Wednesday 19 June 2013

The daily supermarket tragedy

There's a pitiful scene which is played out every day in the Willesden Green Sainsbury's - and probably in thousands of supermarkets across the whole country.

About 8pm, a crowd of people starts forming around the bread aisle. They hover, blank faces, empty baskets, on edge and alert, fidgeting and shuffling. Tonight, perhaps, she is late. They seem more restless than usual. No words are spoken, but if they were, they would not be English.

Suddenly, a door swings open, a trolley comes into view, the crowd braces itself. She has arrived with the stale rolls and bagels which have not been sold and will be reduced to 20p for a pack of four. One by one they have the yellow sticker attached. She can't keep up. No sooner has the sticker been added, than the packs are snapped up by waiting hands and shovelled into the baskets.

It's a nice feeling, being able to grab a bargain at the end of the day. Products that would otherwise be a luxury come into range - free range chicken, perhaps tuna steaks, or some posh ham. But this isn't canny bargain-hunting. This is a subsistence economy. Baskets fill up with rolls and little else. One man has a basket full of bagels and two tubs of Basics yoghurt. Carbohydrate and protein. Enough to keep a family of eight alive for another day. And at a total cost of less than £2.

There's no need to try and imagine what food banks are like. You can see this pathetic scene, just a baby step above food banks, every evening in the supermarket. Where are they from? Judging from appearance probably Kurdish, Albanian or Romany but that's by-the-by. They're trying to keep their heads above water in Britain and sinking fast.