My heart sang as I walked proudly towards the Ladies, the woman's words ringing in my ears.
The day had not seemed to promise much when I left my scruffy little flat earlier that morning. The weather was cold. A bitter wind blew and I shivered my way towards the shops. As I sometimes do, when feeling low, I glanced towards the cloudy heavens, and pleaded, silently, with 'The Management' up above.
"Please," I begged, "can I have a winter coat?. It is so cold. I really do need one." And then, as an afterthought, I added, "If you are going to give me a coat, what I would like is something warm, soft and cuddly, with a large hood and deep pockets; not too long - perhaps three-quarter length, I think; smart enough for me to wear anywhere and yet casual enough to go with trousers. You know.... a coat I can be proud of... a coat I could love!"
Some hopes. I had just enough money in my purse for fares and food for the rest of the week, and that was it. No savings. No nice Sugar Daddy to buy me furs and diamonds... Do they still exist?
But I really was very cold, and winter had barely started. I must get a coat somehow. There was a tatty second-hand clothes shop just ahead - not even a Charity Shop - a dark and dingy 'Thrift Shop' filled with musty jumble sale rejects. Despondently I pushed my way inside, past the piles of ancient shoes and plastic baskets of exhausted toys, towards the rail of coats. Vainly I tried to find one that at least looked warm, but it was just a collection of stained raincoats and a few small anoraks. There was nothing that could protect me from the vicious North East wind.
Reluctant to leave the shelter of this dark, depressing but pleasantly warm place, I moved towards the bookshelves at the back, hoping to find a paperback fantasy to bring me dreams of different worlds, where magic works and wishes can come true.
As I browsed, something caught my eye. Hanging high up on the back wall, in the darkest corner, there was a coat - my coat! I recognised it immediately and asked one of the ancient shop owners if I might try it on.
Oh! How soft and silky it felt! I couldn't stop stroking the beautiful, fun-fur, snow leopard fabric, with its subtle cat faces peering out between the dark splotches on the light background. It was a perfect fit, of course, with a great big hood and lovely warm pockets, all fur lined. It was love at first sight. Nothing would part me from this coat.
The price was high, for such a shop, and more than I could afford. I counted out the pennies in my purse and found I had exactly the right sum. I would have to walk for the rest of the week, and eat whatever tins happened to be lurking at the back of the cupboard, but it was worth it. This coat was mine and I was not going to take it off until I got it safely home.
By now the cold weather had hit my bladder, as it does. A very expensive department store was not far away, and I headed there, snugly cocooned in my elegant fur, to take advantage of their superior toilet facilities. As chance would have it, my route took me through their fun-fur department, and I noticed, with some elation, that the cheapest little fur jacket would cost at least twenty times what I had paid for my cuddly coat.
An expensive looking woman was trying on one of the coats while her husband and an obsequious shop assistant hovered around her. I didn't fancy it at all. It was a nasty gingery colour, very short and with no hood.
As I passed them, the woman turned to the assistant and, pointing at me, she said, "No, that's the sort of coat I'm looking for."