Friday 14 March 2008

The sound of selfishness

14st 6lb, which could have been an awful lot worse, all things considered (I forgot to mention that the grub at the working men’s club last night was improbably good); zero alcohol (no, really); 1,421; Prendwick.

This morning I called on some neighbours to see whether they could shed any light on the extraordinary behaviour I encountered at the Tory fund-raiser last night. Had there been any reports of out-of-control alcoholism or Alzheimer’s which might explain or excuse the verbal assault I suffered? They had heard nothing out of the ordinary, though both pointed out that my assailant’s wife has been palpably off her trolley for years, and that sort of thing might well be catching, or at any rate inclined to push a spouse dangerously close to the edge. After some thought, one shrewdly observed that the gentleman in question had also spent much time and effort brown-nosing his way onto the board of a local institution, which had promptly sunk with all hands, and that this disappointment might well have had an adverse effect on his mental balance.

In short, I learned nothing; but at least I hoped I might have set off an avalanche of malicious gossip that will now cascade through the locality.

With truly astonishing hypocrisy, even by my standards, I next paid an eager visit to Alnwick’s new, out-of-town Sainsbury’s, which will undoubtedly squeeze what little life is left out of the town centre shops that haven’t already been converted into charity recycling centres. I have been publicly championing small retailers for years, and genuinely do as much of shopping as I can at my local village shop, and at the independent butchers, grocers and delicatessens of Rothbury, Alnwick and Longframlington. Yet there are some things which only a supermarket seems to sell, and for these I have had to trek 40 miles to Newcastle, given my reluctance to shop at what has been variously called Broughs / Liptons / Amos Hinton / Presto / Safeway / Morrisons in Alnwick. Now some serious local competition has finally arrived. It looked much like any other new Sainsbury’s, and all around one heard the classic Alnwick complaint, “There’s a lot of good stuff here, but it’s very expensive.” I don’t suppose that’s true for a minute, but if the belief keeps the riff-raff out, then it’s just fine by me. One striking contrast with the town’s established supermarket is that the staff have evidently been trained to smile and converse with their customers. My last memorable interaction at the other place was when an overweight youth took me to task for attempting to use force to release one of their defective trolleys, into which I had inserted a pound coin to no avail. I don’t think you can sink much lower than to be accused of stupidity by the sort of fat moron who is engaged to collect up the used trolleys from a supermarket car park.

After a commendably light lunch, the dog and I took a spirit-raising walk in the hills from Prendwick, up past the splendidly named Thieves Road plantation and out into the glorious Cheviot Hills.

The glorious Cheviot Hills (David in NZ, eat your heart out)

What could possibly mar the peace and beauty of this wonderful place? Absolutely nothing apart from some idiot roaring around in the distance on an unsilenced trail bike, which made a racket varying in pitch from the buzzing of a very large and angry hornet trapped in glass lampshade to the scream of a Stuka divebomber with airbrake failure. Which just goes to show that there is nowhere in this island so remote or beautiful that some selfish twat will not attempt to ruin it for everyone else.

The dog and I paused to pay our respects at the lonely stone erected at the spot where Eleanor Heron expired of hypothermia while attempting to walk home across the hills to Hartside on 3 December 1863.

Nellie Heron's stone

As we walked on, I thought of that other apparent victim of the hills whose death has been so extensively reported in the last few days, and the numerous highly inappropriate jokes on the subject subsequently circulated by text and e-mail. Many of these have involved plays on the word “copper” or made upsetting references to the flying abilities of pigs. I shook my head sadly. Then I laughed out loud. I do hope that nobody heard me.


Helios said...

And there was me thinking that Sainsbury's sole purpose was to keep the riff raff out of Waitrose....

Another entertaining post and the scenery is indeed marvelous.

Keith Hann said...

Alnwick lost the chance to secure its dream retailer when Kwik Save went bust. Though if I had the slighest spark of entrepreneurial spirit, I'd open a shop specializing in cut-price, flood-damaged tinned goods, from which the labels had all been soaked off. I'm sure it would be an absolute winner. I believe that the late Benny Hill was a great devotee of one such establishment, making lunch at his house a real adventure.

As things stand, in Alnwick the Co-op keeps the riff-raff out of Iceland, which distracts them from Morrisons, and now Sainsbury's stands at the top of the tree. We middle class types (and aspirants) can only dream of Waitrose, whose nearest branch is 40 miles away in Hexham. And one Hexham resident told me the other day that it isn't doing very well as you have to pay 40p to use the Waitrose car park, while the neighbouring Tesco's is free.

Says it all, really, don't you think?

Helios said...

I myself am a huge fan of the Ocado service but I have tarted around and both Sainsbury and Tesco's deliveries are not too bad either. I buy all the heavy stuff from then once a month allowing my conscience to be salved as I then frequent my local shops in the interim. However, disaster was nearly encountered during one of my earlier forays in the interweb shopping when I found the Ocado delivery man wandering with a somewhat perplexed look on his face. Guessing he was looking for me, I approached only to be asked by him if I knew of a nursing home nearby. It would seem that my errant ordering of 300 toilet rolls had led him to the conculsion that my needs were somewhat greater than those of a single gal in a one bedroom flat. However, very understanding he turned out to and rather than me having to convert the study into a paper product storage facility, he kindly adjusted the order and returned to base with my embarassment. All I could think was thank God I hadn't mistyped the accommpanying order for a packet of Durex. (In case you're wondering how that fits with the notion of 'single gal', I am nothing if not prepared). At least such disasters are unlikely to happen as you glide the trolley round Sainsbury. But then again, if you ordered your shopping online, that would further reduce your chances of bumping into the goyd (Girl of your dreams) next to the rotisserie chickens. Shop on dear friend, shop on...