And So This Is Christmas?

Forget Bethlehem. It`s the 23rd of December 2013, and all roads lead to Tesco.

By the time I arrive, the armoury of trolleys is severely depleted. This hints at the crowd within. And within is war.

People, tense, tired and unsmiling are scurrying about in all directions. I dive down an empty aisle to revise my battle plan. Vegetables. Prawns. Stocking fillers. If I got the ham, cream, whiskey,cloves, wine, brown sugar and more wine, all would be right in my world.

All hands are on deck now,as Tesco staff replenish empty vegetable racks. It is trench warfare. As fast as they are being filled, a mob arrives to heave them all into loaded trolleys. I congratulate myself on my revised battle plan but feel a tad uncertain.

Could Armageddon be around the corner? Are these people filling nuclear shelters in their gardens? I feel like I am not in the know. It is as if there has some coded message being sent out among the masses and I am excluded.

I scurry on. Ah! Ham! From the crowd swilling around the aisle I know I am in the correct refrigerated section. I charge down the aisle on a white griped ride with my trolley. Surely a three kg ham wouldn`t be that hard to find?

But there is barely the makings of a whole pig in the place. Three large smoked legs, to be precise, and lumps of bacon begging for a place on some poor Christmas table any place.


Ok then. Cloves. I barge past the little kid reaching up for the chilli flakes. (Chilli flakes? At Christmas? Surely, not?) and bag my supply. I throw a second one in. Well, you never know. I may not have my ham but I`ll have plenty of clove flavour.

I leave the little kid sobbing and double back to the cold section for cream.

Scanning the dairy shelves now, I am met with all sorts of creams. Whipped cream, pouring cream, Bailey`s flavoured cream, double cream. But not the cream I`m after.

Uh-oh hold on… I find a solitary carton of Tesco`s best single cream. But the lid`s damaged. Hmmm. Reach down a bit…. yes, there at the very back of the bottom shelf… if I stretch right back I might actually… yes. yes, there got it! One of five. I resist the urge to take all five, and, proud of myself, hold the prized cream aloft to a round of applause from the other shoppers.

Then they too dive in after the remaining cartons.

Somewhere in the crowd a  child is wailing.  His name is not Jesus. The sound is relentless,  ear crunching and annoying. I glower at a near by security man. Do something, I urge, but plainly telepathy is not his strong suit. And years of working in Tesco have left him deaf to the antichrist.

Luckily, Antichrist`s mother intervenes and tells him in no uncertain language to shut up. I round the corner just in time to witness this and I stop short of congratulating her. Instead, I smile at the stunned Antichrist a little too triumphantly. And hear my halo clatter to the ground.

War makes mean people out of all of us.

Bob Geldof and Co are asking  “Do they know it`s Christmas time?”`and down at the drinks aisle they are all very sure about the answer to that one. The clinking of bottles landing in trolleys is as regular as the pop pop pop of machine gun fire.

This is no time for the careful selection of best Bordeaux. Nor even time to consider the prices. Just bag a bottle or three of anything. Don`t forget to pull a  bottle of whiskey for the postman. Any whiskey. He won`t mind.

I feel a little sense of panic then as I rush down the baking aisle for my final purchase. Brown sugar. There are people loading factory made sponge bases and packets of trifle mix into their trolleys. You call that dessert? I sniff. At Christmas? I stop short of actually saying this and barge swiftly on.

My last prize is easily found. I bag two packets, because, well, you never know. I may not have a ham but I have plenty of cloves and brown sugar.

The final battle is on and I take the spoils of war to the check out. Everyone seems to have had the same thought as I have and I brace myself for the ensuing meaness. I am not selective with my check out. I just find the first queue and am not in the least surprised when another woman steps in front of my trolley to claim the space.

In fact I am determined to enjoy the calm of standing there waiting. Then, glancing over at the flower section I realise I recognize someone. He is anxiously scanning the buckets of red roses. He looks pale and drawn. With a young family and wife who is ill in hospital, I know his Christmas will be a fraught one this year.

Bing Crosby is singing “I`ll be home for Christmas” and in between telling him where to stuff his song, I`m wondering if I really should abandon my place in the shopping queue and go over to my pal.

Maybe he`d rather not meet anyone” I reason ” And, anyway, I really do need to get out of this darned supermarket”

But my pal decides that for me. A sudden smile of recognition lights up his face and I wave back and steer the wretched trolley into a quiet corner.

He is full of the joys of the season. His wife has been released from hospital. Family have all rallied around to gather Christmas together for their small kids, his workplace have given him extra time off. Clutching his cellophane wrapped red roses, he reassures me that all`s well in his world.

I realise Bing had it spot on, after all, and maybe others are not quite as full of the Bah! Humbug! spirit as I am.

Heartened by the good news, I bid him and his family a wonderful Christmas and skip back to the queue.

I leave the battlefield with a lighter heart, a little more Christmas cheer and no ham.

And I am not going back to Tesco to get it.



18 thoughts on “And So This Is Christmas?

  1. Ugh, pre-Christmas shopping. It must be the same everywhere that celebrates the holiday. My friends joke about carts/trolleys stuffed as if the stores are going to be closed for a week, instead of one day. I patted myself on the back for getting in and out of the store early Christmas-eve-morning before the crowds arrived. The store staff were in good spirits, and the shelves well stocked at that time as well. We all wished each other a good holiday, and I quickly escaped with my gallon of milk. *grin*

  2. O the frenzy of it all – I was there with you. No actually, I wasn’t – I was in Sainsbury’s but it was exactly the same. How much sliced bread does one family need for God’s sake? I felt a minor triumph when I actually parked the car and managed to barge past a couple of shoppers to snatch at the last self scanning machine. Still, I’m back home now, pretty much unscathed, with a large glass of gin and tonic, searching the internet for Christmas holidays to book in 2014.
    Storm induced power cuts aside – hope all your preparations go well. See you in the New Year. xx

  3. I had to laugh and nod along. I got very very annoyed yesterday because the cashier at my supermarket are all very cheery and have lengthy conversations with all their customers. I just wanted them to hurry the F^$#E# up!
    In my defense, I had to get back to work… In any case, how is that for not being in the spirit?
    Merry Christmas to you and your family

    • Have a great Christmas HF, regardless of all the darned shopping we have to do! I am delighted to have made your aquaintance this year and am looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings to you and your Scotsman!

  4. [i]the armoury of trolleys is severely depleted[/i]
    That’s because a lot of them are on the Dart… 🙂

    Fine description of the epic battle that is Christmas shopping.

  5. Oh RH, what a nightmare! I’ve had that one before so took off at 9pm last night to SuperValu ~ Shopping as it Should be~ here in Tramore and it certainly stood up to its slogan. Enough shoppers to give one a sense of Christmas but none of the horrors you describe. Hope you have a great Christmas ~ even if it is hamless!

    • It actually wasn`t quite that bad. It`s a must have experience if only to learn how easily any of us can become part of a lynch mob! I`ll enjoy the dinner, hamless or otherwise. Looking forward to a Christmas Day run too! And I bet you`ll be swimming! Enjoy all!

      • Enjoy the run! I’m holding my breath to see if the winds abate and the seas calm a little. But the aim is to swim at cock crow! Have a great few days and a brilliant 2014!

  6. It’s every man for himself at supermarkets this close to Christmas. It always drives me crazy when they are out of stock of something basic…. I mean you’re a supermarket, you’re supposed to have everything I could possible need at any given time, be that power tools, kaffir lime leaves or whatever…. nothing is worse than having to go to more than one supermarket to get everything on your list…. one is bad enough!

    • Haha! Too true. But I love how it turns monsters into all of us. Panic stricken, Armageddon fearing twits! I hate shopping anyway, so that doesn`t help and I`m getting more Grinchy with every passing year.

  7. RH you have summed up the horrors of Christmas succinctly. Is is NOT a happy and joyful time but a time of desperation and – at best – false cheerfulness. For most. Maybe for those with family there is no choice but to join in. I’m in the fortunate position where I need not even nod in the direction of Christmas and will happily ignore the whole thing.
    Thank you for letting me use your blog for my little rant and of course I wish you and your family the happiest and peaceful of holiday breaks 🙂

    • Oh there`s bits I like Roy. I love my Christmas dinner and the excuse to drink wine in the middle of the day! I love laying about the place, reading and getting up whenever I feel like it to help myself to more turkey. I like the time to recharge, review and renew. As for Christmas alone, I`d enjoy that too. Because I could get to do more of all of the above and in peace! Be well and enjoy CHristmas your way!

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