She fiddles with the till, attempting to wipe out what she's charged, by waving the stamps under the bar-code reader, which beeps plaintively. Eventually, she realises this isn't doing anything, and decides to start again. This time, by selling me not one, but four books of four stamps. Right size this time, but still the wrong number, I sigh. "A book of four first-class stamps, please". This isn't rocket science, after all. She tries the bar-code thing again. With admirable consistency, the till beeps plaintively. She starts again, for the third time. Right goods, this time, total cost, £1.04. I hand over £5.05. She punches it in as £5.04. I briefly debate whether to mention this, and decide that while it might be amusing to reduce this "care in the community" outpatient to tears for the sake of one penny, it's not worth the effort.
By the time I reach London Bridge, I've missed my train. I wait for the next one, which leaves ten minutes late, and is packed so tight that Heinrich Himmler would have balked at sending Jews off in it. Thank you, W.H.Smith's. The only thing which stopped me from going postal is the knowledge that tomorrow, I depart for a well-earned break, far away from idiots in newsagents, work colleagues whose mobile phones play the theme from 'Star Wars' (I kid you not. Believe me, I wish I was joking), people who wield golf umbrellas on crowded city streets when it's not actually raining, and a media telling me how 'The Blair Witch Project' is the scariest movie ever made. It's not, unless you are frightened by really bad camerawork.
As mentioned, work staggers from bad to worse, there is now me, and the aforementioned idiot with the mobile phone, together with a bunch of people whose actual jobs are a mystery to me. They spend half the time out of the office, and the other half on fag breaks, coffee breaks, or merely whistling the theme to 'Black Adder'. Oh, plus the relentless repetition of tedious catchphrases like, "Lovely, boy". After the first two hundred times, no jury in the land would convict. Hey, I might not do any actual work, but at least I have the good grace to do it quietly.
So, I head off to America, the warmth of Arizona, Halloween, and far more completely personal pleasure than I will even dare to document here. At least I'll avoid the "climax" of the Rugby World Cup, perhaps the most tedious single event ever invented. The only thing worse than those who play rugby, is those who watch it -- for of the 33 games so far, 31 have gone entirely as predicted. What is the point of matches that finish with scores like 101-3? No-one can ever criticise baseball's "World Series" again because, let's face it, only three countries have even the slightest chance of winning the "World Cup".
So, the rest of you, stuck in this wet, cold, badly fucked-up country, have my sympathy. I'll think of you. From beside the swimming pool...