If you had asked me some years ago how I spent my ‘down time’ and what floated my boat for relaxing on my own, I probably would have told you how I loved to read, write, watch films, go in the bath, and breath Yorkshire air. These are still true, but I’m slowly realising that I’ve added a new one to this list – visiting the supermarket.
As a child, I did not enjoy going to the supermarket. Probably because it was a family outing with my two siblings and our poor mum who was probably cursing under her breath as we fought with each other around each aisle and then nipped each other’s legs in the car on the way home. At university, I didn’t mind it but didn’t love it. It was a gimmick to go with my friends at the beginning and buy noodles and cheap rum, but the novelty soon wore off. And when I moved in with my husband, it was just something we did to get it out of the way, to get the weekly ‘big shop’ in.
Fast-forward to now, I have two children and most weekly shopping trips involve me and my son on a Monday morning, stocking up for the week, and, without exception, there is some bribery involved – either a magazine or a chocolate egg, to encourage my son not to have a wobbly moment before we finish. Admittedly, this gets easier as he is getting older. He no longer thinks it is a thrill to run towards the automatic doors or pick up everything he can see. And when we shop on a weekend and my daughter joins us, thankfully they no longer argue over who sits in the trolley. But along the way there have been some horrible supermarket moments, such as the time we went on a family visit to a local store and my daughter threw up from her trolley seat straight onto the floor. Nice. I felt genuine respect for the store assistant who cleaned it up that day. Or the time my son embarked on a ‘lying on the floor and screaming’ tantrum at the checkout next to me. This feels like a rite of passage for small kids, they all have to do it. And whichever grown-up is with them has to do the following – feel mortified, sweat a lot, avoid eye contact with other grown-ups for fear of a sympathetic or judging stare, and get out of there quickly.
So, given all of this reader, you might be forgiven for wondering what planet I am on that visiting a supermarket has made it into my list of top things to do to relax by myself. I’m with you. But there is a time when the children are in school and nursery, and I have a window of opportunity to get to a shop by myself. A small window, but a window nonetheless. I might make a list of basic things to buy – milk, bread, eggs and such – but once I’m in there, the possibilities are endless. All I can see are endless, empty aisles for me to glide down. Produce on either side. Weird stuff that I don’t need is dotted around. Gardening gloves? Why not. (I’m not a gardener). Makeup brush with an extra-long handle? Yesss. Small, foldaway stool? I’ll take three.
I glide around a bit like Nicole Kidman in Stepford Wives (ignoring the fact I look nothing like her). I see other people and wonder if they are experiencing supermarket euphoria too. They look anxious. Perhaps not. I drift about with time on my side and feel strangely calm and relaxed. No stress over a trolley, no stress at the checkout, nobody lying on the floor next to me. Awesome.
A new one for my list. Albeit not at the top, but in there anyway. Reading, writing, watching films, going in the bath, breathing Yorkshire air, and going to the supermarket. Magic.