It has been over three weeks since my last post. It’s my fault entirely. Sorry. I’d love to tell you that I’ve used the time wisely, but I can’t do that. I think I’ve spent quite a bit of it lost in some form or other. And most literally in the supermarket. I finally know how The Clash must have felt. One of the odd benefits of a global pandemic was that my senses became heightened and attuned to only using one supermarket all the time. I got to learn the layout in detail, as a bank robber might memorize the blueprint for a particularly stuffed vault. I got to know the places I relied on the most and the subtle nuances that could only otherwise be explained through interrogating some clueless floor manager with an ill-fitting sense of authority. Using the same supermarket all the time means that you essentially become a more efficient shopper: a visit becomes a routine that could almost be carried out blindfolded, a concept I would like to officially patent, solely because it would make for some interesting entertainment. In time you become one with the supermarket and your shopping adventures potentially akin to some sort of graceful, balletic, trolley based kung fu.
That said, the world would be so much more of an easy place to navigate if every supermarket had an identical layout. This way you could flit between locations and still grab what you wanted in rapid fashion, losing not a drop of your precious time in the process. Yes, grocery shopping would be rendered even more homogenised than it already is but who really likes spending more time in a supermarket than is strictly required? When you know a layout well enough the routine drips off the fingers to the extent that you don’t really need a shopping list but rather simply glide from one aisle to the next, casually filling the trolley with delicacies, confectionaries and a sprinkle of essentials. But once you walk through the door of a strange new supermarket it is as if everything you thought you knew about your weekly shopping is promptly thrown up in the air and left to scatter about in an entirely new, and entirely random fashion. It should be exciting but it isn’t. It’s just a pain in the arse. I can’t even imagine how awful it must be to do it with a few grubby children slowing you down.
The multifunctional behemoth that is currently my home from home, that isn’t a home at all, is a vast Morrisons. I’m sure I swore to myself many years ago that Morrisons would never be my go to supermarket but here I am, pouring money into their coffers. Morrisons may not admit it but they probably know where they sit in the supermarket pecking order: on a good day possibly marginally better than an ASDA, but not quite as good as a Co-Op, Tesco or Sainsbury’s. A slightly nicer place to be than an ALDI or Lidl bargain bundle, but nothing as indulgently white collar as a Waitrose or self-congratulatory as an M&S Foodhall. I shan’t even bother to include the likes of Budgens or Spar: we all know that these exist to serve necessity rather than choice or budget – who would shop in a Budgens that did not need to? Nevertheless, Morrisons are an integral part of the fat supermarket machine that keeps most of us who choose to stay on-grid fed and watered, and so they have become my any port in a storm, and for that alone I am grateful
Anyway, I hate to say it but this new Morrisons of mine feels like a slight drop in the kind of quality I have grown accustomed to over the years. The price labels seem a little more Playmobil now and the range of products lean less towards the sort of middle class comfort than that which I now can see I have always taken for granted. I first realised that I had dropped a couple of rungs down the social ladder when I noticed that the wine and spirits aisle was equipped with its own security guard. I expect that we shall become very close friends over the coming few weeks. I wonder if one day we shall quite naturally find ourselves laughing and reading each other the tasting notes from the labels of bottles of Beaujolais or discussing the merits of Cuban rum over Nicaraguan. Soon we’ll exchange names and numbers and when my basket is full they’ll carry a bag of ice to the checkout for me and kiss me goodbye. Until the next time. It is also the kind of supermarket where one can, should one be in such a mood, pick up a 20 litre bag of compost in the foyer or even a £300 Lay-Z-Spa Miami; the kind of cynical, tacky distraction that will inevitably lead to many an awkward “hey, you’ll never guess what I’ve just bought” conversations when the key hits the front door. More awkward conversations are available on request.
With every visit I am becoming slightly more orientated and yet somehow more bewildered. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the bottled water is not in the same place as the soft drinks. I also don’t why I would ever want to walk in a straight line that ultimately takes me from an extension plug to a selection of fabric conditioners and then ends with a small range of gardening tools. I don’t know who decided that breakfast cereals should be exiled to the very back wall of the building or why I should have to negotiate a wall of beer to get to a tub of ice cream. But such is the nature of supermarkets. Like flakes of snow no two supermarkets are ever the same and some are so bafflingly different that if you spent too much time thinking about it your mind would implode and you would have no choice but to become a full time agoraphobe. So I suppose it’s best not to think about it at all. Occasionally a different supermarket is the only viable option, whether you like it or not. I may be lost in this one for now but I’m sure I’ll get used to it, no doubt at the very same moment I have to start shopping at yet another one. And I can’t really grumble too much; it was all my fault I ended up there in the first place.
G B Hewitt. 08.05.2022