“What do you think of this?” I ask Leo. Our local charity shop doesn’t have any mirrors at the moment, and besides, I remain unconvinced by the biker jacket I am trying on. My eye has also snagged on a seam of three sequinned mini-skirts, in a variety of metal hues, and my hand reaches out to them while I await my son’s verdict on the soft grey (fake) leather jacket I am wearing.
Ever since L hissed at me, as we walked down the high street, “Everyone’s staring at us because you’re wearing flip-flops. Never leave the house wearing flip-flops again.” (& what a delightful teenager *he’s* going to be), I’ve thought of him as a strict arbiter of style, a mini a Beau Brummell. It’s not that I accept his verdicts – I’m certainly still wearing flip-flops (…although. I once had to turn down an invitation to drinks on the House of Commons terrace because I’d worn flip-flops to work & felt conscious of my dirty feet. So he could have a point. But that doesn’t tend to be an issue on my village high street). Sometimes, when I can’t decide and need a brutal decision to save me time and money, I ask his opinion.
“Aren’t we supposed to be in here for a tent?” He asks, in a long suffering tone which implies he is questioning my focus.
“Oh yes….I haven’t seen one.” I’ve forgotten what I came in here for.
“Did you say tent?” The man behind the counter comes alive. “There’s one just here.”
I look at the tightly packed polyester bag he has lifted onto the counter. It smells of camping, and has a tag on it which says it went to the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2003, so its credentials seem positive. It is £2.50.
“I’ll take it,” I say. “Now Leo, this jacket?” I am still looking at the skirts too, and trying to placate Flora, who is trying to arch her way out of the Maclaren.
“No,” says Leo.
Two of the skirts are by far too mini, in every direction, but one seems good, and as I’m about to pay L suddenly relents. “Oh, ok, yes to the jacket.”
That’s the nice thing about charity shopping – you can indulge an element of mid-life crisis at a relatively small cost.
The tent is the best purchase though. I’ve practiced pitching it in my garden, and it’s complete and in decent condition. It’s packed away again, ready for tomorrow, when my friend Sarah and I are going to the Forgotten Fields Festival, to camp for three nights.
I’ve never camped before (unless you count a Duke of Edinburgh expedition on Pendle Hill when I was 14). I’ve never been to a festival before and I’ve never left my children for a purely selfish reason – I’ve never left Flora at all. By day I’m almost deliriously excited, most of all, if I’m honest, by the strange concept that for three days I will only be responsible for myself. This notion is so alien I wake in the night in a sort of terror and dread – I can’t process it at all.
It’s going to be good, though, and another new experience on the roller coaster I intended and expected 2015 to be. The sequinned mini-skirt is going along for the ride too, because there’s always room for frivolity.