….. came the voice from the back. We’d been in the car nearly half an hour and turning back was not the first thought on my mind. That was a mistake.
We’d only gone out to have a spell in the cool comfort of air conditioning, a wee jolly, and the prospect of lunch somewhere unknown. Batteries for various appliances could also be charged. Perhaps we’d find a little cafe on the banks of the Maas, or a shaded park to wander through. But oh no, with Boy Urchin doing his Barefoot in the Park thing, which is exactly what he had been when he jumped into the car, we’d need to think a bit further.
The call came just as we approached the Belgian border, and as we travelled on it seemed that Belgium may be closed on Sundays. In course we followed a sign for Leisure Valley, thinking of woodlands and outdoor lunch. The road passed Decathlon, an outlet with which we are not strangers. Open every Sunday read the sign, but that was a lie, and the shutters were firmly down. There was traffic in both directions, and then we found out why.
For Leisure Valley turned out to be one of those designer retail parks, of the type that The Grasshopper would be denied entry on the grounds of taste, normally. And the first shop we came to was a sports outlet, the one with the big whoosh and the marketing budget to pay for Mr Federer and Mr McIlroy, among others. So Boy Urchin got a piggy-back, for the ground was painful to the touch, and in we went to air conditioned
They sold footwear and his feet were bare. So trainers it was, and socks of course. Then came the other call. My trainers are getting too wee. I suppose after a year or so and without any recognisable logos, the footwear from our friend Mr Decathlon had perhaps passed the value-for-money stage some time ago. So two pairs of trainers it was. The socks were multi-pack so one each, and one to spare.
But it did not end there for Mr Nike sold tennis shoes, and specifically clay court models. Wrong size though. Phew.
And onwards into the throngs. Boy Urchin could at least walk. Lunch taken; wandering endless designer labels most of which were unheard of to your rural peasant. But there was more. Perfume was browsed, though I got a lucky escape as we passed by the French cast iron cookware shop, the type that goes very well with the domestic Rayburn. Must have been the wrong colour.
Then we found another sports shop, and those tennis shoes could be resisted no more. The top of the range ones of course were the only ones that fitted with comfort, and they’d be fine too if the promised hard court replaced one of the red ash courts next year. At least we didn’t see any racquets.
But borders, that’s really what I wanted to talk about. We’d been in Germany a few days earlier, thanks to a delightful ferry across the Maas which was cheaper than driving to the next bridge, and a wander in naturpark through the woods, by the lake and the burn. Then today Belgium. The passports remained back at base in Netherlands. There were no borders, just a sign at the roadside, and a change in petrol prices, sometimes speed limits. It fair makes you wonder why those lovely folk behind Bitter Th’gither’s Project Fear seem to want to tell us about the string of watchtowers, dugs on chains, and endless queues from those lovely folk at the Borders Agency,that will need to be strung all the way from Carlisle to Berwick. No need for it elsewhere, and haven’t we all got used to that. Long may it continue.