The number of items in the shopping basket

Surely there is a simple way to echo this number.

This is no bug or error; rather I seem to be ignorant as to how to do it. I asked something similar about two years ago and you (David!) were kind enough to prove a valuable clue (the entire answer, really).

$this->BASKET_COUNT is a number which equals zero or whatever the current number of items is in the basket. My site contains a number of pages that are "outside" of the store; I want a person to still be able to see that they have a shopping cart with items in it (and this span would like to the actual basket page rather than cause the modal window to display, since the modal window isn't included in the page anyway).

I created a separate file (arbitrarily titled cartcount.php) and tried several different methods to make the "value" of it the BASKET_COUNT but none of them worked. And they all seems rather intensive (parsing the DOM of the store's front page, for example) for the sake of just retrieving what is ordinarily a single-digit number.

I've done similar things before (pulled small amounts of data like stock prices or commodity prices from sites that I don't even run and inserted the data into my own) so it bothers me that I'm running into so much trouble.

(Unrelated: I downloaded 2.5 and did a fresh installation a few weeks ago; all of the improvements are pretty swell.)