Monday, 3 September 2012

Supermarkets - Allegories Of Our Times

I hate supermarkets in general. I always have. They are soulless places where the customers scowl and try to aim their shopping trolleys at the calves of their fellow humans in the fiercely competitive area around reduced price bin. The staff try their best to look cheerful, but it is impossible for them to keep it up. If you ask them how things are, they usually look mournfully back and say:

'Not too bad, my shift finishes in four hours.'

But maybe I won't in the future. I will see them in a new light following my visit to one last week.

There seemed to be messages eminating  from every corner. It felt like an extension to the news which are bombarded with from every orifice of the media and the political arena. It felt like an allegory of the times we live in. An overview of typical life in Britain today.

What am I banging on about? Pseudo-romantic bilge? Let me explain.

The posters displayed well lit photos of faux-French bread. It was similar to the faux-French bread in my local shop. The difference being that the staff in my local had felt guilty about misleading us and had sellotaped a handwritten note on the wall by the bread oven which read:


Please note there has been some confusion. 
The French bread here may have a French sounding name ....
but it is not French, it is made in Ireland.

The above poster therefore typified the current trend in Britain of 'nothing is what it seems'. 

The heavy yellow lettering typified the war which is going on in Britain between ordinary people and shopkeepers on one side and the councils new found revenue earner of making less parking spaces, upping the charges and flooding the conurbations with parking wardens. There are petitions to get rid of these unpopular measures in practically every place I have visited. 'Little Hitler' headlines spring out of many local newspapers. 'MP Calls For Truce In Parking Storm', shouted mine.

Even the airports have jumped on the bandwagon and now you are charged a fee to drive up and drop someone off, let alone park. London Stansted is up to £9-90 for one hour.

In Scotland I got a ticket because, the ticket fell off the window. The parking warden was pleasant and told me where to write to reclaim the money.

'I'm sure the council use cheap glue deliberately,' he said. 'We seem to have an awful lot of these cases.'

So the supermarket is only following the general trend - yellow lines, number plate recognition cameras etc.

But the most interesting was the horse which was tethered to the gates where the delivery trucks drop their goods. It was an unusual sight in the North East of England. I expected the ghost of Gary Cooper or John Wayne to appear out of the store.

Perhaps it is the most powerful symbol of life in Britain. That times are tough. Recession has bitten and is still biting. A shape of things to come? Who knows? It is certainly a reason to keep visiting your supermarket.

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