Of all my fruitless searches.
There was a moment, at about 6 p.m., when I thought that I'd missed the grocery store's closing time and would actually be forced to eat in a restaurant because I had no food in the house. It's been a long time since I've felt that little sinking in the pit of my stomach--that feeling of having mismanaged things badly enough to leave myself with nothing to eat. Fortunately, even though the other shops were closing up, Sainsbury's was still open--and bustling.
Even more fortunately, they were selling umbrellas.
After having spent the morning and afternoon reading my very strange Thomas Hardy novel, I headed out in the late afternoon to acquire some more basics. A power strip. Ink (finally). Milk. A Handbook of British Birds (the better to identify the moorhens that run through The Backs, the green spaces and gardens that stretch along the west side of the Cam, across from the colleges on the river's east side). And an umbrella. Today, I even began my errands by searching for an umbrella, since I've managed to come home without one for two days in a row. Store after store, I searched high and low, finding only one place that carried them--and finding that place's selection damnably weak and overpriced. Finally, as I was about to give up and just buy some groceries, I rediscovered the umbrella display at the door of the grocery store.
Then things got weird. I know that I selected an umbrella. It cost £5. It was in my shopping basket. And yet somehow, when I got halfway home and realized that I hadn't put it in my grocery bag with my other items, I also realized that I hadn't seen it on the conveyor belt. Either it disappeared from my shopping basket--which would be downright bizarre--or I left it there when I put my things on the belt. Or, inexplicably, I never put it in there to begin with.
It was that kind of day here: there was some oversleeping and some disorientation (at one point, I woke up facing the wall and started to panic because I couldn't think of anywhere I should be waking up to utter blankness); there was a lot of reading; there was a lovely walk to town and a stroll through the local Arts and Crafts Market; and then there was a frustrating and frustrated search for a very basic item that, in my own country, I'd be able to locate with no difficulty. Because we have enormous stores that carry everything, instead of many specialized stores. I will be glad for the specialized stores during the majority of my stay here. Today, they just pissed me off.
On my walk home, listening to my bottle of rioja clinking against my bottle of olive oil, I stopped to watch the moorhens chasing each other. They have long legs and enormous feet, and when they run they resemble little children running headlong with their hands clasped behind their backs. In fact, they looked not unlike the child I saw racing his father to meet his laughing mother on the Garret Hostel Lane bridge this afternoon. What I hadn't anticipated about this year is how much proximity I would have with small children, or how much I would be gladdened by their being around--even when they're screaming, "Come here! Come here!" or "Shut up!" The college's children play all day long. I suspect that they, too, may be realizing that their summer is nearly over.
Tomorrow I will try again for an umbrella.