Friday, 29 July 2011


My daughter and I went to Sainsburys with my mother today and all three generations coped without tears or tantrums. This was a minor miracle.

My mother shops with the ruthless determination of a professional homemaker. She goes to the the same Sainsburys every week at the same time with a carefully made list, prods meat, circles the fruit stands until fresh goods are unpacked rather than buy a banana that isn't green. She weighs her fruit and veg, snaps the stems off the broccoli and forages right to the back for the best sell by dates. She knows the ladies on the tills by name and uses a system of plastic containers introduced by Sainsbury's some years ago that mean she never uses a single plastic bag. When she gets home she actually checks the things off against the things on the receipt which only varies within pence from week to week. She believes in Sainsbury's Basics with calvinistic zeal, for a carefully monitored list of products, but will only buy absolutely the best if she thinks it necessary, for instance, cocoa powder for her heavenly chocolate cake. If you want my mother to feel that you are a sensible person, tell her that you would never, ever consider buying pork on Sainsbury's online.

My daughter and I are the type of shoppers that drive my mother to distraction: no lists, no plan, meandering around the aisles aimlessly, leaving the trolley while we run to the toilets, loosing the trolley, finding stuff we fancy at random, daughter running off, me never even having a menu in mind. You would never think we are the ones that are both time and money poor. Unlike my professional shopper mother we shop as a leisure pursuit on a saturday and play games like:' find the jabba jockeys', (otherwise known as jammy dodgers) and fetch the first thing you see that begins with 'f' (or whichever letter needs a bit of practice).

Today's minor shopping miracle included my mother making a rare random purchase on a cardigan for her granddaughter. She even asked X to find the 'f' for Flash and only swapped it for the Sainsbury's Basics cleaning product after X had turned away. We drove home happy that the task had been so satisfactorily completed. X didn't rip open anything and eat it straight from the packet in the back of the car.

After we got home my mother came to me in distress. She'd been doing her normal inventory and the cardigan wasn't there. It took a little while and a call to Sainsburys (helped knowing the name of the lady at the checkout and the fact she always goes to the same island in Greece on her holidays) to establish that the cardigan had not been found at the checkout. And then I realised what had happened: when we got home I'd casually slung some stuff I'd bought in the back of my car. No checking off the things on my list, no careful unpacking, no checking anything against the receipt, no sorting by sell by date - everything just slung any- old-how in the boot of the car. The cardigan my mother had bought was also there.

We were so pleased to have found the cardi that we all has a kiss and child did a twirl. But later, when I managed to break a sherry glass, my mother tartly told me she couldn't believe she had brought up such a careless daughter. It's day six of our week's holiday with my parents and, though it has been a lovely break, maybe it is nearly time we took our slovenly selves home again.

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