Of course it’s not true that when the going gets tough, the tough go to Waitrose. I know that.
Truer perhaps to say that when the going gets tough, I go to Waitrose.
I have waded through packaging and discarded products in discount stores, and stared unseeing at piles of reduced items with other lumpen shoppers; I have cut coupons and bought garbage because it is cheap. I have not – though I have been tempted and still am – gone dumpster diving (or, in the UK ‘skipping’), nor have I ever visited a food bank (when my GP gave me the necessary paperwork, I felt a fraud and didn’t use it). While I have very often and for long periods had no income at all, I am lucky that there has always been at least some money still in the bank. For years during my marriage, I avoided the Waitrose that was a short walk from my home and instead drove to the most depressing Lidl* in the world where I jostled with other morose and pasty shoppers from all corners of the world. The atmosphere was horrible; everyone was sullen, everything was a compromise and we had all lost the will to live. When I was deceived into thinking our financial problems were over, I was grateful to be back in my local store and not penny-pinching. (And bear in mind that I don’t buy ready meals, just ingredients; I don’t like to pay over the odds, and I know full well that a 45p Aldi aubergine is not inferior to an 80p Waitrose aubergine.) There may be something here of the ‘lipstick effect’: I can’t afford big luxuries so cheer myself up by buying my groceries in a nicer way while foregoing holidays, clothes etc (and indeed make up). And (I have to admit this is a factor) doing it with ‘a better class’ of shopper. It makes me feel better. (Don’t shoot me.)
The shopping experience elsewhere is depressing, and using the stuff at home is depressing, too. Every time you open the fridge, you are reminded by the very milk bottles and me-too butter brands that you are a loser. I know it should not be like that, yet I felt the universe was telling me my place in the world: I was a charity case and didn’t deserve anything nice.
Nothing bad can happen to me in Waitrose. There it is: that’s how I feel.
So when I am meant to be vacuuming my bedroom, or applying for jobs, or dealing with HMRC or the cowboys that took £700 off me and (twice) failed to fix my leaking roof, I feel the lure of Waitrose. I’m writing this now, and several times have got as far as the door following that siren call. Then I remind myself that we have enough milk and loo-roll; there’s emergency bread in the freezer and I have the wherewithal for dinner. Ergo, we can go another day. Tomorrow I can treat myself. Lovely lighting, lovely staff; free newspaper and latte. Mmm.
So, having successfully avoided a trip to the shops so far today, I am still left with the fact that I am writing this blog, and making cups of tea and toast every five minutes.
Waitrose, blog, tea and toast: what is it I should be thinking? Because I know it is true: all addiction is a way to avoid thinking.
* I like Lidl well enough, actually, but the one in Cricklewood is, or was at that time, a shit-hole.