Sunday, October 05, 2003
Local Shops for Local People
Probably like loads of Londoners, I rarely have time for local shopping. I'm hardly at home during the week. I leave early for a gym 'n' swim (yeah, yeah, I'm an insufferably smug git: you'll learn to love me in time); and, when I return home, only the mini-market, the three offies, and Ali's Northern-Fried Halal Rat-Burgers are open for business.
So most of my grocery shopping gets done anonymously at Sainsbury's. I can do it on-line, and, what's more, they deliver. Occasionally, I'll drop by Chapel Market for a stack of cheapo loo rolls, the Sunday farmers' market for cheese, or breeze into the Islington Marks and Sparks (they have a very yummy young man working one of the checkouts, and that's excuse enough for this shallow and superficial Stranger).
On Saturdays I'm usually too brain-dead from the previous week (and/or Friday night), that any activity involving person-to-person contact, including shopping, is a definite no-no until about eight p.m. that evening.
This Saturday, however, for the first time in a couple of years, I braved the local shops just five minutes' walk from my flat. Within three tiny blocks, I discovered: a florists naffly-named Austin Flowers and a swish designer-glassware store; a post office, two chemists and three newsagents; two butchers and one fruit 'n' veg; a dry-cleaners and an overpriced hardware store; a greasy spoon and an undertaker's; four Tandoori restaurants, three organic health-food places, two crusty bakers and one Italian deli.
The baker gave me a free cream-bun, and the chemist offered me advice for my "little problem"; the deli-man told me just how al dente my pasta should be; and, when I asked the butcher to spatchcock my chicken, he actually knew what I was talking about, rather than threatening to call in the authorities.
I could get used to this support-your-local-retailers lark. I might not get points on my Nectar card, but at least Jamie Oliver doesn't work for them. And the cashiers smile back at you as well.