I get to the trolley park just in front of an elderly woman. She’s wearing a Russian style hat pulled as far down as her black and blockish sunglasses will allow, a fuschia red overcoat and grey furry boots, the whole outfit making her look like a well-dressed celebrity bear who doesn’t want any pictures.
I pull out a trolley and pass it to her.
‘There you go!’ I say.
She sighs, takes the trolley, and then stands there fussing with her bags whilst I wait to pull a trolley out for myself. Eventually she finds what she’s looking for – a shopping list written on the back of a utility bill. She hangs her shopping bags on the back of the trolley and then holds the list up to the end of her nose.
‘D’you mind if I just….?’ I say, slowly manoeuvring a trolley out.
She sighs, and shuffles off to the side.
A man and a woman are standing together in condiments.
‘We’re good for Tabasco’
‘Then why’s it on the list?’
A woman pushes a trolley with a baby girl only just old enough to sit upright in the trolley seat. The girl is singing la la la as loudly as she can, and slapping the handle of the trolley. The woman is singing la la la, too, but in a distracted way, as she scans the shelves and tosses things into the trolley.
‘Don’t you just love to hear babies sing!’ says an older woman nearby, but not directly to the woman, more in the way you do sometimes when you absent-mindedly speak a thought out loud. Actually, it looks as if she’s talking to a four pack of plum tomatoes.
I’ve made it as far as rice and pasta. A middle-aged woman strides up, stands next to me, and points with a straight arm and finger to a packet of quinoa on the shelf just above my head. She holds that position, looking off to her right. It reminds me of Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, at the end, when he points and screams.
‘Ah-ha!’ says another woman, breathlessly catching up. ‘You found it! Good!’
There’s a clear plastic rack at the checkout, pretty much empty, with just one copy left of a celebrity gossip magazine. Whilst I wait for my turn to pay, I glance over the front cover. All the insert photos are of celebrities looking depressed. Jennifer Aniston – too upset to go out; Victoria Beckham’s birthday – ruined; Cheryl Cole – devastated to find something out; Louise Redknapp – can’t believe the same thing happened again. The belt moves on. I move with it.
‘How are we today?’ says the guy at the till.
‘I’m okay, thanks! How are you?’
‘Well – it’s Friday!’ he says. ‘Mind you – what does Friday really mean these days…?’