Cold hard rain belts down out of a sullen sky. It dirties the snow, which has been thawing and freezing and now lies in horrid dirty clumps.
I have to go and do incredibly annoying errands. I am so annoyed about the errands (I have WORK to do) that I shout at my mother over the breakfast table. She takes it amazingly well.
In order to sugar the pill, I bribe myself with shopping. It is my birthday on Wednesday, so I think that in order to mitigate the gruesomeness of the errands, I’ll buy myself a little present. Just a small one. (I’m not going to tell you what it is. It is a surprise.)
There was an excellent piece on the Today programme this morning about the shifting of the British class system. A clever writer has come up with a new theory that it is no longer about where your money comes from – land vs trade, most obviously, in the old days – but where your money goes. So even when you are buying a cup of coffee you are making a class statement.
This is the kind of thing that interests me very much. I thought of it when I was in the country shop, and I saw a smart and useful coat. My own coat is practically dead, after being out in all weathers all winter doing the horses, and it is in the back of my mind that a replacement may have to come. The problem with the smart and useful coat is that it was a Barbour.
Barbour have booted themselves into the 21st century now. It’s not all shapeless green wax jackets, smelling oily and faintly rancid. But still, the image of Barbour as the province of the hoorah is so ingrained in my consciousness that even though this particular coat had both utility and beauty, enough to make William Morris proud, I recoiled in horror. I could not be that person. Visions of honking great yahoos rushed into my mind.
The class consumption fellow must have a good point, I thought. I went straight to the tiny local bookshop, where an elegant and intelligent-looking woman sat at her neat desk.
‘This is a maddening question,’ I said. ‘But there was a man on Today this morning, who wrote a book about class and coffee. I can’t remember his name. I don’t suppose you...’
But she was already out of her chair. She picked up a lovely hardback and smiled.
‘I don’t believe it,’ I said. ‘That is truly the wonder of the independent bookshop.’
I was so happy and impressed that I bought three other books, all at full price. I’m a bit thrifty about books now; I mostly support my local library. When I do buy, I often go and find huge discounts on Amazon. But this small exchange reminded me why the independents, the locals, are worth supporting. Sometimes, if you can afford it, it’s worth paying a little bit over the odds. It’s a quality of life thing.
We spoke for a while about small shops, and the death of the high street, and the rapacious online retailers. We smiled at each other in perfect harmony and parted on the best of terms. I shall be back.
Then I had to go to the bank and get out terrifying amounts of cash to pay for the palatial horse shelter. The tiny local branch was empty, so I had a happy chat with the two operatives. The charming gentleman who counted out the bundles of fifties, for all the world as if I were a gangster or a professional gambler, finally looked up and said: ‘Are you buying something nice?’
‘It’s a shelter,’ I said. ‘For my horse. I have to pay the joiner.’
His colleague laughed and looked assessingly at me. ‘I thought it was something horsey,’ she said.
I looked down at my muddy coat and my scuffed old gumboots. Did I have hay in my hair, or binder twine coming out of my pockets, or dung on my jeans? I could see no tell-tale signs. I’ve obviously just got the crazed horsewoman look now. Even the bank teller can see it. It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee I buy, that is my class. It’s the lunatic equine class.
Ah, well. It could be an awful lot worse.
Too gruesome for the camera today. Here is a quick selection from prettier days:
The three lovely girls:
Autumn the Filly:
Myfanwy the Pony:
Red the Mare, with her goofy face on:
And my one lovely boy, Stanley the Dog:
Oh, and the author of the book turns out to be called Harry Wallop. Don’t know how I could have forgotten that name. There is a good review here: