Get out of my way

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner child of the urban zoo or maybe it’s because I’m an impatient fucker but sometimes people that dawdle really get me wound up to the point of rudeness. It takes a lot for me to get wound up so much I actually say something. Classic example is when in a queue in a shop and the person holding up the line (traditionally an old woman or something) is just holding up the line for no practical purpose. Or when after waiting for ages to get served at the bar only for the bar person to answer the telephone and have to spend the next 20 minutes looking for the manageress before getting back to serve me (“Oh I’m sorry, pint of what was it?”)

One of the things I noticed about living in Barnsley (and I’ll probably upset a teaspoon of people with this) was how nobody seems to be in a rush to get anywhere. Ok it’s not like your stereotypical Jamaica where everyone is sat round watching the world go by and generally taking their time. But its not far off it. Sometimes this can be really annoying and detrimental to health.

I used to get half an hour for my lunch. This gave me ample time to nip up to Secret Asda for the cash point or to grab a sandwich and get back to work before I’d taken a huge chunk out of my lunch half hour. One day I made errors. The first being “Should I go into Asda buy myself a sandwich, pay for it on my debit card and then get £10 cash back?”. I’m not fond of paying for things under a fiver on my debit card cos the shop gets charged and they hike their prices up or you have to pay a supplemental charge. So instead I opted for the cash machine.

As I drove into the car park I observed a workman making his way to the cash point so I adjusted my parking destination appropriately and calculated accurately the time it would take me to walk from the car to the cash point (allowing for people coming out of the shop) and coincide with the man finishing with the cash machine. Only I must have miscalculated. I got there and the mucky bugger was still there pressing whatever buttons he could. 5 minutes elapsed and I felt my lunch half hour draining away like the fullers earth of time. He was quite a burly stocky man so I kept my mouth shut incase he lamped me one. But I could feel the words “Are you composing a fucking symphony with all them button presses?” forming on my lips and tongue.

Fortunately he moved away and I noticed on the screen the words “Transaction Cancelled”, either the machine was broke or he was just an airhead. I gave him daggers in the back just to make sure he realised I was not pleased with his time wasting but he must of had hard skin or been totally unaware of other people because he didn’t actually look at me or say “Sorry for being a slow fucker” or owt.

Anyway, I gets me money and scurry into the shop. Grab a sandwich (Wiltshire Ham, Vintage Cheddar and Pickle baguette) and made my way to the check out. I had eaten approximately 8 minutes into my lunch half hour. It was then that I espied the queue. Only one checkout was open (it was a small Asda, kind of like Tesco Local or Jacksons by Sainsbury’s or Spa or Circle K or whatever) and it was manned (or womanned) by the elderly shop assistant. The elderly shop assistant is old. That is why she is elderly. The elderly shop assistant takes about 20 seconds per item to scan them into the barcode reader. Something like this:-

*pick up item*
*look at item*
*look for barcode on item*
*Straighten out item*
*look at item over rim of spectacles*
*hold item up to light*
*squint at item*
*look for barcode scanner*
*look for barcode*
*check item again in light*
*Squint at item again*
*swipe barcode on item past scanner*
*check item on display*
*hold up item to light*
*squint at item a third time*
*poke item*
*place item down*
*pick up other item*

This ritual takes place for everything she puts through. Sometimes she’ll even pick things up she’s already scanned and compare the items raised up to the light and all squinty.

Anyway, she had a queue of 3 people and the three people in front must have been doing their monthly shop cos they had shed loads of stuff. I could feel myself getting more and more wound up. Fortunately the next cashier desk opened up but before I could swap queues 2 people nipped in in front of me. That was fine, I thought, because these people only had a couple of packets of biscuits and some milk between them. But no! How wrong could I be? The first person knew the cashier personally and stood gossiping for 2 minutes while labouring to put a carton of milk into a plastic carrier bag. She then asked for a packet of ciggies. Ciggies need to be got from behind the counter that the elderly shop assistant was on but the other shop assistant stepped down from her chair, walked over and picked up the ciggies. I half let out a sigh of relief when the first customer had gone. All the while I’m watching my original queue dwindle.

By this time I’m twitching, my lunch half hour was draining away to a measly lunch quarter of an hour. The second shop assistant swiped the biscuits and the second customer then asks for a “Lucky Dip”. A Lucky Dip is a method for the government to make a shit load of cash by getting the general public to part voluntarily with their hard earned cash for a string of 6 lottery numbers which, as the lottery numbers are preselected a month in advance, won’t come up as winners, but might just give a false impression of hope. The lottery machine is on the same cash desk as the elderly shop assistant who at that moment is scrutinising a packet of Tampax. So shop assistant number two steps down again. Walks over to elderly shop assistants till, does the lucky dip thing and walks back to her cash desk. The elderly shop assistant then presses her bell.

1st Shop Assistant: Ooh Beryl. What code for these ‘ere? (Holding up a bag of mystery fruit)
2nd Shop Assistant: Oooh I don’t know aren’t they under 14?
1st Shop Assistant: I don’t think so they won’t scan right
2nd Shop Assistant: They never scan right those you know. I’m sure they’re under 14.
1st Shop Assistant: Do you think they’re under 14? I thought they were under 14 but they just won’t scan. Do you have a code for them Beryl.

By this time fiery death rays are leaping from my eyes and cutting down anyone who will look at me with fatal consequences. The man by the apples….dead. The kids pinching chocolate from the gondola end….dead and steaming. The innocent man passing the front of the shop window…..dead. The man in front of me….slightly scarred.

Eventually (probably 20 seconds later though it felt like 20 minutes) Beryl returns to the cashier desk.

2nd Shop Assistant: That’ll be £3.24
2nd customer: Can I have 20 Berkley Mentol too please?
stegzy: Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

So Beryl gets down again and gets the cigs from the shelf. Meanwhile I am burning a hole into the back of 2nd customers skull and mentally projecting images of me stamping on his fucking fat face leaving the word “Clarks” impressed across his nose.

Eventually I get served. I part with my cash and have my change counted out to me (twice because “Beryl”, I discovered, has a problem counting). I eventually enjoyed my Lunch 10 minutes.

This whole episode then made me think. Are people actually aware of when people around them are in a rush?

For every season

Ah food. My favourite subject. I took a trip to Barnsley Market on Tuesday and was amazed at the colourful displays of fruit and veg at the greengrocer stalls. Such diversity at such a wide rane of prices. That got me thinking about how the culture of now fueled by the supermarket’s thoughtlessness on providing what the customer wants regardless of the cost to the environment has made us forget to think responsibly about food. Sure I like a banana all year round, but some things, such as strawberries and apples, just don’t taste the same out of season. Soft fruit especially, as this becomes flavourless and generally pants out of season. Then I thought, how much do you know about the seasonal availability of fruit and veg in your part of the world. These days we tend to forget that fruit and veg are seasonal and we just nip down the shops for some imported veg like we might nip down to the electrical store for some imported electrical goods.

It is worth noting, however, that I do “try” to buy seasonal British produce wherever possible, but as supermarkets are able to import huge sacks of fruit and veg from anywhere in the world, it can be hard to find such produce in them (except, it seems, at small scale greengrocers surprisingly) even though I try to check the country of origin for fruits and veggies.

Supermarket law

Supermarkets are to be allowed to provide legal advisories to customers in 2011.

On the back of that, let us consider the supermarketisation of legal advice.

Scenario 1 – The low price “Value” legal advice

CrimAlright mate, the coppers ‘ave said av killed someone.
Supermarket Legal AdvisoryWell you have no choice but to plead guilty.

Scenario 2 – The Supermarket Own Brand Legal Advice

CrimOh dear it appears that I may have killed someone
Supermarket Legal AdvisoryThat’s ok sir we at Tesco will quite happily stand by you though it may be a 50-50 chance that you might get sent down and bummed in the prison showers by a tattooed bear and share a cell with Purple Akie.

Scenario 3 – The Finest legal advice

CrimAh, it appears that I am accused of some sort of killing
Supermarket Legal AdvisoryOh don’t worry about it, people die all the time. It’s very inconsiderate. Honestly I imagine that we’ll have no problem persuading the judge that this is all a terrible mistake and you can be sitting back at home with a nice Finest Steak and ale pie and a cup of Finest Virgin Picked Earl Grey tea before you know it. And you’ll also get 300 club card points for your inconvenience.

Yet another nail in the coffin of the high street. When the office workers go, so do the sandwich shops and other ancillary retailers. Coming soon, supermarkets to provide GP Surgeries and tanning salons. Honestly, there’s no end to this steamrollering. I fear for the “traditional” British way of life, the economy, the environment and the state of our towns and villages as more and more shops become vacant and the consumer migrates to out of town shopping villages and supermarkets.

The answer

The answer to yesterdays conundrum was

I found the cottage cheese in the fresh meat section. Because, yes, that is the first place you would think of looking for cottage cheese. I am obviously stupid. I will go and kill myself right away.

Its another one of those days where things don’t go as planned. I had intended on swatting up for my exam but people and things just get in the way. Which means that as I had planned a whole day swatting I will now be spending a whole half day swatting instead.

I’ve lost half a day. Damn me and my procrastination. Though I have managed to listen to the whole of Portishead’s Third album about 6 times and, further to this, managed to learn about Gauntlet, Chomsky and Adorno. None of whom will probably come up on the exam. I hate exams.

Homework club

Does Gauntlett’s (1998) article about media effects mean there is no point in looking at them? Discuss

Cost

When I first started shopping for myself, as in buying food to eat for the month, I was living as a student in Sheffield. It was 1992. Prior to that, my experience of shopping was two fold.

  1. With my mum and dad who would stroll round the supermarket putting whatever into the basket and paying for it all at the checkout on their debit card then getting narky when the bill came to something ridiculous.
  2. With my nan who would adhere to a strict budget, totting up how much she had spent in her head, paying the exact total in cash.

Quick Ma, he’s on about them darn supermarkets again.

>Not So Supermarket

>Tonight I did something I haven’t done in a long while.

I visited a supermarket. Asda in Barnsley to be precise.

Now I know some of you will say “Ah but Stegzy, you go to the Co-Op and the Co-Op is a supermarket!” and some will say “Ah but you were in a supermarket with me the other day”. Indeed, this may be the case, but with the Co-Op, they actually pay me to shop there (I get about £12 a year from them) they actually source their non-branded goods from local farms and actually put back into the community what they take out; With the other visit I wasn’t actually doing any shopping. OK?

Right, now I’ve got that clear, I shall continue my tale. So I’d decided that I was going to cook a curry a la and in doing so I required certain ingredients that Co-Op don’t stock. Why Co-Op don’t stock these things isn’t a mystery along the lines of Nazca or the assassination of JFK. It is quite simple. The Co-Op’s in Barnsley don’t stock certain lines because most people in Barnsley think that bananas are exotic and anything that smells, sounds or looks slightly foreign probably is foreign and should be eyed with suspicion. So because the Co-Ops in Barnsley are bobbins I had to go to a larger supermarket. Tescos, a behemoth of retail and convenience (and we should all by now be aware of the TRUE COST OF CONVENIENCE), is out near Stairfoot and Morrisons (a local supermarket company) tend to sell food that is close to the sell by date (hence why they can sell stuff for less). The convenient choice was therefore Asda and yes probably the least ethical of the three choices.

So I pulled into the already busy car park and parked summoning the will power to break the self conditioning of not shopping in a supermarket. Within ten minutes I found myself entering hell. Hell of people. The Hell of retail, people and consumerism. Conveniently placed at Harbour Hills Roundabout. The sweat on my back from the humid day was joined by an uneasy sweat. The kind of sweat one might get if one suffers from clostro or some other debilitating phobia. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing to fear from supermarkets because I am free from their spell. I know the ways they do their mischief and how they use sneaky psychological tricks to make you, the ordinary person, part with their hard earned cash without realising.

First thing that struck me was the trolleys. In Britain, trolleys tend to escape and return to the rivers from where they spawn. In order to prevent this some supermarket companies chain the trolleys together and these require the shopper to insert a £1 coin to temporarily release the trolley from captivity. Now I don’t carry cash. When I’ve got cash I tend to spend it. Usually on nothing at all. The solution being not to carry cash and to use debit cards instead. Sadly trolleys don’t accept Switch or Maestro. So first off you need to part with money to obtain a trolley. Granted, this separation from cash is temporary as, when you return the trolley, you get your £1 back. So if you have no money on you, you can’t use a trolley. Fortunately, some years back, I found one of them trolley token things and I keep the fucker in my wallet for such occasions.

So with my trolley, which I could just dump should I want to with no cost to myself, I entered the palace of convenience. The sight that greeted me was one of disgust. The shop is divided into two sections. Clothes, books and “seasonal goods” on one side and the rest on the other. The food, or other side, is in turn split into several sections. Shoppers choosing to ignore the non-foody goods are herded to the suspicious looking fresh fruit, veg and meat of mysterious origin side. This area is close together, people fight over the uniform carrots, trip over the spilled potatoes and wrestle with their bored looking children. A swarm of people foraging, milling about and shoving each other to get to the trough.

Fortunately I didn’t require fruit or veg on this visit. I did however require meat. The meat aisles are no better than the fruit and veg aisles. Narrow aisles lined with open faced chillers doing untold damage to the environment and gobbling more energy than if the shoppers had decided to stay at home and wank. Pre-packaged meats on open chilled shelves. Inviting the shopper to partake in “BRITISH FARM STANDARD” meats. Each package gaily adorned with the grinning fizog of some skilfully crafted farmer as if to suggest to the ethically half aware shopper that this meat really is from a farm in Britain. That this man whose face is stickered onto the packaging is the very man that single handedly raised the calf or chick from which the meat didst come. That his “I wouldn’t lie to you” face is one of sincerity and one of a benevolent farmer that probably allows his animals to take day trips to Scarborough. Of course this farmer would probably have a farm the size of France if he truly supplied the amount of meat that Asda sell. The sticker also tells the prospective purchaser that the meat (in this case chicken) has been reared “finest quality farm assured”. Now does that mean the farm is of the finest quality? Gold shavings for animal bedding, luxurious mangers and 24/7 masseuse on call? Or does it mean fuck all. I think I’ll go for the “Fuck all” option and if I was a betting man I’d probably be very wealthy.

I could not see any organic or free range meat. I felt as herded as the very animal I was about to eat. Basically the only choice I had was the package assuring me that the animal was reared by Brian Trusler who, it seems, has some weird fervour and devotion to “rearing the finest quality farm assured chicken”. Yet nowhere on the label did it say that the meat was organic. No where did it say that the meat was free-range. I only had Asdas marketing people’s say so and I wouldn’t trust them to give me next weeks winning lottery numbers. But chicken was needed so a blind eye was turned. I really should go to the opticians about it. It could be glaucoma.

The next thing that struck me was the way the store was laid out. The food things seemed to be on one side; the cleaning things on the other. Healthy options were secreted away and prominence was given to high fat, salt and sugar content foods. Even greater prominence given to Asda Own Brand. The widest aisles, it seems, were those devoted to the slow poisoning of the human body by salt, fat and sugar. The healthy snacks were on display though. But eyes, it seems, are drawn away from these to the less healthy options. Even the bread stuffs. The bread aisle had the loaves of bread on the shelves next to which were doughnuts, cakes and other fatty foods. I could feel my arteries hardening just being in proximity to them. The breakfast cereals, the alcoholic drinks, the frozen goods; all laid out the same. Fat first, health second. A weaker shopper would have no hesitation in succumbing to Asdas witchcraftery.

Worse yet, the children. It seems that tonight was “lets take the children to the supermarket” night. Instead of tying them up outside with the dogs and vagrants, people actually bring their spoilt demanding offspring into the palace of convenience.

Old man – “Put that back Ashzara you’ll drop it and you’ll be in trouble”
Ashzara – “But I think I like it granddad”

She “thinks” she likes it. She likes it alright. It’s full of lovely chemicals, sugar and toxins. Yes granddad, you are poisoning your own granddaughter with your love for her. If you actually cared for the child you’d have left her at home. You already had a trolley full of similar demands. Jelly, cake, crisps. Poor Ashzara, in 4 years time she’ll be wondering why her face is spotty and why the boys don’t like her.

Then I reached the 5th level of Hell. I espied the tortured souls in the form of those without gorm. Blocking the aisle containing the cook in sauces. Each scrutinising the ingredient label as if to find some half forgotten scripture that might reveal the secret of weight loss, or maybe something really obscure with which to announce their childs latest trendy allergy (“Yes little Johnny is allergic to monosulphurpolyphosphate” “Well my little Jimmy is allergic to tricitricbiphenolicamine”). But not wanting to break from their intense study to allow other shoppers to pass, they just stand there. Trolley blocking the aisle. There faces cracking with concentration as if they are willing the calorific value of Ragu to decrease. Too intent on their quest to even acknowledge anybody else. I was in danger of being trapped by other shopping zombies approaching from behind. Fortunately I am skilled in Trolley-Fu and a quick but sharp ram of my trolley usually results in a shocked look and an apology from those without gorm.

As I approached the 6th level, my ears beheld a sound I had not heard for some time. Not the sound of a thousand score tortured souls, but none other than “Star” by Kiki Dee. Which, I am sure you will agree, is far worse than any assault on the ears. By this time my stress levels had reached biblical proportions. I was feeling violent, sweaty and in danger of causing someone an injury. I had to finish my shopping trip before I ended up in gaol.
Alas, I was still without at least 5 items on my shopping list. Things just weren’t where they should be. Spices and herbs were with the milk, yogurt and tinned fruit; Eggs were with the frozen foods; I never located the vinegar, I imagine that would be with the bleach or beauty products. This warren (sorry FJ) of convenience, this trap of hell, this prison of consumerism was in danger of causing me to have severe health problems. I battled my way to the check out. Not even daring to take part in one of the “check your own shit out” tills in case I gave myself an anurism. Dear God. If the woman at the checkout smiled she might have cracked her face. She threw my goods down the conveyor past her infrared scanner without a care then just stood there expectedly. Awaiting payment. I had expected a cheery “That would be £34 please”. Instead I got “……”. What? Do I just walk out? No? I need to pay. I am a good citizen. I just came to Asda by mistake. Like Barnsley, It seemed like a good idea at the time and now I am paying for it. I shoved my card into the slot and rammed my PIN numbers into the console. The miserable old cow behind the checkout thanked me by presenting me with my receipt and grunted. Maybe they knew I wasn’t a force to be reckoned with. Maybe I don’t have that “I shop at supermarkets” smell and the staff knew. No doubt they will be sending the comedy inflatable breasted tight fitting PVC catsuited vampiresses after me. I must be prepared.

I got to the carpark. Rolled a cigarette and made a swift departure. But not before I reclaimed my trolley token.

“Never again” I swore.

Until the next time that is.

Poverty Corner and grannies – A whinge

Sometimes I can be a complete snob.

Sorry. But I can be. I dont mean to be. I think its something to do with my upbringing. (I’m the true heir to the throne of England you know*)

Anyway, I was reading on another journal about how people tend to swarm when they see or hear the words “FREE” and “FOOD” and gorge themselves silly. Anyway, it brought to mind a phenomenon in Supermarkets in Liverpool [I don’t have that much experience of supermarkets out of the city I live in only because when I go away the last thing I want to do is grocery shopping, unless of course its at Waitrose but thats understandable]. So feel free to let me know if this is just a localised thing.

Anywotsits, in the supermarkets I’ve been to they tend to have two places, one in a chiller cabinet and one in an ordinary shelf where the supermarket tries to flog off its damaged or close to sell by date but still edible/usable stock for well below the price. You know what I mean it usually turns out to be something that you would never eat anyway like badger paté or kipper cordial or marmite or something.

Example:-

Pristene packets of sliced ham say £2.00 compared to dog eared, shiney slimey ham that someone got from the deli counter then left amongst the cereals for 10p

At certain times of day you can see swarms of pensioners, students and bargain hunters congregating around these parts of the supermarket awaiting the arrival of the next batch of soiled goods.

Now I’m not saying its a bad thing, it isn’t, when I was unemployed I would battle my way through the throngs to get my crushed shortbread biscuits, I’m just pointing out what an amusing sight it is to see hordes of grannies fighting over unpleasant looking duck liver paté for 10p. It’s as if all human decency and manners go out of the window as hair is pulled, groins are elbowed and toes trod on. I suppose after all we are all just animals in a base and primal way.

While Im on the subject of grannies. I dont know whether its the same in the states (you’ll notice I have this fascination with cultural differences which one day I may expand on), but is it me or are pensioners today inconsiderate, rude and ill-mannered?

When I was a kid :-

Grannies :- Awww hasnt he got lovely curly hair. Awww bless. Have some sweeties!
Me :- thankyou

Now:-

Grannies:- Out of the way!
Me:- oooof!

Pensioners today seem to be very rude, they push to the front of queues, hit you with their walking sticks, smell of wee and never smile. They never say “Thank you deary” anymore, nor do they ask “Would you like some sweeties?”. They don’t even have blue rinses, drink tea or bake biscuits.

Whereas pensioners less than 20 years ago were lovely sweet dears with blue hair. They would let you get on the bus first, (or at least offer to which you would politely say “No after you” and you would help them on the bus), they’d invite you in for cups of tea and biscuits, talk about the war and share tales of their youth (Normally starting with the immortal phrase “In my day…”). They would smell of lavender or brut 33, smile with big false teeth smiles and ruffle your curly hair (if you were as unfortunate as me to have curly hair).

When did it go wrong?? I used to hear the cry “Kids today!” but more and more so these days I hear “Pensioners today! They have no manners!!”

My grandparents taught me manners and how to be polite (along with my parents of course), my gran taught me to be the gentleman I am today (I still hold open doors for people of all ages though I tend to let them go in ungrateful peoples faces if they dont say thankyou) and my grandparents were lovely old people full of joy and spirit. Yet it appears that some of todays are being stripped of decency and being taught the ways of the world by rude, obnoxious, piss-smelling biddies…..is it no wonder theres few polite people in the world??….

*= May not be true

>Hell

>

I hate shopping. I really do. If I need something from a shop I’ll go straight to what I need, pay and clear out. I know of people, possibly in need of medical attention, that like to go into shops say for a pint of milk and come out with garden hoses, kitchen sinks, wankle rotary engines and what ever else useless junk they happen to glance their eyes across, a large percentage of my friends of the opposite sex tend to be more guilty of this in my experience though there are a few exceptions.

Anyway, it happend to be grocery night last night so off to the supermarket I went. The supermarket in question was Asda, although if you are from the other side of the pond you will probably know it as Walmart, for it is the same company. Well….let me give you a bit of background…….last year I found a farm shop….locally produced meats, locally produced fruit and veg really cheap…..in fact shopping there threequartered the house shopping bill. Sadly the farm shop shuts at 6pm and I dont normally have time to get there from work and get the stuff in. So reluctantly, because there was no food in the house and we’ve been too busy, we went to the supermarket.

Walking round several things struck me:-

  • In the farm shop you get wholesome misshaped veg, you know like carrots that look like penises and turnips with noses, however the fruit and veg in the supermarket was depressingly uniform….all the carrots same length and thickness, apples all the same colour, no blemishes….the organic stuff….exactly the same only with a bit of mud in the bag. The meat….all uniform prepackaged shite, the fattier the cheaper, the more lean the more expensive. No wonder the UK is becoming a nation of fatties.
  • People walking round the supermarket all looked sullen and depressed. Ashen faced. Cumudgenly. Their kids bored and restless. In the farmshop your fellow shoppers are much happier and say hello and smile and the kids are happy and can look at the animals etc
  • The unhealthy foods are prominent on the displays. Frozen pizzas, frozen burgers, a huge selection of chips. In the farmshop you get none of this as its all fresh stuff although they do have some nice frozen pies

I felt really guilty walking round the supermarket for not supporting local businesses.

I’m starting to take stock of my health again. I’ve slipped back into the “can’t be arsed to cook lets have fast food” routine. I have stopped having my 20 minute walk about the campus. I’m smoking more. Of course I’m not blaming the supermarket for that, but I am blaming it for the food thing. We all need to take stock of what we eat. Stop eating shite go back to what we should eat which is plenty of fruit and veg, vitamins and if you are an omnivore a balance of meat, lean and not injected with crap and chemicals.

Arrrrgh sensible stuff……..

PARSNIPS!