One advantage of internet shopping is that you don't have to face the dragon in lingerie saying: 'Well, what's her size, then? About the same as me?' On the other hand, you have to search your wife's wardrobe, and what if you get caught? I noted the various figures, tiptoed out and hit the keyboard. Male bliss, really: for half a day's hell in the high street, read half an hour's tapping and clicking with a glass of something nice nearby. That's the theory, anyway.
First to Racing Green, part of Arcadia Group, to buy some loafers. The problem here was the 'men's accessories' page didn't give any sub-lists, so I had to toil through more pages - each taking 20 seconds to load - before reaching shoes. The order form asked for my phone number without gaps, so I did the same for my credit card: far too clever, of course - it wiped the page and made me do it again. By the time it was done, I was 20 minutes in and getting ratty.
To calm down, I tried an advice site called Dear Annie, which was all about hot colours and underwired bras. Just then my wife came in, curled a lip and said: 'Yuk, I like shops, me. See it, touch it, that kind of thing.' They just don't get it, do they?
Time to lock the door and try Dorothy Perkins, also part of Arcadia Group.
Same problem with the site: no lingerie sub-lists and the range was small, but the satin rose-print chemise looked good and the order page appeared with most of my details already on it: good for the mood.
On I went to Boden to buy a sweater for a five-year-old. Forty minutes in and I was at my third cybershop. What a pro! What's more, it was a good site: children's tops had a sub-list from which I chose 'boxy sweatshirt', and in minutes I'd ordered one and psyched myself up for the big treat: boo.com.
The main page had just loaded when the box flashed up: 'this programme has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down'. Compuserve advised running Scandisk and Defragmenter, which wasted an hour without success. I emerged near midnight, frazzled and screen-blind. 'Happy, darling?' muttered my wife sleepily. No, I wasn't, and next day I was back on the case, using a friend's laptop: same story, until we tried connecting through Microsoft Internet Explorer instead of Compuserve They said boo had technical difficulties, and they were right.
But once we had managed to get in, it was like playing a computer game: my 15-year-old son shoved me aside and rattled round the place, zooming in and out, rotating, and trying things on the model (all rather slowly).
Boo herself, a ponytailed teen in a red vest, lurked at the side delivering inanities such as: 'I don't know anyone who refuses the chance to have their performance enhanced, and that's what these basketball shoes promise time and time again.'
My son ordered a rucksack, and the confirming message said: 'Let's just have a moment of silence while we glory in your fine taste.' You what?
The explanation, I realised later, is that the people who founded this outfit are Swedish. They don't have a very wide stock, either.
Question: can cash-rich, time-poor internet shoppers hang around waiting for the doorbell to ring? Well, the boo rucksack arrived within three days by DHL from Cologne, before eight in the morning. Too late for the real go-getters, but OK by me. The Boden order came by post, same time of day, on the sixth morning. The Dorothy Perkins chemise took four days and arrived mid-morning by Business Express: it was brighter than the picture - so Suzy Wong, in fact, that I'm thinking of sending it back and facing the dragon at John Lewis instead.
None of these deliveries was predictable, of course, or arranged in advance.
As for Racing Green, Joanne rang up after four days and said the shoes weren't in stock after all and no, she couldn't say when they'd have some.
I cancelled, and tried a crack about the cheap loafers not being the shoes: Joanne didn't get it - or perhaps she'd heard it too often.