Monday, 20 December 2010

Little Horror Of Shops

Some of my best friends work in retail so I had better be careful what I say here.

Western consumerism sucks.

Driving back from the Metropolis with a boot loaded with goodies today I heard a piece on the radio about the amount of ‘unwanted gifting’ that goes on. It was in short a plug for a popular auction website masquerading as Radio 2’s attempt at financial journalism. It turns out it's one of the most popular websites on Boxing Day.

We (and I bet that includes you) do buy a lot of useless tat, don’t we? We feel the need to give something, anything at this time of year.

One of the worst traumas of my childhood (no, not the one where a transmitter problem meant Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade with replaced with the Grampian Sheepdog Trials) was going to fetch something from the back of the cellar in our block of flats in Germany. I stumbled across several bottles of Old Spice. I quizzed various relatives and presented my shocking dossier of evidence to the old man. It transpired he’d never had the heart to tell me he couldn’t stand the stink of that aftershave and had squirreled away several years’ worth of Christmas presents, creating a highly flammable arsenal of emotion.

Anyway, the frenzied need to buy buy buy was palpable in Inverness today. The shoppers I passed in the Eastgate and on the High Street all had that hungry look in their eyes. The upstairs bit of M&S was a sea of adrift gentlemen who have to idle their motors while the missus buys frilly things. These guys of course have a plan for the perfect Xmas gift: Whatever is on sale at the petrol station on the way home from work on Dec 24. “Crushed flowers in cellophane and a Dire Straits CD? You shouldn’t have…”

And blimey the chuggers on the High Street were either brave or deranged today. “Spare a minute for a quick survey? I’m not asking for anything.” Yes you blinking well are asking for something and what’s more you’re asking in sub zero temperatures literally hours before Christmas. In parallel with its relaxation of lorry drivers’ working time rules and late arrivals at airports to beat the Big Freeze perhaps the government could ease the rules around whacking chuggers to a cheery pulp with their clipboards.

Mind you, I did get a good bit of schadenfreude today when a swarm of chuggers sitting in a café spilled something all over their ruddy clipboards. Hooray and humbug!

Speaking of schadenfreude and my memories of pungent German cellars I took my mum shopping in Aldi. Shh. Don’t tell Wife Features. I want the suspiciously cheap sausage I bought for Christmas dinner to be a surprise.

In fact, Aldi did OK for a reasonably ethical (picky in other words) shopper like me. The veg I bought was all Scottish, as was the chicken and loads of other stuff. I couldn’t see anything labelled organic but the fruit was Fairtrade. And of course the beauty of Aldi or Lidl is the random nature of the store. I swear the line up in one aisle went like this: chicken, Haribo, thermal underwear, dog biscuits, cottage cheese.

Anyway, at least it means fewer of my pounds going to Tesco and what‘s more the place was almost deserted so I got what I needed in good time.

I lived in Germany in the 80s so I’m familiar with bright orange sausages in a jar of yellow fluid, massive ingots of marzipan covered in dark chocolate and tins of cola where you really can taste the vegetable extract.

Oh, and I remember a couple of years ago when the Aldi was being built in Inverness (at the roundabout between Telford Street and Kenneth Street) and due to professional purposes I learned the name of the man overseeing its construction. Mr Liddle.

Now, I wonder how the Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed will react to the new brand of nappy she‘ll soon be wearing: Einmalwindel auch bekannt als Windelhoschen. Sehr gut!

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