A few days after Felix Baumgartner calmly plummeted to Earth at 843 mph, in Carrick it seemed like the rain was determined to out-plummet him in a race to oblivion.
It rained so hard it shook every last leaf from the autumn trees, and outside Tesco the drains bubbled over and flooded the car park. A small crowd gathered under the awning, tutting and rolling their eyes, waiting for the right moment to make for home. I joined them with my little bag of Tesco Value items and had to smile when one guy caught my eye. He jerked his head at the rain as if to say, ‘Would you just look at this.’ I did. It was hypnotic. My breath blew steamy, mingling with the other’s over our heads. And with every passing moment, although I stared intently at the ground, my fondness for these people grew, these patient waiters and watershirkers. ‘Have you ever seen anything like it,’ said a woman who had clearly been born yesterday, but we took her point and mumbled our agreement. A few minutes later that same woman squared her shoulders, puffed out her chest and made the dash… ten meters to her car. Ten meters! Clearly buoyed by her success the others followed suit, dashing higgeldy-piggeldy around the car park until, with a chorus of slamming doors and revving engines, they disappeared into the rain, leaving me to walk home, my bonhomie dripping off me with every step.