Shopping on Christmas ante-eve is, frankly, a heart-breakingly stupid thing to attempt. There are several problems with it (though, note well Ms Williams, no-one to my knowledge dispensed with all pretense of civilisation …), all of which are accentuated by the plain simple fact that at such times these shops operate well above capacity. The aisles are designed for about half the number walking round hoovering up goods like the apocalypse was coming. This in itself is a right royal pain, but the constant hoovering means constant re-stocking, which turns the normally free-flowing aisles into a microcosmic M25 in the snow.
But this is not very exciting, or even interesting. I buy lots of stuff, and have a discussion regarding the pronunciation of paprika. Is it papp – reeka, or is it papree-ka? This is hardly high-end stuff.
So. A trolley stuffed full of stuff, I park and carefully load it onto the conveyor belt, keen to make my packing as efficient as possible, and to take up as little space as possible. On doing this, I notice the couple to my right … late 50s/early 60s, and note in him the faintest tremor. As I may have mentioned before, I want to reach out (metaphorically speaking) … but I don’t. One reason is that just after I notice, and I start processing, my careful packing encounters a design flaw on the check-out. Where the ‘next person’ shopping dividers are kept all slidily convenient, they encroach upon the belt. The belt advances, the dividers remain aloof. The shopping accommodates.
It does rather more than accommodate, however, as one of the bottles of wine simply makes way, leaping suicidally onto the floor, where it bursts spectacularly at my fellow-shopper’s feet.
I’m sure Ms Williams would have assaulted me with her celery, or something, for daring to invade her tiny, super-important, ever-so-amazing world … luckily, the real world is populated with people who have real problems, and for whom life truly is too short to worry about such things. I think Sainsbury’s paid to have his jeans dry-cleaned. And that was that.
I hit my head on the bottom corner of a kitchen cabinet door while loading the fridge. That’s how thrilling a day I had. But I take perverse pleasure in these interactions. As Lear would have said while waiting for the Gloucesters to visit for dinner: let me clean the kitchen. It smells of … mortality.