Julie Hamill: The Battle of the Big Shop

Julie Hamill: The Battle of the Big Shop

I hate doing the big shop. It gives me the same feeling of being dragged around overly-warm department stories I had as bored teenager whilst my mum searched through thousands of packets of tights for “ecru in small”.

In a bid to make the big shop better I like to have a goal in mind, something I’ve heard about I’d like to try n’ buy. This week, it’s the new Heinz “plant-based” vegan creamy tomato soup that’s all the rage, so I head off to Brent Cross Tesco with soup at the top of the priority pyramid.

I move about with music on the headphones, collecting cucumber, peppers, milk, juice, shampoo, kitchen roll, bread, dog treats, chips etcetera – you know, the basics. I find the soup, which is an astonishing £1.70 (probably more than my mum’s tights cost in the ’80s) and put one tin in the shallow trolley.

I arrive at the checkout feeling the dread of putting stuff on the conveyor belt, then putting it in bags only to hump it back home, take it out of the bags and put it away. I see the process before me and momentarily feel like abandoning the trolley and running back to the car.

A Jewish woman arrives behind me. We exchange smiles. Right at the same time, a Muslim woman also joins the queue and they don’t know who got there first. The Jewish woman insists that the Muslim woman got there first, and the Muslim woman insists that the Jewish woman got there first. It’s reminiscent of Billy Connolly “put your purse away” sketch.

“You go first,” she says.

“No, you, please, it’s okay, I insist,” she replies.

This carries on.

“I’ve got more than you, I’ll take longer, you’ve just got a few things.”

“I’m not in a rush! You go!”

The Muslim woman relents and she goes first. We’re all chatting now, passing the shop baton to separate the three loads. One of my new friends sighs that she forgot her bags, they’re in the boot. I have a spare bag so I pass it down to her.

My tinfoil drops to the floor, as does a packet of pasta, and the Muslim woman picks them up for me as I pack. I thank her.

“We’ve all got to help each other,” she says.

I settle up, we all say goodbye and I leave the two of them chatting about the pain of the big shop.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE.

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