Bridget huddled into her thin coat against the wind. It was no match for the freezing temperatures, but all she had as she approached the main entrance to the supermarket.
At least it was warm inside, and she intended to browse the shelves. You never know, she thought, I might find a bargain.
A leaflet was thrust into her reddened hand by a young woman just inside the door.
‘We’re collecting for a charity by donation. On the back of our flyer is a list of things we can use, so perhaps you’d be kind enough to add them to your shopping and after paying for them, drop them in the box over there.’
Bridget thought this was a good idea, and would gladly have purchased some of the cheaper items to do her bit, if it had been last year. She had to stifle a laugh at ‘Fully iced Christmas Cake’ and ‘Turkey’ though. Where do these people get off?
Picking up a hand basket, she rooted round the fresh produce in the hope of finding something reduced for her tea.
Sadly there was nothing today, so she would have to buy a tin.
Everywhere was full of Christmas cheer, carols were being played in the background, tinsel adorned every ceiling, and there was enough glitter to fill a million snow globes.
Crackers, toys, pretty clothes, party gifts, cards, decorations, in fact everything for the festive season with bright stickers stating ‘Only £10’, ‘Any two for £15’, ‘Special Offer, 25% off’.
Gradually getting the feeling back in her fingers and toes, she walked from aisle to aisle, thinking of years gone by.
In those happier days, she would see something and buy it without thinking.
The house would be full of laughter and kids opening presents, a full roast dinner and friends and family dropping by.
Christmas was such a cheerful time, even if it was too commercialized now and a big rip off to benefit the company shareholders.
Something caught her eye and she put it in her basket.
It looked quite lonely, so she quickly moved along for something else.
The shop was busy.
Harassed mothers pushing loaded trolleys with fractious kids wailing for their attention were frantically trying to beat the rush, nab any bargains, and keep their sanity before heading for the checkout.
Fathers, husbands and boyfriends were having none of it, unless they were piling their preferences into the same trolley, if not one of their own. Bridget thought about how Christmas Cheer and The Festive Spirit comes in many sizes, cartons and bottles.
No such luxury for her.
Gradually though, it all became too much, and all Bridget could see were things she could not afford, and even if she could, she had nowhere to put them or share them with.
Tears threatened, but she refused to give in to them, and continued with her shopping.
Bread, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, just the basics this week.
At the checkout, the couple before her had two trolleys laden down with groceries, alcohol and presents. The total bill was almost three hundred pounds, and Bridget blanched, then wondered if anything was intended for the charity box inside the door.
She made conversation with the lad behind the till, bagged up her purchases and handed over the right money.
She only had a short walk home, let herself into the lobby and climbed the narrow stairs.
Home was a single room with a curtain across one corner to conceal a toilet and washbasin.
Another corner was occupied by a sink, drainer and 2 ring cooker, and the sofa doubled up as her bed at night.
She took her purchases out of the bag, and put them on the floor.
She had no table, fridge or cupboard.
A single bread roll, dried milk and 6 spreadable cheese triangles to save buying butter.
No eggs today as the price had gone up, but tea tonight would be a corn beef hash as she’d found a dented tin reduced to 25 pence.
She had been a little extravagant though, buying that 30p bar of chocolate.
She intended to savour it later, when she lit the night candle and admire her Christmas tree, a pencil drawing on the wall.