Tag Archives: supermarkets

Working Lunch

I know I’m lucky to be a novelist, but I have to admit, sometimes I miss working in an office. Only because the lunches were so great.  Especially on Fridays.

Back in the days when I worked in Sales Promotion, flexing my literary talents by writing such copy gems as Honey Monster’s Soccer Pop-Up’s for the back of Sugar Puffs cereal boxes, we’d all down tools at lunchtime.   And even if there was a boardroom lunch and we had to stay in the building, it was always fun to nick sandwiches from the trays from the outside caterers, sneaking corners of coronation chicken from under the cling film.

But on Friday lunchtimes, we’d religiously pile into All Bar One to reward our week’s work with a big fat lunch and a couple of large glasses of chardonnay.   Oh, happy days.

The non-participation, non-event lunch is the writer’s curse. And the concept of a whole hour of free time in the day, outrageous.  You’d think since Emlyn and I both work at home and we’re kid-free at noon, that we’d slope off for long lunches, but the guilt is too great and the time for writing always too short.

But we still fantasize about lunch, like real working people do – usually from about 9.30am in my case.  But there’s no fancy ciabatta, or sun-dried tomato or salady nonsense round here.  Instead, ravenous at 1pm, we meet like cave-people down by the fridge to forage for last night’s leftovers.  Sometimes, we’ll splash out on some supermarket sushi, or take-away chips, but only on Fridays.

It’s not so bad now the sun has come out and we can eat our cold curry in the garden, but we eat and then get straight back to work.  Only yesterday, Emlyn was reminiscing about his old office lunch hours when he’d eat his sandwich in the park and ogle at all the girls for the other 58 minutes.  It’s not quite the same with just me.  And I don’t think my tracky bottoms are doing it for him.

But I have to admit that I get very jealous when I hear about people having a big corporate lunches.  Fancy being paid to do my favourite thing all the time.  I only get to have a lunch date once a month, if that.

We met a lovely MP on holiday last year who diets during August, because he has to attend so many big lunches the rest of the time.  I couldn’t bring myself to get the violins out.  And city boys are the worst culprits, although our rich friends say times are leaner these days.

But it’s not just them.  Publishers, of course,  are renowned for their lunching habits. There was once a fantastic panto at the end of the London Book Fair when a famous agent and publisher got up on stage to sing the ballad, ‘the long and winding lunch’, to the tune of The Beatles, ‘long and winding road’.  Never a truer word sung.

With that in mind, I’ve spent this week corrupting my fabulous new editor into a Friday  lunch date in May.  To be honest, it wasn’t that hard.  But I can’t wait.

In the meantime, my March lunch date is today.  (I’ll tell you about April’s exciting lunch plan in a future blog.)  I’m off to glam up to go to the AGM of ‘Rubbish Mothers’, an elite club of which I am a proud member.  It involves bunking off for a boozy lunch to a nice Thames-side restaurant with some wonderful girlfriends. Do I feel guilty?   Course I don’t.  The long and winding lunch and rubbish mothering go hand in hand.  Try it sometime.

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Check-out. The new rage.

I love a new product.  I’m a sucker for them.  Especially cleaning products.  I had the first Dyson vac, which was so heavy I lost my big toenail the first time I used it.  And remember The Swiffer? I wandered around the house like the lady on the advert showing my dust to anyone who would look.


Dishwasher products were my fad for a bit.  But after extensive powerball research, I  can exclusively reveal that cheapo powder works best. Fact.  I draw the line at air fresheners, though. I  tried one out once in the playroom, but strangely I never experienced the ‘Tibetan peace chimes’ or the ‘freshness of a mountain stream’, when I opened the door.  Only rotten apple core and something unspeakable on the bottom of a discarded trainer.


Beauty products are another one of my early adoption vices.  It’s always been so. Who can forget Apri, a ground-up almond facial wash that took the entire surface of your skin off?  That certainly got rid of my teen blackheads.


I’m hopelessly gullible when it comes to the whiff of a new product.  When Gwyneth mentioned this week in a magazine that she bathes in Epsom Salts, I put in a request for some on Emlyn’s Superdrug run.  ‘They don’t have them in stock,’ he announced on his return, ‘the Victorians used the last of them.’


It’s no surprise, then, that they love me in Space NK. I had one of their first swanky black ‘N.dulge’ cards with my name on it and I have more lipsticks that don’t suit me than I care to count.  But oooh.  Filler.  That sounds good.  And look at the shiny packaging.  So new…


So you’ll see it follows that when my local supermarket recently brought in a scanner system, where you could scan your shopping and plop it straight in your bag – or in my case, my fetching granny trolley – I was chomping at the bit to sign up with my jazzy pink store card.


I was an immediate convert, shouting loudly about my super speedy shopping.  It was all going swimmingly until I went shopping with the Middle One at Christmas.  The crafty Miss managed to sneak in a big tin of Quality Street into our trolley.  When we came to pay, smugly bypassing the huge queues at the checkout, they demanded a rescan and we were nicked.  So now I’m on some kind of blacklist.  And every time I shop, more often than not, I get asked for a rescan, even though I shop there all the time.


So, on Monday, Emlyn and I went shopping together.  Bad mistake.  Shopping solo is surely one of the true benefits of being married for over ten years. I picked up my  scanner, ‘Welcome Mrs Rees,’ it told me, ‘Thank you,’ I said, taking it out of the slot, Emlyn pulled a face and told me that it was another new-fangled fad of mine and it took far long.


‘You’re wrong,’ I told him.  ‘I shall prove it.’  So we did our shop together in a rather scratchy way, him harrumphing about me carefully scanning everything.


But when we came to pay, infuriatingly, I was asked for a rescan.


The look on Emlyn’s face sent me orbital.   I had to ask him to leave the store, so I could loose my rag in private.  I have since had an email of apology from Customer Services about the subsequent ‘scene’, but it’s taken me all week to get over my sense of injustice.


Having not being back to the said supermarket in protest, we went to the other one across the road to buy some Special K this morning (as you do).  I was amazed when Emlyn chose to use the self service checkout.  Fool!  ‘It won’t work,’ I gloated. Besides, he didn’t want a bag, didn’t have a Nectar card and was paying with a fifty pound note.  The machine can’t cope with that. He had to call the assistant….twice…and ended up going to the checkout when the self service machine self combusted.  So it’s not just me.


Which leads me to conclude that the moral is that it’s all very well to be an early-adopter, but old-fashioned bottle bleach and Pond’s Cold Cream still work the best.  And in life, sometimes you just can’t avoid the checkout.


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