Probably for the best

Wednesday March 2, 2005

“What are you going to do this morning?” Graham asked.

I looked up from my computer chair. “Soon’s I’ve finished this I think I shall take my camera over to Spilsby and do a walk around. Get some nice crusty bread for lunch, too.”

“Good idea. If you could find some russet apples that’d be nice.”

So I finalized my research, tidied up my notes file, closed the computer down and got wrapped up snug and warm to go out into what really didn’t look like an encouraging day. Didn’t seem all that cold as I got the car out and motored off but oh, boy, when I stepped out onto the pavement in Spilsby it was bitter. A nasty, penetrating wind, and the sting of snizzle in the air once more. No sunshine. Grey. Even if I had felt like taking off my gloves to manipulate the camera controls there was no hint of contrast in the light.

Sighing, I popped the camera in the glove compartment out of sight and toddled off in search of russet apples. For those who don’t know, these are a rough skinned, firm fleshed eating apple, good keepers and one of the few English apples available fresh from autumn right through into spring. The skin’s a litle tough for me so I have to take a fruit knife to them, but Graham sinks his teeth in, bites off a chunk, and chews appreciatively. Well, Spilsby had nothing to offer in the way of russets today. Or, indeed, much in the way of English apples at all. There was one box of sad looking Cox’s Orange Pippins but we have better ones in the fruit bowl. French apples they, had, and Belgian, and South African, and New Zealand. But russets, nary a one. There was a tray of those big red apples from California, too, but I don’t think they travel very well, even though they are dipped in wax to preserve them and make them look far fresher than they actually are. The knowledge that the wax is derived from pig fat doesn’t help, either.

No matter. We’ll just have to manage on good old reliable English Cox’s. So I picked up my bits from the little Hight Street supermarket, including some really tasty French-bake rolls, dropped the bag off in the car, and looked about me, taking stock. I was warm enough inside my multi-layered winter wear, but it was bitterly cold on face and ears even so. Hey ho. Nothing for it but to leave the camera safe in the car and go grab a small bag of chips from the fish-and-chip shop.

When I walked up to the door I paused for a moment. The glass and the windows on either side were completely and uniformly greyed out, as if they’d been painted for a refit. The sign said ‘OPEN’, however, so I judged the grey to be down to condensation, and pushed the door open. A great cloud of fishy, chippy steam rushed out to welcome me and I edged my way in to find the place packed with people waiting for hot, fresh food. I’ve never seen it so crowded. Like as not at least half of the waiting customers had done exactly the same as me, and decided that piping hot fish and chips would help keep the cold out.

I very nearly gave up but my inner man, the one who whispers ‘go on… one small bag of chips won’t hurt’, had already done his job and my whole intent was set on chips, with salt and vinegar, wrapped in paper, all lovely and greasy and just the thing for a cold, unpleasant day. You know the bloke. He’s cousin to the one who still, after all this time, whispers ‘go on… just one ciggie won’t hurt you’ in my ear at intervals. Sometimes I think that every one of us has a devil or two sitting on our shoulders, whispering bad thoughts in our ears.

Sitting in the car munching away at my sinful goodies, I noticed our friendly local parking warden hovering next to an enormous Mercedes Benz saloon parked behind me, slewed across two parking bays. She was consulting her wrist watch intently, pad in hand. Then, as some magic moment ticked over, she ripped a parking fine envelope from the pad, slapped it on the windscreen, and stood back in satisfaction, job well done. Secure behind my disabled driver’s badge, I cheered and clapped. She nodded and smiled in recognition.

Sadly, my chips ran out, along with my free time, before the driver of the monstrous automobile came up to discover he or she’d been had. I know it’s sinful, and I know I oughtn’t, but I do love watching irate motorists who’ve been caught breaking parking regulations, especially able-bodied drivers who park across disabled parking bays. It’s that nasty little schadenfreude devil sitting on my shoulder, whispering away, that does it. Hey ho. I’m only human, and I must admit there’s nothing quite so satisfying as hot chips and cold schadenfreude on a windy winter’s day.

“Show me the photos, then,” Graham said when I got home and unpacked my stuff.

“It was too cold for snapping today,” I said. “I’ll try another day when it’s brighter and a bit warmer.”

“Well it’s certainly cold out there. Probably for the best.”

“Oh, yes. Probably for the best.”



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