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Friday, 23 December 2016

This winter solstice business: it ain't funny

I imagine a very distant relative, huddled in a cave, rubbing two sticks of wood together as the wolves howl and the bears stomp wondering if he'll survive the 21st December. Except, I don't imagine he'd have called it that. He probably had some more appropriate phrase like " Oh, God it's only 4 days to Christmas and I haven't ordered the Mastodon."

Not much has changed in the last ten thousand years.

Today is the 23rd of December and I went shopping. The usual weekly shop - o.k. a few extras - a bottle of single malt and an extra supply of cat litter, but otherwise it was as it always is. Except I hadn't factored in the herding instinct. A primitive genetic defect that somehow was introduced into the English household around 1987 - about the time Mrs Thatcher said "..there's no such thing as society...There are..families."

On any normal shopping day the drive to the local Sainsbury's super store is a piece of cake or stollen. A short trip up the road, past the petrol station and an opportunity to select the optimum parking space. A wave to the security guard on the exit as I wheel my well oiled shopping trolley down uncluttered aisles.

Not today. There was a ten minute queue to get into the car park to be shepherded by a bunch of zero hour contract security staff into a just vacated parking slot. I parked next to a tank - useful in Chingford where off road driving is essential and being 6 feet above other drivers is  a signature of success and manhood.

Walking the three quarters of a mile from the car to the supermarket entrance, I managed to force my way into one of the aisles, to be carried along by the press of the crowd to the "Turkey collection point." Grabbing hold of a passing baby buggy and family, I managed to find my way to the wine section, where I helped a nice lady buy a suitable bottle of wine. I purchased one of the few remaining single malts and with a trolley full of essentials and Christmas cheer headed for the check out. Except...all the queues filled all the aisles.

It was pathetic. Abandoned trolleys, abandoned children, whole families in tears as distracted husbands searched high and low in the vain hope that they might reconnect with their spouses before the store closed at midnight. I made a number of life long friends while queueing.

Such was the panic that shoppers piled high the conveyor belts with provisions to last until doomsday. One fatigued shop assistant smiled limply as she muttered "But we're only closed for a day." No matter, a rumour had spread through the store that a nuclear winter was approaching and there was a run on Warburton's  pack of  9 crumpets.

My check out was faultless: except the mother behind me was so intent of piling her shopping onto the conveyor belt that it caused an avalanche and trapped my bag of cat litter between her pile of goodies and the till. Efforts to unblock the traffic jam resulted in the cat litter bag splitting with kitty poo beads everywhere. No one was happy about that. After a Southern Region like delay it was sorted and I left wishing the cashier a Merry Christmas, should she manage to survive.

My purchases were elegantly balanced: £59 on alcohol and £50 on food, mostly for the new kittens.

Well, if we're going to survive Christmas and the nuclear winter we need  to be prepared to "Duck and Cover".

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