A perfect day is when you find something that you thought was lost forever in a country where it’s hard to explain yourself because your French is rubbish.
For seven years I’ve owned a pair of Top Shop ankle boots, worn every winter and irreplaceable. You can love boots – ones that can be walked through mud and mire, splashed in puddles and slithered in spilt frozen blueberries and then shone up with a smile of a swipe of a wet dish rag. Those boots were more or less welded to my feet.
Then one day I couldn’t find them. I searched the wardrobe, under the bed and sofa, the kitchen cupboards, every cupboard, every possible place where a pair of boots might have been left in a moment of absent mindedness.
I wore my fake leopard skin wellies which just didn’t do it, and my ancient square-toed pink boots that looked plain stupid. I wore my T K Maxx indoor canvass boots outside and ruined them.
But memory works in mysterious ways. Last night I had an apple-on-the-head moment. Insomnia can bring insights, as well as garbage. Boots, boot, boot, I thought, and remembered that my boots had been in the boot of my van and on their way to be patched up for the umpteenth time when I was diverted by a flat tyre and clunked and clanged towards a garage instead.
Back I went, heart in mouth, hands knuckle-white on the wheel. Could they be there after all this time? Surely not.
It’s a grotty old garage, more a shed with a tyre mountain. I go there because it’s cheap. The owner recognised me. Or the dog.
‘Mes bottes? Est ce que vous avez mes bottes?’ I asked him, holding my breath and pointing to my feet.
‘Aaah..les bottes dans un sac…?’
I stopped breathing.
‘Mais oui!’ he said. ‘The boots in the bag. Yes….’
He returned from a back room with my carrier bag. With my boots inside. I gave a shriek of joy that stopped the mechanics from their tyre-fitting. I wanted to hug the guy – filthy black overalls, W40-greased hands, stubble, spanner and all. I laughed. They laughed. Homer gave a sympathetic howl of joy. I showed the men the holes in the soles and heels and they offered to mend them with bits of black tyre.
I left on a wave of joy, skipping and talking to my dog. The mechanics watched us go. Just another mad English woman. Une Anglaise folle! Une dingue! Or perhaps they said something much worse.