Wednesday August 11, 2004
“Come on,” Graham said, snapping off his computer. “We have to go to Lincoln.”
“Oh. Do we have to?”
“That’s for me to know, and you to find out.”
I have a pretty fair idea why because, after we’d enjoyed our ritual visit to Starbucks, I was plonked on a bench and told to stay put while mystery shopping was carried out. I don’t enquire too closely or at all on these things. There are far too few suprises in life for my taste, and I refuse to spoil them.
Normally, in this situation, I enjoy just sitting, watching the world go by. Today, it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t hot, and it wasn’t cold. It wasn’t wet, and it wasn’t dry. It wasn’t sunny, and it wasn’t dull. Best way to describe it is as an itchy and scratchy kind of thing.
When, after quite a short time, my spine urged me into an upright position, I wandered into the Riverside shopping mall, made my way up to the food court and picked up a small bottle of mineral water. I was ripped off. Paying one pound forty-nine pence for a semi-chilled plastic bottle of mediocre water that sells in the shops for forty pence is as close to rip off as I want to get. I needed a drink, however, and had no option but to pay up or shut up. With what spirit of rebellion I had left in me, I chose to pay, but instead of handing over a note I pulled out my coin purse and counted the 1.49 out in the smallest change I could manage.
“You don’t mind me lightening my load, do you?” I smiled at the glum young thing behind the counter. She made no reply, being far too busy frowning as she undertook what seemed to be an unfamiliar task of counting up to 1.49 in small change. When, finally, she managed to total it up she shoved the gum into one corner of her mouth and asked the ritual: “Anything else with that?”
I declined politely, and asked for a glass.
“We don’t do glasses.”
Hey ho. My itchy and scratchy feeling went up a notch or two in intensity.
The chairs in the food court are not designed for pleasant, leisurely sitting. My spine managed to tolerate the hard wooden surface with its sharp, unfriendly edges for just long enough to down the water out of the bottle. I know it’s old fashioned of me, but I can’t get used to drinking water out of a bottle when sitting in an over-priced eating place. It’s almost as common and vulgar as chewing gum while you’re serving customers. Anyway, off I wandered, down and outside to the river bank, all concrete, brick, cast iron railings and willow trees. It should have been romantic there, sitting on a comfortable bench under the branches of a very attractive weeping willow and, normally, that’s how I take it. Not today, though. It was itchy and scratchy today.
So I was delighted when my phone rang and Graham told me he’d finished, and suggested we meet up in Starbucks before going home.
“How did you get on?” he asked as I sipped my double espresso.
“Oh, you know. Itchy and scratchy.”
“Yeah. It’s that sort of day, isn’t it. Let’s go home.”
“Oh, yes, please,” I replied.