Saturday, 10 March 2018


I have just been to our local Tesco to replenish stocks.

I walked there, to the undoubted delight of my Fitbit which will be able to congratulate me on the humber of steps I have taken (14,042 so far today) and the distance I have covered (10.9 kilometres). It sends me messages telling me I am an over-achiever - so many steps over my daily target most days. Then it invites me to set myself a higher target. I think about it, briefly and not very seriously, because if I were to do that it might have to start to admonish me for not meeting my daily target. So I just stay with the status quo.

David Sidaris, who occasionally does very wryly funny talks on the radio about his life experiences, once described his experience with a Fitbit. He began modestly with a target 10,000 steps a day. Quickly he upgraded his target to 20,000 and easily made the grade. He walked around his village, picking up litter as he went, simultaneously meeting a different, more ecological, target. He moved through 30,000, 40,000 and rambled further and further afield. The higher his target, the more obsessive he became about it. He had to meet his target and, no doubt, receive the Fitbit badges saying what an achiever he was. It was taking up more and more of his day. There was little time left to do anything else. His partner was complaining; this was worse than if David were having an affair.

He had got up to a target of 60,000 daily steps, possibly more, and had not found a way out of his dilemma, when his Fitbit broke. He did not replace it!

Such are the perils of letting an amusing little gadget tell you what to do!
It was a pleasant walk to the supermarket. The weather was mild, almost springlike. I followed the bus route for part of the way, planning to hop on one if it came along, None did so I went off road and followed the towpaths and bridle paths the rest of the way.

The supermarket shelves were strangely bare. Empty spaces with the notice “temporarily out of stock” abounded on the fruit and vegetable shelves. Even the fish counter was sadly depleted and I am usually quite impressed.

What was going on?

I know that there has been deep snow around here and for at least one day the Co-op store in the village closed because it simply ran out of stuff to sell and the shop assistants who lived outside the village could not get in. And I am aware that there is still snow lying in places: big, dirty mounds at the side of some roads, pushed into drifts there by snow ploughs when the weather was really bad, and cleaner mounds in the fields, blown into drifts against the stone walls. All very picturesque! But the roads have been clear for days, or so I am told.

So why have Tesco’s supply lorries not restocked the shelves?

Did they not realise I was due back and would be food-shopping today? It’s not good enough!

While I scanned the vegetable shelves to see just what was available, one of the shop assistants, also scanning the shelves, turned to me, pointed to the parsnips, of which there were perhaps a dozen scrawny specimens remaining and asked me if they were turnips. I put her wise. So she asked me if the store had any turnips. What did a turnip look like, she wanted to know. No, I told her, there were no turnips on the shelves. I described a turnip. She looked puzzled. Then I spotted one of the things I was looking for, a pre-packed ‘stew veg’ pack containing an onion, some carrots and parsnips, a swede, but no turnip. I introduced her to the swede, which has a vague similarity to a turnip, although you could never really confuse the two. “oh”, she said, “and we definitely have no turnips?” Once more I had to disappoint her! As we separated she thanked me for my help.

Minutes later - not even long enough in time for me to have moved far with my trolley - I overheard another customer asking another assistant whether they had any packs of “stew veg”. The young man gave her a blank stare. She explained what she was looking for. He still looked blank. So I held up my purchase and said that this was probably what she was looking for. The customer’s eyes lit up (Saturday shoppers in a depleted store are easy to please) until I revealed that I had taken the last off the shelf (shoppers are also easily disappointed). Still looking blank, the young man told her they only had what was on the shelves, confirming my belief that replenishments have been slow to arrive!

But what is it with the young shop assistants who cannot recognise vegetables? Did nobody ever read them children’s story books about enormous turnips?

I should perhaps apply for a job in customer service!

It had started raining, just like Galicia, when I came out of the supermarket. Consequently I caught the bus back!

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