Stuck in a boot.


At 3 p.m., I'd have sworn to you that I would be wearing a particular pair of half-zipped black leather boots for the rest of my life.

Continuing my weekend of getting to know my new town, I set out today to find the Grafton Centre, Cambridge's shopping mall. On my way there, I stopped in at Next, enticed by a window display of homewares (or, as they're called here, homewear). Suddenly I was being enticed on all sides by displays of relatively inexpensive clothing. And then there were the boots. I did not bring my heeled dress boots, figuring that I would hunt down a pair here. I found a pair in my size and proceeded to try them on--only to get the zipper stuck halfway down my calf.

Now, even by U.S. standards, I have a fairly wide calf. By British standards, I have an enormous calf. That hadn't seemed to be a massive problem as I was putting these boots on--though I suspect I wouldn't have wanted to wear them for long. But somehow, as I was unzipping them, part of the leather facing for the zipper got chewed into its teeth and refused to budge up or down. Embarrassedly, I spent probably ten minutes trying to gentle the facing back out of the zipper so that I could remove the boot and flee. Finally, I called in a salesgirl for help. She called in another salesgirl. I eventually pulled my foot out of the half-zipped boot, and the second salesgirl disappeared with it to find someone who could fix the zipper.

At this point, it crossed my mind that I should flee while no one was looking, just in case the "you break it, you buy it" rule were about to be invoked; the last thing I was interested in today was paying £55 for a pair of boots with a stuck zipper, particularly since the boots didn't fit all that well to begin with. But I stayed, hoping that everything would work out. And it did. Though I fancied the first salesgirl was eyeing me askance for the rest of the time I stayed in the shoe area, trying on flats and other non-zipping shoes.

I did eventually make it to the Grafton Centre, winding my way there through the city centre's strange, twisty streets and across one of its lush green spaces, Christ's Pieces--which is distinguished in part, in my mind, by the fact that its landscape design includes small decorative plots of corn surrounded by assorted flowers and greenery. Corn! As park decor! Indeed, even before I reached the mall, I suspected that the walks there and back would turn out to have been the best parts of the outing--not to denigrate the mall, where I finally purchased an umbrella and the cardigan I'm likely to be wearing day in and day out for the next two months at least. (Though I was reminded forcibly, once again, of how expensive almost every single thing is here. I want to buy a table lamp for my flat. Just a table lamp. Maybe two. This is the kind of thing I'd go down the road to Lowes for, if I were in Ohio. But here I am (I think) stuck with department stores, which means I'm looking at some fairly hefty prices. I may have found a good one today for £15. I may have to go back later in the week to check it out again. But everything else--most of it not very nice anyway--was pushing £30 or more. And, for those of you keeping score at home, the pound is running about $2.03 right now.)

The best things that happen to me here, so far, happen on walks, not at destinations. Today, just for instance, I saw the King's College cows again, grazing in their part of The Backs, across the Cam from their college. (See how big the cows are in that picture at the top of this writing? Click it and see. Those are punters going by on the river, just behind them. I'd guess the punters are about ten feet behind the cows.) And only moments later, I heard the distinctive cry of a baby bird and looked down to see a moorhen and its chick in the little stream beside me. Once again, I rued not having a stronger zoom lens.


But you can, I hope, see both the parent (at center) and the chick (climbing up behind the parent, working on eating in the reeds on the bank). There really are babies and young ones everywhere here.