your beloved first said she wanted a new fridge? When you dug out the thermos flask from the loft? When you were running through a shop towards some kitchen things, elbows akimbo and cheeks a rare shade of vermilion? Or, maybe it was when you found yourself in a fond embrace with an inanimate object?

No, I’m afraid it was a daft idea all along; the sales are specifically designed to make you lose your dignity. The trick is to ignore them entirely – stay at home or go to the pub. Well, unless you teach geography, of course, in which case your assistance may be required shortly at a nearby department store.

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