At the weekend we decided to try something new in the way of grocery shopping and drive 10 miles to our nearest Waitrose. I had recently signed up for a Waitrose Card which sits alongside my Clubcard and Nectar card and needed trying out.
It has always fascinated me how supermarkets have replaced organised religion in this Country and how they have developed an image in the mind associated with their social ranking. Eg Waitrose - posh upper/middle class, Tesco - middle/working class, Aldi/Lidl - working class etc. I realise this very British obsession with class is far more complicated than it appears and is possibly completely irrelevant in a 21st Century electronic economy where manufacturing and the use of indicators has all but died out.
However I walked into Waitrose expecting all my biased preconceptions and prejudices to be proven correct. I was prepared to be met by a melee of Teachers, Senior Administrators and land owning gentry calling things out to each other such as "Jocasta - have we got Hummus for both houses?" or "do come to supper, our Latvian au pair is presenting us with some authentic Aukstais galds and it'll be such fun". I had an Auntie Bessie crinkle cut home-style chip perfectly balanced on each shoulder.
Here are my observations:
1. Passing the tills, the "free" newspaper offer to Waitrose card holders had left large piles of Telegraphs and even larger piles of Daily Mails, whilst Guardians were long gone in a frenzy of early liberal left-leaning excitement. This was ticking my predictive boxes completely.
2. There appeared to be a long line of less-than-posh looking people queueing up for a free machine coffee near the front door. This wasn't fitting into my pre-cut mental jigsaw - where were all the people with £900 Gaggia Machines and an obsession with grinding one's own beans?
3. The prices of everything were up to 15% higher than Tesco and a lot more than Lidl. I was able to verify this from my "Hello Lidlers" email which arrives weekly.
4. The general standard of dress of Waitrose clients was above average. The pinchy-faced teachers and glum cash-rich pensioners were all out in force.
5. Gravitating to the "reduced items" shelf, we purchase a pack of two "Charlie Bigham's Steak & Mushroom Pies" reduced from £7.00 to £5.85. It was "Made in our kitchens at Coriander House, NW10". This is what it suggested on the side of the pack:
"Perfect for two - serve with a wink (sic)
Turn off the phone, dim the lights and crack open a bottle. Steal back some time by letting Charlie prepare you a truly delicious meal. All you hace to do is relax and enjoy each other's company"
When we got this package of marital delights home it transpired that each pie (although "pie" was surely an inadequate word for these little marvels) is in a ceramic ramekin. But surely Charlie, this is very non-green and bad for our lovely planet?
Charlie had already pre-empted our concerns and put a special card inside the box to allay our liberal sensitivities.
"Donate Your Ramekins! Don't throw your ramekins away - take them to your local charity shop instead. They'll sell them for £1 or £2 each, so you could help raise £££'s for charity!"
The pies were actually very nice and we have been truly comforted by the fact that poor people and council house dwellers will be able to benefit from our largesse by buying the empty dishes from charity shops with their state benefits.