“Hello, how are you doing today?” the friendly shopkeeper asks.

“Thanks, I’m doing fine, and you?” is my polite and curious reply.

“Quite good.” He straightens his green apron with the logo of the shop, firing a series of short questions: “Been walking? Cold outside? The newspaper? Still happy to live here?”

“Four times yes,” I answer with a laughing smile.

“That’s two pounds for the newspaper, please,” he says.

“And a letter for Belgium,” I declare, digging it out of my shoulder bag. Then handing it over.

He inspects the address. “First class?” he asks.

“No, the letter is not in a hurry,” I smile.

“Joking, are you?” the man says having a look above his glasses.

“I wouldn’t dare…”

The man flips through some pages of a folder in search for the postal rate. “Hmm… 1 pound 25,” he declares, adding: “I even will put an airmail sticker on the letter.”

“That’s very kind of you,” handing over a 20-pound banknote. “Sorry, no small change,” I mumble.

“Only ladies from Belgium pay with 20-pound notes,” he pauses, smiles, and adds: “Just a joke…” Silence again. “It is the only thing that keeps me alive,” he says rather dull.

“The only thing? I don’t believe you,” I reply seriously.

“We’ll there are some other things, like…” Another woman enters the shop. “Ahh… you did bring the cake.” The woman puts a nicely foil wrapped cake with ice topping on the counter. “Is it for general sale?” the shopkeepers informs.

“Yes,” the woman says.

Our conversation did come to an end. I pick up the newspaper, wish them both a fine day, and go outside, back in the almost freezing air.

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