I'm a blood-and-guts bargain hunter, but this time around I was simply a spent force
THE alarm went off and despite feeling bleary-eyed from overeating and going to sleep late on Christmas Day, I dragged myself out of bed. In 20 years I have never missed the sales.
It's my 'thing'. I get a voucher from my husband for Christmas and every year, without fail, I am up with the birds on St Stephen's Day to get a bargain.
Still half asleep, I got dressed in my special 'sales shopping dress' - an old black dress that has no buttons or zips, you can throw it on and off in the changing room - and slip-on shoes. No time-consuming buckles or zips there either.
I have sales shopping down to a fine art. I put my coat on, but only for the car. Once you're inside the shops there is no need for a coat. It'll just slow you down and every second counts.
As I drove through the deserted streets of Dublin - I wondered if it was all a bit mad. I was tired and I certainly didn't need to buy any more 'stuff'.
But as I got closer to town I saw kindred spirits hurrying along the streets, queuing outside shops, buzzing with the excitement of a potential bargain. These were my people, my tribe.
I arrived in the car park at 8.50am and got one of the last remaining spaces.
I took off my coat and headed for the lift.
When it opened I barely had room to squeeze out and get a space in the long queue outside the shop.
"Oi! The queue starts here," a man roared at me.
It was 8.58am, the shop doors were about to open. I hadn't jumped the queue, the lift had just delivered me into the middle of it.
I hesitated and decided that trying to get to the back of the queue was going to cause much more hassle than staying put. I stared down at my phone, hoping the man wouldn't grab me and physically remove me, as he sounded very wound-up.
As the security guard made his way towards the glass doors, people actually started squealing with excitement.
I could feel my own heart rate rise a few beats.
The guard opened the doors and threw himself back against the wall for protection as the crowd surged forward.
Thankfully, no one was knocked over in the rush, but you need to be in the full of your health when sales shopping. It is not for the faint-hearted.
I was carried along in the melee for the first 50 metres until the crowd began to disperse. The people who were sprinting fastest were heading towards the shoes and handbags.
I decided to look at the clothes section first. I couldn't see anything I really wanted but everyone around me was grabbing piles of clothes and charging towards the changing rooms, so I grabbed a pile too.
I went to yank a hanger off a rack when a woman's hand clamped down on mine.
"I'm about to try that on, if you don't mind," she snapped. "Besides, don't you think you have enough to try on?"
I apologised and scurried away, my red face hidden behind the heap of clothes in my arms.
I was surrounded by women stumbling blindly towards changing rooms, weighed down under stacks of clothes.
In the changing room I sat down for a minute and surveyed the large selection of merchandise I had brought in with me.
What was I doing?
I didn't need any of these items.
I didn't particularly like any of them either, to be honest.
Besides, I actually didn't have the energy to try them all on.
What was happening? I always have energy on sales day. It's like an injection of adrenaline to me. But this year I felt overwhelmed and just not up for the madness of it all.
Was I changing? Or was I just getting too old for this lark?
It's a young person's game, all that jostling, pushing shoving, grabbing, queuing . . .
I half-heartedly tried on two items. Then I did something I've never done before - I picked up my bag and left.
For the first time in 20 years I walked out of the shop empty-handed. My voucher sat in my wallet unused.
I'm not sure if this means sales shopping is totally over for me, but I have a strong feeling that next year I'm going to enjoy a lie-in on St Stephen's Day.
I think I'll leave the first day of the sales to the real hunters.
I might pop in a day or two later when things have calmed down and blood pressures are lower. At least I'll think about it.
For now though, I'm hanging up my sales shopping dress and shoes.