17 Oct 2016

Growing up

Turning 16 is a reasonably big deal in the UK. It brings about a few rights and responsibilities that were previously denied - like driving a moped, changing your name by deed poll, consenting to sexual activity and getting a national insurance number. Whoo hoooo!

This is truly exciting. But the human brain soon adjusts to the new normal and by the time you balk at the idea of going anywhere on a moped, have paid HMRC a proportion of your wage for the best part of the last 30 years and are midway through a lifetime promise to have sex with the same person from this day forward, for better or for worse until one of you dies, you may have decided to purchase a wheeled shopping trolley. Like this one.

This is my Granny Trolley. I absolutely love it. No one else in the family will use it. They think it makes me look like this.

KEEP CALM AND SHOP ON is clearly not the healthiest life philosophy, but it helps reduce our carbon footprint a little and it's not tartan. It's also strangely satisfying the way the kids are uncomfortable to be seen with or near it. Especially after days like yesterday.

Keith was away with work and me and the kids were doing a food top-up shop. Plus ManChild turned 16 last week and we needed pizza and treats for him and his friends who were coming round to celebrate that he can now join a trade union or die for his country.

We walked into town with Granny Trolley because it was sunny. This was uneventful. The shopping itself was equally ordinary, but this was later contested. Here is my version of events:

It was Saturday and therefore busy. We did not have a definitive shopping list and were winging it. This was my modus operandi until 3 years ago when something flipped over in my brain and now I really need a list.

We got a Big Trolley to transport Granny Trolley + shopping. We weren't getting a Big Shop and the kids are really good at not asking for stuff. But they had birthday treat permission-to-ask and made some really good suggestions.

About half way round there was an announcement that today's shoppers can get a free stainless steel peeler. Just go to the top of aisle 2 to claim this. We were genuinely peeler-less until yesterday. The original peeler we got as a wedding gift fell apart about a year ago and the plastic handled thing we bought to replace it lasted only a few months before the blade started twirling round halfway through the first carrot so we chucked it out and kept forgetting to buy another. Now Tesco are offering me a FREE peeler. It's a no brainer. ManChild encourages me to go claim it for our household while he trolley-sits in the Toy and Book aisle.

In aisle 2 there's a very jolly girl in an apron standing by a wooden counter. There's clearly some demonstration about to happen and she beckons us closer to see. The demonstration is NOT for my free stainless steel peeler, but for a Mr Whipstir that froths milk, scrambles eggs and mushes potatoes. I am tempted to walk away but I want my free peeler.

I watch the demonstration. The jolly girl is very thorough. You can whizz skimmed milk with this thing and make it so thick that you can turn the container upsidedown and the froth does not fall out. I start to think about the lattes we could have at home for 17p rather than the ones in town for £2.85.

Watching jolly girl in the crowd is a woman with gorgeous red and orange hair - like flames tumbling down her back. The ends are almost luminous. I am shaving my head in about 3 weeks time to raise money for a local cancer charity. My friend, Lis, who is shaving it off for me is looking for a mad colour to dye her hair as shaving her's off completely would be awkward for her job. Maybe I've found the colour for her?

The demonstration continues with the miniature version of the Whipstir. Like its parent, Whipstir Jr also creates maximum froth with minimum effort. Madi appears at my side wondering why I've taken so long. We watch the rest of the demo together.

Jolly girl finishes up and starts handing out free stainless steel peelers to her audience. I get my free peeler. I also take a Mr & Jr Whipstir pack as I spontaneously decide to start Christmas shopping and did not bring a LIST today to prevent such impulse purchases. I realise I can no longer see Flame Haired Woman who must have taken off as soon as she got her free peeler.

Madi and me make our way back to Big Trolley, me glancing up each aisle for Flame Haired Woman. We don't see her. The boys are still by Big Trolley in Toy and Book aisle playing on their phones and  looking fed up. I present our free peeler. They are impressed. We like free things.

It's now even busier than it was when we got here. Which was a while ago. We make our way to the check outs. I'm heading for self service because in my head, this is still just a top up shop in a Big Trolley.

I suddenly locate Flame Haired Woman and dart off to speak to her without informing ManChild where I'm going or which direction he should continue walking in. I say 'Excuse me...' to her then launch into a full explanation of why I'm drawn to her and ask for details of the colour she uses and Please may I have a photo of your hair because it didn't feel right to sneak up behind you and photograph your head without consent. She initially appears a bit taken aback then realises I'm not a crazy stalker and agrees to the picture. Her hair looks like this.

ManChild is now more irritated as I bogged off to talk to a randomer and left him blocking the aisle with all the shopping and lots of people tutted at him. I sense that if these items were not for his birthday he would have already abandoned us. I also sense we should conclude the shopping experience swiftly.

We reach the self scanner. I place Granny Trolley on the scales and tap 'I brought my own bag'. The self service till does not believe us and a light flashes until Tom appears and overrides it and we begin scanning. Hmmm. There's a lot of stuff in Big Trolley. We scan the first few things before the scanner errors again. Tom comes over and overrides the system again and comments on the volume of things. Would we like to go to a till he asks. No, it's fine, I reply. We like scanning things. Although by this time Madi is playing on the railings by the checkout and J's on his phone catching Pokemon and pretending he is not here. Only ManChild is scanning things and muttering under his breath. Including the Whipstirs, we scan through almost £80 worth of items. The scales flash another 3 times. During this time another shopper tries to squeeze past Big Trolley and the railings. Madi tries to disentangle herself from them in a hurry to let her past, but forgets which way her legs bend and the shopper almost trips over her feet instead.

When we finish scanning there's too much stuff to fit into Granny Trolley, so we buy 4 carrier bags and load them up to bursting point. M and J isolate some items to consume now - like Frijj and cookies and tiger bread - so there will be less to carry home.

We get outside. It is raining. I stand in the drizzle and divvy up the tiger bread. ManChild refuses the bread and says he'll walk ahead. He grumpily takes the heaviest bags and strides off without saying goodbye. J empathises with his brother's discomfort but is not quite far enough into adolescence to be mad at me yet. Madi is 10 and can't understand why there's a problem.

I realise in that moment that as fun as it was to be 10 and as exciting as it was to have new freedoms at 16 and then 18, it's far more liberating to be 44 and not actually care if Tom or a Flame Haired Stranger thinks you're mental. Granny Trolley is heavy and it's raining and the journey home is almost all uphill, but I pretty much giggle to myself all the way there. M and J don't understand why, which only makes it funnier.

(Disclaimer: E has just viewed this account and claims he did not 'mutter under his breath,' but stated clearly and audibly 'This is stupid- we should go to a proper till' without muttering).

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