Fickle thing, the Spirit of Cool.
With my test card pattern sweater and pimpin' fake fur winter coat - the one with the fur at a downward slant, the one that ratchets the sweater sleeves down my arms and over my hands whenever I swing them - I was - admit it - drop dead gorgeous. And I'd drawn a pretty nifty picture for the front of our annual Christmas Card. And then I'd dropped into Waterstones to hunt for a book of Bob Dylan lyrics, and explained to the girl behind the counter that it was for a piece of art, and she'd more or less said so: "Cool," she'd said.
So I was high on Cool.
After lunch I took a trip to our local supermarket, basketing the BOGOFs nonchalantly, sauntering to the checkouts. I unloaded the basket onto the empty conveyor belt, and waited.
"Two minutes," said the checkout girl.
Uncoolly, I bridled, but collected myself. Though there was no queue, a handsome lad on the other side was waiting by the plastic bags. Perhaps he's her bloke, I thought, perhaps they've just been arranging to meet up. Then, as the girl started running the groceries through, he began to open one of the bags.
"Don't worry," I said, suavely sliding my rucksack off my back and onto the checkout. "I've brought my own."
"I'm not packing for you," he said, "I'm waiting for a DVD."
It arrived. He took it. I felt a bit more cool evaporate. I packed my rucksack quickly, pinning in my card number, fiddling shut the zipper, and walking away, subdued.
But the girl called me back. "Hey!" she said, "You've left your card in the machine!"
So that's the Spirit of Cool. You've either got it, or you haven't. In the morning I had it and in the afternoon, it went.
This is like the occasion I visited the Alnwick Gardens Treehouse Restaurant with E, when, in the Gents, admiring the sleek new shape of the upmarket urinals, and contemplating quite why there was a need to stick taps on them, it slowly dawned on me why the man at the urinal opposite had looked at me so strangely. I left without washing my hands.