The cool air pinches my cheeks. I have been accustomed to warmer air for a few hours now, first in the EuroTunnel train and then in the car. I flex my muscles and stretch my legs to get the worst effects of the drive out of my system and look for the parking meter.
I do, momentarily, wonder if the UK police would be able to hound me back to Brussels if I do not pay the parking ticket. Rather than risk being clamped, I disregard the thought and fumble for a few coins as I approach it.
There are two ladies busy arguing over how long they will take shopping and how much money they should feed the black, silent beast in front of them. I wait patiently as they debate the advantages of having lunch in Canterbury or going to some other place that has good-looking waiters and didn’t someone fancy their friend the other day but she was ignoring him because she likes Matthew from accounts even though everyone knows he’s gay and did you realise he was wearing a blue thong yesterday so maybe we should put five pounds in the machine as we’ll be awhile.
I try not to eavesdrop, as you can see.
I clear my throat and, suddenly aware that they may have had an audience, they shuffle away in a cloud of giggles clutching their ticket like a magic talisman designed to protect against traffic wardens and errant thongs.
I glance at the rates and start feeding coins in, mentally trying to work out if I have enough change on me or if I will have to come back at some point. The machine, dastardly and cruel, announces that it does not give any change:
It will gladly accept overpayment though, which is so considerate, isn’t it?
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