As I toiled up the hill, muttering my list like a mantra - wrapping paper, Turkish Delight, hexbug nano - someone hurtled into me with a decisive thud.
“Why don’t you look where you’re going?” thundered the bag-encumbered shopper.
‘Hello Country Mouse,” I said, for it was she. “Chrimble shopping?”
“Yes, O Curse-d Day,” she intoned. Mouse always gets mardy when forced to forego her cornfield for the fleshpots of the Big Town.
People pushed past us, muttering, for we were blocking the entrance to the Parking Shop, which was doing brisk trade. People buying tinselly parking-related presents for their relatives, I guess.
“Lucky I bumped into you, actually,” Mouse said. “You can show me round the new supermarket.”
I escorted her to Aldi, acting all knowledgeable because Mouse makes me feel urban and loaded with street smarts. But I hadn’t actually been inside Aldi yet. Man of the House is in charge of Supermarket Policy, and as his personal list of significant dates reads, in its entirety:
1978 – Scotland beat Holland in the group stage of the World Cup
2003 - First child born
2005 - Waitrose opened in Lewes
he was unlikely to sanction an official visit.
The doors swished open and we browsed the famously unfamiliar brands. There was a no-nonsense element to the display of goods. BISCUITS. FLOUR. RICE. JUICE. ANORAKS. Eh? Yes, the middle aisle housed bins of arbitrary items such as inflatable air beds, worryingly cheap power drills, and blue anoraks the exact type my Dad wore in Brittany in 82, which I remember well because he wore it a lot that trip. I realised I had a nice mellow holiday feeling, because it was like being in a French supermarket. The lighting, the oddly-named items, the unpretentious furnishings – all that was missing was a sullen French goth girl rapping out the total amount so quickly I had to keep repeating, “Scusez-moi?” till one of us died or she reluctantly agreed to take the correct money out of my hand. Possibly not the correct money, I now reflected – I had doubtless been fleeced un peu.
While I’d slipped into reverie, Mouse had been filling her trolley with pretty much everything except anoraks. “Essentials to get us through the festive season,” she snapped, in response to my inquiring eyebrow. She said festive season as others might say “nuclear holocaust.”
I’d have asked if she really needed fourteen packets of Disco Biscuits, but my attention was snagged by a pile of boxes of Turkish Delight, very attractively priced, and some super-cheap wrapping paper. With a cry of Zut alors! I grabbed armfuls.
‘Seasons greeting, I suppose,” Mouse said fulsomely, as we parted.
“Joyeaux Noel!” I cried, and went off to find someone – anyone – who was able to tell me what a hexbug nano was.
Beth Miller, 7th December 2011