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My weekly Sainsbury shop, I am addicted to this exercise in despairing at modern life

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 8 October 2016

I am the main shopper in this household, spinning down to the local Sainsbury once a week to provide for myself, the Mrs, Joshua and, most importantly of all, my morbidly obese three legged cat Oakley. I work with a mental shopping list and wander around in track suit bottoms to blend in with my fellow shoppers. I plod slowly trying to take in the full horror of life in modern Britain. It is addictive but each week I return to then emerge in ever greater despair.

It is three weeks to Halloween or, for my Manx readers, Hop-tu-Naa. And thus there is a whole aisle stuffed with junk for the festival. 95% of it is either plastic or sugar filled high cal treats to rot the teeth of the nation's young. I wonder what percentage of those celebrating Halloween know of All Soul's Night. I wonder if they can guess from the Manx festival why we, in a (nominally) Christian country, celebrate anything at that time of year at all.

I remember Halloween when I was a child. There was no trick or treating although we might have been making a guy as in "penny for the guy" at this time of year. My mother made toffee apples, we played games with bobbing apples. Perhaps there might be a bit of the fudge and black toffee she was making for November 5th on offer. But there was none of this commercial nonsense.

I note that there are large rows of pumpkins already on sale in Sainsbury's. Buy one now, carve it and watch it go mouldy next week. But still we are urged to buy and carve anyway. I wonder how many of those who do buy and carve will do anything other than throw away what is inside. You can make a cracking pie (it is sweet and so a pudding) or wicked pumpkin soup but how many bother? For my manx readers carving a turnip for Hop-tu-Naa, what you scrape out can be the basis of a fantastic creamy crab soup. But in 2016 Britain we just carve and bin.

Next to the Halloween aisle is the Christmas one. The yuletide started some tiime in early September at Sainsbury's but now, eleven weeks ahead of the event, it is in full swing. The Noel aisle is, like that for Halloween, stuffed with plastic junk or junk snacks. None of it will be anywhere other than clogging arteries or landfill sites by the New Year.

I think back to Christmases in the 1970s to when we decorated a tree brought in from the garden on the 24th and ensured that it was back in the garden by twelfth night to prepare for another year. I remember that Christmas stocking chocolate was such a novelty that we really cherished it, eating it over days to savour the pleasure. I think back forty years when the Church was part of our lives. Do the fat little children of 2016 wandering down the Christmas aisle demanding more sweets from their parents, know why we celebrate Christmas at all? And if they do, do they care?

Eventually I made it to the counter. As a treat for today (for the Mrs, myself and Oakley) I bought a three fresh kippers. The woman at the checkout stared at them and said "I have never seen them like that, they always come in plastic don't they?" Saints preserve us.I thought of trying to explain but my mind was deadened by 45 minutes of shopping and staring so I just stared back blankly

I returned home and want to show the Mrs pictures of a ruined Irish castle with enough fresh water and land to be self sustaining and to urge her to adopt my plans for a Greco-Irish existence away from this appalling modern consumerist existence. I do not. I know that she will stare at me with a look that says "he is barking mad, if I humour him for a while he will calm down: Sainsbury's brings out the worst in him, it will pass."

The madness is in the eye of the beholder. that my anger will pass is another matter. It will not. I shall be back at Sainsbury's in a week and will be annoyed by something else. Last week it was the array of cooking chocolates. It was all so unnecessary and wasteful. Next week I don't know what it will be but it will be something.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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