Monday December 20, 2004
We woke to a fearsomely frosty morning, the roads slick with ice, so I postponed my scheduled trip to Boston until lunch time, almost. The trip went well, and I turned into the car park in good order, grabbed the bag of letters and packets, and walked over to the post office. That done, I started in on the search for stocking fillers. The first of these, a small wad of book tokens, was easy to find. Then, up came a chill wind, so I decided I’d take a break for coffee. Sitting in the window at Costa Coffee I looked out on two women sitting outside, grimly determined to smoke cigarettes with their coffee. The wind blew, chilling their coffee and blanching their faces.
I have observed, since the great social migration away from smoking, that the remaining smokers of any age at all tend to look sallow and slack of complexion when compared to the bulk of folks who’ve long since given up. In a sad way, it’s an encouragement to all of us ex-smokers to keep up the good fight. Similarly, the epidemic of obesity helps us maintain our determination not to over-eat.
It’s a strangely bi-polar way for a society to change and I find myself uncomfortable with it. I’m glad I chose to stop smoking, and grateful I’ve successfully avoided too much weight gain. I know that I’m better for both life-style changes. I’m not too happy, however, that my resolve is strengthened by observing in such a negative fashion those who choose not to exercise it.
Anyway, off I plodded on the great circle around Boston, seeking interesting and stimulating small gifts. There were none to be had. I carried on walking, the cold wind biting into my legs. Still nothing of interest. I wandered in and out of shop after shop, without inspiration or success. I came, reluctantly, to accept that Boston isn’t the kind of place to seek inspiration or success of the retail kind.
Simultaneously, the cold sparked off my gout and a wetness begain to populate the wind. The wetness turned to rain, then to sleet, and then to a nasty, slushy snow, blowing into my face no matter which direction I took.
And that was it for my solo Christmas shopping. I plodded back to the car, head down, miserable, and a little fearful as the pavements grew slick and hostile under my feet. I made the distance without incident, and sank into my driving seat with much gratitude and several heart-felt sighs.
Then, over to Tesco for grocery provisions, concentrating on Christmas goodies. I made a fair start, but most of my energies had been expended fruitlessly in the town centre.
So, glumly, I called it a day, and set off back home over the country roads through a fitful blizzard and into growing gloom. Not a friendly day. I passed isolated houses, glimpsing them through the showers, briefly, wishing I hadn’t so far to go, that my journey was done so that I could stop, walk into a warm kitchen and be at home.
Ye gods and little fishes, but I’d had a sorry day up to that point.
“Not to worry,” said Graham, handing me a mug of hot steaming coffee. “We’ll finish it off together on Wednesday and Thursday.”
And, do you know what? When I turned on the radio it was to be told that, contrary to yesterday’s gloomy forecast, the weather is to become mild again for the days running up to Christmas. My well-intentioned, valourous venture was not only unsuccessful, it was unnecessary. I have deleted my expletives.
A house, briefly