In my line of work (being paid to make people want to do whatever my clients want them to do) I take a professional interest in observing other members of the human race. And I have to say that Tesco in Glastonbury is a particularly good environment for research purposes – few habitats can boast such a rich biodiversity.
Hippy New Year?
On New Year’s Eve 2013 my wife and I were shopping there – the cupboard was bare as we’d been away for Christmas. Plus it was our task to provide the nibbles for the dinner party we’d been invited to that night. Tesco Glastonbury seemed like a good idea – it’s always pretty chilled out.
Shabby, without the chic
On my travels up and down the aisles I saw a particularly shabby man with a passing resemblance to Rab C Nesbitt – lank thinning hair combed over his pate, with a moon shaped pasty face that was completely expressionless. He wore a stained maroon anorak and grey flannel trousers whose hems had fallen down and now dragged along the ground, frayed and soiled. Overweight, he was resting his forearms on the back of his trolley and shuffling forward intermittently. He showed no interest in the products or the shoppers.
Life is just a catwalk
I then noticed a tall blonde girl who looked as if she had stepped straight out of a fashion magazine. Or a vodka commercial – her round fur hat, pale skin and cold blue eyes gave her a vaguely Russian appearance. Immaculately dressed, undeniably elegant and languidly unhurried, she was accompanied by an angelic looking little girl, her long hair falling in ringlets that suggested a session with curling tongs – a perfect designer child with a poised yummy mummy.
Another day, another week, another year
So, two extremes – a man who was a few clubcard points short of a full saucepan set and a young woman with style to spare. In between there are the “normals”, those on a mission to grab what they need, and get out swiftly, whilst spending as little money as possible. Purposeful women shopping alone and methodically. Or slightly impatient thirty/forty something ladies with a bemused partner in tow who is gamely trying to be helpful.
The “reduced” section is being loaded as I go past and there is a polite scrum of shoppers grabbing the bargains almost before they’ve hit the shelves. For most people lifestyle is something briefly glimpsed in the pages of the Sunday supplements before they resume the daily battle between time and money.
Then there’s a young blond girl in sloppy top and black leggings being pursued and mauled by a chavvy youth in a baseball cap who looks like he’s been raised on crisps and cola. Neither of them can be a day over fourteen and as they paw at each other in the petfood aisle the words “teenage pregnancy” are writ large.
Reality is for losers
We arrive at the checkout and I notice the woman in front of us is strikingly attractive in a very fetching hippy chick way. Knee length skirt over dark leggings that have shiny panels running down them, hair dyed flaming purple piled high on her head and lots of black eyeliner – a cross between Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games and the Elvish Warrior in the latest hobbit film. Her partner is dressed in a faux threadbare cape of thick black wool, the pointed hood pushed back from his forehead to reveal scraggy dreadlocks – very Aragornish. Their shopping consists entirely of alcohol, apart from a large grey fluffy towel. Talking animatedly, with the kind of casual confidence that suggests an innate sense of superiority, they have carefully styled themselves free spirits – Glastonbury royalty (in an imaginary direct line from King Arthur and Queen Guinevere) who sport the short lived glamour that soon fades into mere grunge when the cares of the world catch up with you.
Get me out of here – now!
While I pack, and my wife sorts through a fistful of coupons, I notice the sad character with the maroon anorak and grey trousers. Still leaning heavily on his elbows, and stationary again, he stares blankly at the line of checkouts. His trolley is entirely empty.
What to make of all this? It’s life, Jim. But not as we may know it.