I’M growing less enamoured of supermarkets. You may recall that, irrationally, I’ve spoken before in their favour. That’s why I try not to get enthusiastic about anything: I always regret it.

Ill-considered positivity saw me extol these huge boutiques as the nearest I got to a social club, discotheque or dating venue. There were people of all shapes and sizes, and the overweight ones piling multi-packs of crisps onto their groaning trolleys made me feel good about myself.

Oddly, supermarkets lack posh customers, even with no Waitrose nearby. Perhaps the posh have niche shops down hidden lanes. Another possibility is that today’s posh disguise themselves in baseball caps and hoodies. Only the aspirational lower middle class wear waxed jackets and pink corduroy trousers.

But the absence of posh people was yet another bonus. Yet now I’m rethinking my affection for supermarkets and considering going to … small shops. Previously, I’ve been critical of these.

The butcher or fishmonger might ask you complicated questions about chump or chuck-eye or sell you a kipper with its eyes still on. Small shops take me back to the teenage nightmare of buying vinyl albums in record stores run by scowling middle-aged men who preferred Mantovani to Man. It was plucking up the courage to return scratched records to these monsters that made me into a man.

In the city, I’d frequent second-hand bookshops, which were almost all run by nutcases with halitosis of the personality.

But there are some of these in supermarkets too. A small minority, granted. The vast majority must be lauded for their patience and also for their selflessness during Covid’s height. But there are some mad ones.

Years ago, at an Edinburgh Sainsbury’s, a member of staff always laughed in my face. Before every visit I’d to tell myself: “Don’t deck him. You’ll go to prison and lose your job.”

He seemed in charge of the tills, had a peculiar name beginning with C, wore trousers too long for him and stood Charlie Chaplin-style with his feet at ten to two.

Could have been a Hearts supporter: they’re often aggressive bullies. Perhaps he’d seen me on CCTV covering up the hunting and shooting magazines. That was me: a pioneer of cancel culture.

Maybe he was a fan laughing at something witty I’d inadvertently written. Once before, to my embarrassment, I’d confronted someone and that had been their excuse. I contented myself that it must be that, particularly as I’ve written frequently about supermarkets and am regarded in the industry as a leading expert.

But that was all in the past. I still loved supermarkets then. I do not now. They attract the wrong sort. Ours are heaving with tourists. The foreign ones lack spatial decency. Middle-aged Britishers in shorts, socks and sandals stand with bovine expressions staring at the cuts of meat.

Almost certainly, they drive camper vans, for which the main qualifications are a driving licence and a lobotomy.

As for choice, you can’t get a Quorn sausage roll where I live. I look forward excitedly to visits to city supermarkets, thinking they’ll have better whiskies or syphilis gels but it’s the same limited range. That’s the trouble with capitalism: so little choice.

I’m lucky where I live, in the back of beyond, because we’ve a fabulous village shop with great staff. It’s like Friends where everybody knows your name or at least that it’s yon beardie bloke who talks tripe. And when they laugh, I know they’re laughing with me. Pretty sure of it anyway.

Rockin’ robin

THIS’LL amuse and amaze you. You know how I play the guitar an’ that, and that I’m genuinely rubbish. It’s the pesky strings: if it weren’t them for these, I’d be quite good.

Seriously, I hit the wrong notes, can’t be bothered learning songs and, instead, just noodle away aimlessly. However, it passes the time until, listening to rap on his headphones, the Grim Reaper turns up.

Well, every time I crank up my Lidl Stratocaster, a wee robin appears on the wooden yellow railing outside the window and sits and listens. No joking. He looks straight at me. Sometimes, he bobs his wee heid, possibly in his best effort at headbanging along to my ballads. It’s uncanny, ken?

You say: “When he hears the racket, he associates it with yon beardie galoot – you – and knows you’re one of these pathetic saps who bungs out food for the peerie feathered loons.”

Nope. He’s not that reliant on me for vittles at this time of year and, when I put some out, he doesn’t much bother with it. He’s here for the sound. Perhaps he thinks it’s my mating call: a discordant wail of despair.

Perhaps if I put food out for people, I’d make more friends. A wee steak pie in the feeder. Actually, as I’ve exclusively revealed in this column, I’ve loads of pals. But they’re all pals from ages past. Haven’t made a new one in ages. Maybe that happens as you get older.

In the meantime, I should learn some songs by The Housemartins, The O’Jays and The Partridge Family. Probably give The Eagles, Cat Stevens and Them Crooked Vultures a miss, though.

Shops are now pound foolish

It was only a matter of time. The cost of living crisis means the pound shop is now the £1.25 shop. Cue much wailing of teeth on yon Twitter. In other devastating news, McDonald’s has put its cheeseburgers up from 99p to £1.19. Pretty sure I read about this in the Book of Revelation.


Spain’s prime minister Humphrey Sanchez has urged officer workers to stop wearing ties. This will reduce reliance on fans and air-conditioners, thus breaking the energy stranglehold of yon Putin, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – along with Kim Yong-Loon, Alistair Khameni and Wotsname Jinping. They must be quaking in their satanic stirrups.

Another fin mess

Britishers know nothing about fancy foreign fish, according to a survey. No wonder. Sashimi, ceviche, frito misto: such a lot of nonsense. In addition, half of us have never peeled prawns, prepared mussels or “shucked” oysters. Rightly so. Prawns look like giant insects, mussels are dodgy, and oysters excite the senses distressingly.

Born and bread

Pre-packed sandwiches are another part of the British way of life under threat. Working from home has lessened demand, and factories can’t get staff after Brexit reduced the cheap foreign labour that liberals need to service their wishes. Fortunately, other traditional British dishes such as curry and spag bol remain available.

You think?

Research from yonder Japan suggests that when people put away their phones, or even books, and just sit thinking for 20 minutes, they find it surprisingly enjoyable. However, the study has led to fears that people might start taxing the rich, running their own affairs and banning the bicycle. Remember: it’s the thought that counts.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.