Checkout challenge

How did I find myself with all the enthusiasm of a condemmed man entering the local supermarket complete with Roy Cropper shopping bag as displayed here? Of course I blame my brother Robert, something I've been doing ever since there was someone else in the family younger than me to shuffle responsibility onto. And since that's all of nearly 60 years it's a wonder he's still speaking to me.

But speak to me he does, and it was over tea at his house on Monday we got onto the shopping habits of the brothers McKinnie. Youngest brother Andy meticulously goes through all the locals rags to cut out supermarket discount vouchers and then motors around the various shops to get the best bargains. Robert took over his household shopping a year or so ago when his working hours changed and he decided he could knock £30 a week off the shopping bill that resulted from Amanda's and Sophie's more creative shopping expeditions.

It was when we came on to my methodolgy that the trouble started. Linda and I have come to an amicable agreement which fulfils both our shopping desires... Linda to have the time to browse and weight up the bargains, me to get the whole painful exercise over as quickly as possible. I sit in bliss in the car reading a good book and listening to Radio 3 and give Linda twenty minutes to get near the checkout, then I breeze in to select a couple of my things (nice bread, wine) before proceeding to the checkout and then away. Sorted!

Robert wasn't happy with this. It defied belief and brought out in him a sense of outrage. How could I do that? Was it not my duty to assist Linda in the executive decision making over tins of beans? How did Linda feel about this? Did she not long for me to accompany her down the aisle of toilet rolls, (as though in a mock recreation of our marriage)?

Ignoring Linda's firm 'NO!', Robert challenged me on the next available occasion to do the shopping and report back. I had to do my own list and complete the excercise with the minimum of assistance.

So I dragged myself through the doors yesterday at 11:55. Immediately assaulted by the very loud music playing over the speaker system. As usual some female pouring her heart out about how she'd been wronged, all summed up in about four words repeated above what sounded like a pneumatic drill rock band. If they played classical music I might hang around for a while... since the supermarket clientele at that time of day look like a coach party from the local old folks home softer music might be much more appropriate. I have hung around the manager tempted to complain a few times, but I've realised it's Co-op Radio they play and the 16 year old who makes up the playlist thinks Beethoven is a film star in the form of a slobbering St Bernard dog.

First job is to consult the list, shown below. Yes, it's in my handwriting. No, I didn't construct it myself... the helpful explanatory notes from Linda make that pretty obvious. And I'd still have been wandering around 24 hours later looking for things if the list wasn't in order of aisle presentation. And yes, it is amazing how I managed to keep my handwriting under control as the list grew, in spite of my increasing sense of despondency and panic.

First selection, apples. Now, I'm all for choice. Choice is good. It's what free market capitalism is all about. But is it really necessary to have 110 different brands of identical looking (and no doubt tasting) apples? And then to smudge up the price differentials by putting special offers on the more expensive varieties so it's really difficult to decide which is the best offer? Here's a small selection of what was on offer.

The next selection was grapes. I not only had to check they looked OK, but also had to open the bag to check they smelled right. Trouble was, there were no grapes at about £1.40... all priced about twice as much. Decided I could just about exist for another week without grapes.

Two items into the list and I'd decided I was never going to make a success of this. Really hard to appy logic to any selections, and now a different young lady was screaming her lungs out over the speakers telling all how she felt about her ex-boyfriend, all in words of one syllable. Terminally bored. Time to just grab and run.

So the rest of the list was completed within 15 minutes, including asking Linda where to find tinned mandarin oranges and a packet of Calgol tablets. Linda was there? Yes, of course she was. She went off to browse the Christmas aisle (in early November... don't get me started on that!) and no doubt keep an eye on me. Oh, and to get a packet of grapes on offer at the target price I'd completely missed.

Linda bolstered my confidence by informing me, since we'd been away and were part way into the standard week, this was only a third of the normal shop. As shown below, looked suspiciously like a full car boot load to me! Will I be repeating the exercise again? For both our sanity, NO!

PS... to date, one day after, we've found I got the wrong tinned tomatoes. More errors will no doubt be revealed.

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