I have to walk past Ho, Ho, Ho! every day and I don't understand it. It's the middle of July and the window is filled with Christmas trees, tinsel and snow. It's been like that since last Christmas and will be like that next Christmas and it won't change much in between. Funny thing is that tourists and locals alike flock to that place all year round.
They'll laugh when they go past, maybe even exclaim their shock, but moments later they'll be in there and, nine times out of ten, they'll exit with a holly-patterned bag in hand. I've never been in. I hate Christmas at Christmas time and I sure as hell don't want to be reminded of its existence every damn day, but to get to my quirky vintage boutique I have to walk past the place. I find it depressing.
Most people accept it because the shop used to be empty and an empty shop in Lincoln is not to be tolerated. It looked scruffy and locals did not like that one bit. I don't count myself a local, though. I only moved into the area a year ago, from the far less glamorous Wirral. All right, so I come from Birkenhead, but thankfully I don't have that Scouse screech - my parents brought me up a whole lot posher than that. In their world, we lived in Cheshire - after all, that's what the postcode indicated.
I'd visited Lincoln with my mum on one of those weekend coach trips. I'd treated her for her sixtieth birthday and I'd fallen in love with the place. The cathedral is dramatic and dominant, as is the castle, and everything in between is so quaint and 'olde worlde'. The high street is less picturesque, but I avoid going down that end of the hill as much as I possibly can.
Yes - there is no escaping the hill, I'm afraid, and many people huff and puff and come to a stop outside my window on Steep Hill, pretending to be interested in my stock when really they just want a breather before they take on the rest of the slope. I find that it works out very well for me, since many of these people actually come in and purchase something once they've got their breath back.
I love the range of people I meet in my little boutique. It never ceases to amaze me how many people from all over the world I have buying things in my shop on a weekly basis. I can virtually guarantee I'll see a German, an American, someone who's Chinese and a Scottish person every week - close to every day, in fact. Lincoln is a massively popular tourist destination.
As I opened up on that bright, sunny morning, I smiled. I loved my job. I sourced clothing from all over the country, along with jewellery and knick-knacks with a vintage feel. I get to pick and choose things I like and fill my shop with them. I don't sell a thing that I don't love and that makes for one very happy shopkeeper, I can tell you.
I say shop like it's something impressive but it's not a particularly huge one. The building is pretty ancient - not quite as old as some of the other buildings along this cobbled street, but still old enough to have been around when Shakespeare was bigger than X Factor. I felt the age of the place like a comforting blanket the first time I came to visit. I knew I wanted it the moment I walked in the door and, although small, it's perfectly formed for what I need.
I'm lucky - my parents gave me capital to set up my business. However, I pay them back a significant sum each month and so I have to work hard to ensure I make enough money to pay them and keep a roof over my own head - which, believe me, is hard work.
I set about sorting out my stock and putting a float into my till and all the other daily routines I do.
I like routine. I like everything to happen just so and at the right time. I'm not a fan of surprises; I'm not terribly impulsive. All of which probably explains why I haven't been on a date in more years than I care to remember, and why I was lonely. I was. I was mostly happy on my own. I could do what I wanted, how I wanted and when I wanted, but some nights I did just long for somebody to snuggle up to. Someone to share my dreams with.