in the shops

‘Yes, thank you, I think I will,’ says the young man who hands me the badminton set, but carries Christmas in the way that people do after a year which could only have been a little bit worse.

Unlike the woman who hands me two balls of wool and pair of needles (size 5) – in a bag which breaks before it is in my hand – who says ‘well, have a happy christmas if you can‘ in such a practised way that neither the woman next to me – nor I – know what to say or where to look, but wish each other Merry Christmas on the way out, and again when our eyes meet over the bookshop shelves.

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