This is my first November in Virginia, and it is quite a different kettle of fish than it is in Oxfordshire. I’ve grown quite used to being sodden and sullen and sunless in autumn. But here everything is bright and sunny and “crisp,” which causes one to think of toasts or trousers. I do not care for “crisp.”
I am standing in the exact centre of my new little shop in Chipping Norton, Virginia, taking in the crispness of everything as a young woman glides her slate blue Subaru into a parking spot just outside the shop window. She wears a sleek fleece anorak over tight-fitting running togs that stop just above her taut, athletic calves. When it comes to weather, I don’t approve of so much crispness; but I rather like the clothes Americans wear when things get crispy. I can see through the window that she is engaged in animated negotiations with someone at the other end of her mobile phone, and she sweeps into my shop, mobile conversation and tight little outfit in full stride.
“Welcome to The Greene Grocer,” I say with a hopeful smile. She acknowledges me with a glance and a raised forefinger as she chatters away at the little box at her ear.
“No, I totally agree,” she says to her mobile. “I’m just not having that in Pilates. I can understand wearing something like that for Zumba, but we shouldn’t have to see that stuff in Pilates…”
She makes a beeline for my beverage case, where she selects one of the expensive and foul tasting concoctions I can never seem to keep in stock. Some of my favourite customers are the people who buy anything someone else tells them is good for them. Still talking away into her mobile, she brings her selection to the till, and fishes in her purse for her wallet.
“This is my first time in your shop, but I need to tell you that I’m so glad you opened this store in the neighborhood,” she says. “I love that you’re green.”
She pulls the telephone away from her ear long enough to pay me this compliment, and returns immediately to dealing with the Pilates tragedy.
“Thank you, love,” I say. “I’ve been Greene my whole life!” She ceases her conversation to stare at me for a long while.
“Oh, you’re English,” she finally says. “That explains it!”
“Explains it?” I ask.
“Yes. The little ‘e’ at the end of the word ‘Greene’ on your shop sign. What a quaint, British way to show you care about the environment!” Wincing a little, I smile feebly, swipe her debit card, and hand her purchase to her.
“Yes,” I say under my breath, “that explains it precisely.”
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