Bin day. The low sun casts long, regular stripes of wheelie bin shadow across the road as I drive into the village. I park up and walk across the luxurious carpet of vivid green moss to Village Food & Wine: pet bedding and dried dog food systems on display underneath a tatty awning. Inside the shop, the counter is littered with the presentation gift boxes first inspected and then dismissed by the thin, middle-aged woman in the three-quarter length anorak with the muddy hem. “No, they’ve all got chocolate in, she’ll not eat chocolate”, she says. The proprietress, a thin middle-aged woman in a torn body warmer and jeans bends down behind the counter again, vocalising a strange involuntary exhalation as she stretches to the very back of the bottom shelf of the cabinet. “How about this?” she says, righting herself and then setting down a plastic gift box containing a small wine glass and an even smaller bottle of pinot grigio. “What is it?” says the customer, cleaning a stripe through the greasy dust that coats it with her thumb and wiping the residue on her bulging pocket. “It’s wine” explains the proprietress. “Is it dry?” “Yes, I think so.” “I don’t really do wine, what’s it like?” “Apparently it’s very nice, it’s what everyone has now.” “I’m not sure, I don’t really do wine.” “No, me neither, it makes me drunk.”
The sky clouds over and the rain starts. A squall flips up the horse shit in the road, flapping it about briefly before unsticking it from the asphalt and blowing it loose down towards the old vicarage where even the stone cat that I always mistake for a swan (the tail being the neck and head) has blown over.
Back in town at the corner shop, the proprietor is sitting on a stool behind the counter watching a small TV set balanced on top of a display of crisps. “Drug dealing” he mutters under his breath, then he looks up at me and says out loud, “Drug dealing. Is that all they’ve got to do in London?”
On my way home, I call at the supermarket for some milk and a packet of Mini Cheddars. Without looking up, the till woman scans my stuff and says “£1.60”. As I sort through my change she stands up, leans forward and shouts down the line of checkout staff, “DOES ANYBODY NEED A WEE?” I put a £2 coin in her hand. Her colleagues all look up and shake their heads. “RIGHT!” she says, “I’M GONNA BAIL OUT AFTER THIS ONE” and she nods briefly in my direction. “Thank you”, I say, but she’s gone.