If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 18 January 2010


I've just done the weekly shop. I use Morrison's, as they took the Safeway supermarket over, and kept the staff, who were friendly and helpful. Tesco is a much bigger shop (I can't bring myself to say 'store') and has a much better selection of stuff, but the building gives me the heeby-jeebies and it's inconvenient to get to (council estate, loads of mini-roundabouts and 'speed cushions' that wreck your car). But Morrison's is more convenient - out of the lane, turn left, turn left, turn left into car park; out of car park, turn left, turn left, turn left, home. No speed bumps, no chavs, no old Rovers 'parked' in the road, no mini-roundabouts, no crossing junctions in rush hour. Simples.

One problem: Shopping in Morrison's is like shopping in Soviet Russia. If you want to buy something and it's in stock, fine. If it isn't, well, that's not their problem.

Firelighters. I prefer the ones that are wrapped in thin plastic. Easier to use, less smell, you don't get the reek of whatever-it-is on your hands, and you can leave the fire made up and ready for days and know that the magic fire ingredient won't evaporate away in the meantime. They are a few pence more expensive, but hey. Thing is, they either have loads of these in, and the shelves are groaning with wrapped firelighters (and nothing else), or they have none at all, and they are missing for weeks. In those dark days, it's the unwrapped or, horror of horrors, Morrison's own brand, which stink like an oil refinery, crumble to nanoparticles, and last about 30 seconds. It isn't possible, by careful planning, to always have a few at home, unless you bulk-buy in a way that would shame Margaret Thatcher. It's the wrapped ones for a month, and then the others for a month. So last time they had the wrapped ones in, I did what I despise in other people, and cleared their stock out. Four big boxes. Today, I looked for them again. Nothing.

It's the same with tonic water. Anna insists on proper Schweppes tonic with quinine. Some days, all they have is Schweppes tonic with quinine. Some days, all they have is soda water. Or lemonade. I mean hundreds of bottles. How hard is it to order stock so that there is a moderate quantity of all the things that people might want?

And it's the same with the nicotine lozenges that I still purchase, three sodding years after giving up smoking. Shelves full of Morrison's own, at 36 for £3.99. Or, shelves full of NiQuitin, at £12.91 for 72. Either, but not both. And sometimes neither, for days at a time. As any addict will tell you, it's no use saying we have some coming in in the next few days. Those are the times I head off to Tesco.

Morrison's. Soviet Russia in pleasant yellow and green.

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