The Best Fiver I ever spent

One of those days when one wants the summer to never end, for the days to be long and sunny and for the evenings to delude us into believing that time is infinite. So when evening falls early we are surprised. It was dark even before the shops had shut. It gets dark sooner in those latitudes. It had begun to rain too, and we had taken shelter in the shops. Our bags were getting heavier as we discovered treasures we desired but would never need.

Mother and son, he no more than a toddler barely out of his pushchair, were waiting for the father. We were to have dinner together but he had the car and would pick us up after work. Of course he had promised to finish early. But we were all surprised by how easily early looked late on an autumn evening.

Dark grey clouds tried to swirl, occasionally showing a deep blue sky lurking behind. The setting sun was barely there, outshone by the lights from the shops glinting on shiny wet streets. We had little money left, and were sitting on the benches in the middle of the pedestrianised high street, ready to run for cover if the gentle drizzle became rain. The little puddles gradually filled up reflecting the shapes of the clouds – the image shone, lit by the yellow lights glaring down from street lamps. They stood tall and determined, their bulbs doing their job with a tight grimace. You could feel how offended they would be if you acknowledged their resentment at doing what needs must.

The number of shoppers was dwindling. Even the bargains at the frozen foods shops had been put up early and earnest housewives plodded home with plastic packets through which you could see the large red stickers marking the discounts. Office goers who walked past the high street on the way home were but black and grey shiny ravens, gliding past in accustomed acceleration. They all wanted to be home before it poured. And we were still here. And would be here for a while.

We were getting cold and bored. I clutched the little one’s hand and said – let’s go. He looked at me in wonder. We had been chatting and he was not hungry yet. I had enough food in my bag. Let’s go into the shops, I said, expecting him to protest. He’d had enough of shops. But no, he came along. He must be cold and damp too. The shop was warm, well lit. It sold everything. Things I bought for other children as birthday presents as indulgences because that is why we have presents from others. Presents must be irresponsible. Presents must be things that sensible parents would never buy for you. Parents only buy things you need, especially those parents who have read all the books about good parenting. I looked around that shop. We’d been here earlier in the day, and I will admit I had noticed them before. Red and Green and Shiny. Wellies. Wellington Boots. In all sorts of baby sizes. One pair that fit him perfectly.A fiver. I bought them. We put them on.

One day I will tell you of the joy of the Great Puddle Hunt that cold and wet autumn evening. Yes, each one of them was thoroughly jumped into, and if you still find them there, they will tell you of the day the Wellies came for them.

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