Sunday, 30 October 2005

Eggs? Coming in tomorrow

We all resent the huge power of the supermarket chains and deplore the effect they are having on our towns, and we all get in the car and go to them for most of our shopping. Happily, within two or three miles of where we live there is an excellent butcher, an excellent greengrocer and a real baker who actually bakes. Fishing boats go to sea from here so we're all right for fish, though much of what is landed passes through quickly on its way elsewhere, and much of what our fishmongers sell comes in from far away.

Napoleon’s jibe might have been accurate in his day. We are now a nation of huge, efficient, rapacious shopkeepers and an ever-reducing number of small shops, some of which are very valuable and some less so. Here are examples of one of each, in reverse order:

Every day on the way to my office I used to walk past something we called The Silly Shop, because that was what it was, and half a dozen times I went inside. The owner had no idea how to buy or sell anything. He began it as a sort of grocery, but he never had what you wanted: “Baked beans? Sorry sir, just sold the last can”. Later he added a fruit and vegetables corner offering some wrinkled parsnips and a couple of dusty lettuces. Then, with increasing desperation, he branched out, and every week or so it was fascinating to see what his latest idea was; sometimes it filled the shop, at others it left it half empty or still had unsold items from the previous one. He tried everything: videocassettes of films you had never heard of, then “Hardboard Cut to Size”, then piles of very old second-hand books with titles like The Wee Laird of Inversnecky, Vol 4, then date-expired cakes, then “Book Your Holidays Here” and, finally, junk. In the two years of its existence, it never contained anything that anyone would want to buy.

At the other end of the scale of usefulness and marketing skill there is this shop. Kept by a genial Irishman, it has the dimensions of a good-sized bathroom but somehow fits in stocks of 795 items and has never failed to provide anything we asked for. Long may it prosper, partly because it deserves to and partly because it is 300 yards from our house.


Minerva said...

And what, may I ask, is an electric top-up? Does it hurt? And is the gas top up worse?

Tony said...

They are cards you use to put in prepayment gas or electricity meters which are no longer coin-in-the-slot.