A hot, sunny Sunday morning in the bottom right-hand bit of England …


We’d both had our breakfast by 7.30 this morning.  Muesli with organic milk followed by a huge glass of orange juice for Elsie; muesli with apple juice followed by two cups of coffee for me.  We’d also collected today’s eggs.

By 8.45 we were back home after having watered the big allotment, which is only half a mile away, and picked just over 10kg of rhubarb.  (We watered the little allotment yesterday)

By 9.15 we’d also watered the garden by means of watering cans, there being a hosepipe ban in force, and picked another 3kg of rhubarb while we were at it.

At 9.45, I got on my bike to nip to Waitrose to get a few bits and bobs and some cash out of the machine, having by then made a start on chopping the rhubarb which Elsie was still washing.  Before I left, I took a quick snap for those of you who have might have difficulty envisaging what 13kg of rhubarb looks like …

Actually, that’s probably just under 10kg of it on account of how the first five jars were already in the water bath by then and there was a fair amount of it in the big bowl out of frame to the right.  Note in the background a large and very scrummy organic orange from the farm shop just outside town, which Elsie had been grating the rind off prior to us sharing it later.  The orange, that is.  Not the rind.

And now you want to know what that’s about.  Well, it’s just one of the many things that we do which we can’t understand why normal people don’t do.   We freeze the grated rind of organic oranges to use in our Awesome Carrot Cake, the secret recipe for which I might one day be persuaded to reveal.

Right, where was I?  Yes, Waitrose.  That’s it.  So I get the items on my little list, and then wander round the fruit and veg section before heading to the checkout.  It’s just one of those things I do by way of quiet amusement.  For example, only a couple of days ago I was intrigued to spot bags of fresh basil each labelled in large print “MAJESTIC BASIL”, so I asked a nearby Waitrose person what the difference was between MAJESTIC BASIL and adjective-less basil in lower case.  She didn’t know for sure, but suggested that it was “just marketing really”.  I guess she was right, because their fresh rosemary is ROMANTIC ROSEMARY, their fresh tarragon is TANTALIZING TARRAGON, and so on.

What a great deal of nonsense.

This morning I spotted the “fresh” rhubarb.  Only it was anything but.  It was half-dead rhubarb, fit only for the compost heap.  According to the shelf-edge ticket, though, it was “essential Waitrose rhubarb”.

And it was £5.99 a kilo.  Yes, £2.72 a pound.  For rhubarb.  Which grows itself.  In practically any soil, anywhere.  Anybody who can lay claim to a square meter of soil can grow rhubarb until it comes out their ears.  But if they can’t, they can pay £5.99 a kilo for it from Waitrose.  And if that’s not expensive enough for them, they can pay £7.98 a kilo for the same thing properly trimmed and packed in a plastic bag.  To save you doing the arithmetic, you’re looking at over £50-worth of rhubarb there, and that’s at the lowest Waitrose price.

Some trips to our local Waitrose are obviously more entertaining than others, but I was in luck this morning, for I was first through a checkout manned by a very earnest-looking young man called James.  James had what I assume to be a trendy haircut, and was also wearing glasses of the “designer” type.  He was very neat and tidy, and he smelled pretty.  (I was going to say “smelled like a tart’s handbag” but thought the better of it.)

James had obviously been instructed to engage the customers in conversation, so after asking me if I needed any bags today rather than if I needed any bags, he enquired how I was today.  I had a feeling I knew what I was in for, so in an effort to head it off I just said “I am very well, today, thank you”.  But that, and avoiding eye contact, didn’t work.

“Looks like another hot one today.” says he.

“Yes”, says I.  I forget what the next cliché was, but I just kept on packing my groceries and I didn’t respond to it.  However, with but a couple of items left to scan, he hit me with “Are you doing anything interesting today“?

Now … if this had been a Walmart checkout in Asscrack, Arkansas or wherever, I’d have had no problem whatsoever with that.  But this is England, and I for one am not a fan of this sudden craze for supermarket staff “engaging the customer” whilst going through a checkout.  However, I was in a good mood this morning so just I looked at him, smiled and said “Would you do me a favour please?  Back off with the cheery chat and just tell me what the total is?”.

Alas, the poor lad was offended.  “It’s not cheery chat!” says he, petulantly.  “I’m just talking”.

It’s probably just as well that by now, two more customers had moved into line behind me, so I no longer had the opportunity to explain to young James that the art of “engaging” with customers involves noting the way in which they react to what you say and tailoring your spiel accordingly.   And if the customer is obviously not a keen conversationalist, the best thing to do is just think “grumpy bugger” and zip it.

Whatever, I was back home to Elsie and the rhubarb-bottling before 10.30, with the remainder of the chopping-up to do while she did the processing.  That and general faffing took us to 11.30 and thoughts of getting our lunch together which, being but common people, we call dinner.  That involves picking and washing the lettuce, carrots and the assorted greens which only Elsie eats, cutting up hard-boiled eggs and wondering why whichever ones you buy, shop tomatoes never have as much taste as the home-grown ones which won’t be ready for ages yet.

In case you’re wondering, Elsie had some mysterious frozen left-over stuff with pasta in it which looked horrible but apparently tasted OK when reheated thoroughly, and I had my usual organic cheddar sandwich followed by one with homemade jam in it.  Organic wholemeal bread, of course.

So why am I telling you good people all this stuff?  Frankly, it’s because the sun is blazing down outside as it has been since it got up this morning, there’s not a breath of air, and it’s far too hot to do anything much more energetic than sit here in front of the computer with the blind down while Elsie reclines on the sofa in the kitchen reading her book about who’s really running the country.

Come this evening though, we’ll be running round like mad things …


5 responses

  1. At least in Asscrack, Arkansas, we manage to do our shopping without offending the checkout clerk. I guess it’s different in Butthole, Berkshire.

  2. Thank you for making me smile. I love your productivity. (Not so wild about the clerk’s attempts at conversation/chatty customer service!)

  3. Sounds idyllic! Apart from the overly-chatty chap in Waitrose, of course. That drives me nuts too. I think we can blame American corporations for that particular style of “customer service”… Last week I had a checkout girl who was so intent in finding out what sort of day I was having that the receipt showed she scanned three of my items twice, and then I had to go and queue at the customer service desk because the girl didn’t have the authority to sort it out herself. Leave me in peace, please!

  4. I don’t feel like chatting at the checkout most of the time either. I think they do that so you won’t notice when they overcharge you for something. Here when you go to walmart, they often have the wrong price on things and charge more than they say on the price tag. It ticks me off. I’ve seen Rhubarb at the store and my old neighbors ( they don’t live here anymore) used to raise it, but I’ve never tasted it or used it before,
    Oh and I read your post about the checkout chat out loud to the husband and he agreed with every word of it, he truly is a grump sometimes. He just wants to check out pay the bill and go.