Sometimes I like to set myself a challenge. Yesterday was one of those days.
There were four things I needed to do in town
- (i) to return my library book before I incurred a fine; (ii) to post my weekly letter to Hazel Bagel; (iii) to pay into the bank three bags of coins from a charity collection; and (iv) to collect Mr B’s new joggers from M & S (I’m sure you
can buy equally good value joggers in other stores.) I didn’t, however, have endless time to complete my shopping trip - if at all possible I needed to be there and back in an hour. Was this even possible? I needed to know...
These days, when my time away from Mr B has, of necessity, to be cut short, shopping just isn’t the same. There isn’t time for a skinny latte and a toasted tea cake in my eating establishment
choice, nor for the luxury of window shopping (so much more satisfactory than actually spending out lots of money on something I may only ever wear twice.) So setting myself a Timely Challenge adds a whole new layer of excitement to an ordinary shopping trip.
There are a number of variables which can upset the Timely Applecart. Foremost among these is the Pulse bus which, on a good day, will convey me to town in around quarter
of an hour but on a bad day might take as long as 25 minutes. Add a return journey and you will see how travel can eat into my allocated hour. I see my shopping trip as the equivalent of a Triathlon, comprised of trip out, shop and trip back and, as either
one of the Brownlee brothers would tell you, just one slip up in any one of the three elements and your chances of victory may be dashed.
Still I can give myself
the best chance on the outward run by leaving home exactly five minutes before the bus is due to pull up at my nearest bus stop. I could cut it even finer - but if I miss the bus then that’s ten wasted minutes as I have to wait for the next one. Don’t
even get me started on those times when you wait twenty minutes and two buses turn up at the same time, then race each other all the way into town. Which is all very exciting for the bus drivers (who, let’s face it, probably need a bit of excitement
in their humdrum lives) but is incredibly exasperating for anyone who has been waiting for just one bus to arrive on time.
Yesterday I timed it perfectly - left
the house at 11.34, caught the bus at 11.37, arrived at the library at 11.52. The first leg of my personal triathlon completed. Into the library at a trot; usually I’d be pleased to stop and chat to any one (or several) of the staff who know me as that
crazy woman on the Summer Reading Challenge desk who keeps coming back for more year after year. Yesterday I considered it a result that I made it to the self service kiosk and returned my book in precisely four minutes. I was out of the sliding doors and
powering along the street a whole minute before midday and Hazel’s letter was in the post two minutes later.
Pride comes before a fall. There’s a long
queue in Santander (other banks probably have queues just as long...) and the cashier appears to be having a long conversation about nothing Bank Related with the two customers at her window. The woman in front of me tells me she is desperate for a wee but
doesn’t think she can use the facilities in the coffee shop without buying something - and she has no money except that which is deposited in the bank. She could, I think, use the Hole in the Wall but apparently her new card hasn’t arrived. She
thinks this may be because she changed her mind about Chip and Pin (which sounds like a new kiddies programme on CBeebies). It never ceases to amaze me how much personal detail people are happy to share - but I couldn’t argue, could I, with the urgency
of her case.
It seems ages before I am able to leave the bank. It doesn’t help that I am twopence short of a pound in one bag of coins and two pounds short
of a fiver in another. “Can I help you with anything else today?” the cashier asks me, sweetly, but as she isn’t in charge of a Time Machine (at least not as far as I could see) I decline her kind offer.
I hare along the street to Marks & Spencer and climb the steps of the escalator instead of allowing it to transport me to the first floor without effort. As I trot to the Customer Services desk,
I am trying to find the email on my mobile phone telling me that my order will ready for collection any time from midday onwards. It is now 12.10 and I am gearing myself for a battle should I be told that my parcel is not awaiting collection. Oh, me of little
faith! The smiling shop assistant takes my name and email address and in no time at all I have a large black bag in my arms and am racing back downstairs and out into the street on my way to the bus stop.
Fortune is smiling upon me - the electronic display tells me that my bus is “due.” Duly it arrives. Eighteen minutes later, I let myself into the kitchen door at home and call out that I am back. My entire trip
has taken me exactly sixty-two minutes!
Mr B is fast asleep. He didn’t even realise I’d been and gone and come back again...