No, I haven't been stabbed to death like Julius Caesar. But I did find myself made a plaything of the gods.
I seem to sail through life experiencing roughs with smooths in equal measure, in a kind of cosmic balance. Often I come out ahead, and so rarely complain. But not always.
Yesterday was a lovely mild and brilliantly sunny day. Warm enough for a light jacket only. So I resolved to debut my new dusky pink Gerry Weber jacket, picked up at Beales in Bournemouth a few days earlier (pictures to follow when I get home). This jacket was so in-your-face stylish that it required the glitzy black Prada handbag to keep it company. I added my pearls. And to tone it all down a little, I wore a loose Fat Face white top under the jacket, with navy blue jeggings and black ankle boots south of that. I looked damn good, and felt damn good. I arrived in Sidmouth in sunglasses - strictly necessary, I assure you - and after backing Fiona into a plum High Street parking spot with one deft twirl of the steering wheel, I stepped out onto the catwalk. Look at me, indeed!
Mind you, there were other strutting fashionistas about. Sidmouth is like a miniature Bournemouth: the shopping is superior and expensive, and there are plenty of well-dressed women dashing here and there, clearly expecting to be noticed. So, truth to tell, I blended in. I dashed in and out of Fields (Sidmouth's equivalent of Selfridge's) and then dashed over to Fat Face, where the day before I'd spotted a navy blue cardigan with a flattering neckline. I'd hesitated over buying it, but had made up my mind to do the deed, chiefly because the changing-room pix I'd taken had confirmed that it made me look slim. But also because I had an unwanted top to take back to Marks & Sparks, which would give me a £35 refund to play with. It would reduce the net cost of the cardi to £7. A complete no-brainer! With the cardi in the bag, I dashed back to Fiona mightily pleased, if not positively smug.
But the gods then decided to play with me. You'd think they'd have something better to do, but there you are. In her wisdom, Fiona chose to leave Sidmouth via the sea front. Straight into the gods' waiting trap. For lo, the sun did shine with an even wider smile, shimmering on the enticing sands (it was low tide); and the bright red sandstone cliffs waved at me like a matador baiting a bull. What a glorious sight! The little Leica shreiked at me from inside the Prada bag, 'Let's park and take pictures! Oh, please!'. And Fiona said, 'Lucy, you've got to stop and walk on that sand!' Well, to keep them both happy, I looked for a place to park. And lo, there was a long clear space right on the seafront. With no charge. Only 15 minutes were allowed - but that was all I'd need. So I left Fiona in this amazingly convenient free parking space, and tottered over the pebbles down to the sand. Gosh, it was so pleasant. The sand was almost unblemished: only gulls had trodden on it. Dainty gulls at that. I couldn't resist walking around the headland. I was quick, though, and having got my shots, I was back at Fiona within 20 minutes, if not quite 15.
But then the joke was sprung. There was a lady parking officer by Fiona, and just as I reached her, she printed off a £70 penalty notice. Oh no!
It wasn't because I was three minutes over time. It was because I'd left Fiona in a space intended for coaches. The restriction plate showed a coach-shaped symbol that I'd missed. Whoops. My silly mistake. I must have been blind. Well, we talked. The lady was really nice, but of course the notice couldn't be recalled. I'd have to pay.
There was good news... of a sort...if I paid quickly, the penalty would be 'only' £35. Exactly the amount of my M&S refund! How odd it should be the same figure. The women at Refunds in Marks & Spencer in Exeter thought so too. I was immediately reminded of an episode in the 'Elizabethan' Blackadder series on TV in which 'wealthy' but in fact skint Blackadder owes £1,000, raises exactly that amount by offering his home for sale, then is summoned to the Queen's presence and asked (as a joke really) to pay a special nobleman's levy of - guess what - exactly £1,000. He quibbles, but the Queen spots his purse, takes it by royal command, and poor Blackadder forfeits the lot - and must then face ruin and the creditor's ghastly revenge. Well, my £35 went the same way. Damn.
Moral: posh jackets and look-at-me-I'm-so-gorgeous behaviour tempt the gods. And any empty parking spaces on a sunny Devon sea front are too good to be true. You have been warned!