At the End of the Day

Returning to the Happy Hunting Ground

I wonder if people under forty today ever mull over why – beyond Borisconia, the City State formerly known as London – they need to get into a car and drive eight miles just to buy some food. When you think about it, this isn’t a great leap forward from the days before cars or even wheels when we all got our spears suitably sharpened and chased squealing hogs around for several hours. Friday nights at the supermarket when I had young kids didn’t involve bringing down deer with a Stegasaurus bone blowpipe or anything, but it did mean pushing your way through crowds of people spreading arms and trolleys across every aisle as if they might be traffic-calming cops. It also meant saying “Excuse me” in a increasingly irritated tone as the quest unfolded. And it did mean hunting.

Just as hairdressing salons for women in the 1960s became unisex, so too had supermarket hunting undergone the same sad process by about 1972. Not mess-about, play-at hunting: real hunting. The routine – we’ve all been suckered in – begins when the bloke tries to alleviate the supremely impersonal pain of supermarketing by asking if he can get something, you know, on his own without any apron strings being involved, and his missus says, “Er, yeh – cinnapenne paste”. So Mr significant other nods and asks what TF cinnapenne paste is and wifey rolls her eyes, tells you it’s in the spices section and adds for good measure that she might just as well go find the bloody paste herself.

The guy doesn’t find the paste, but his wife says “never mind” which roughly translated means “what exactly is the point of you?” and picks out the cinnapenne jar two minutes later while heading a cabbage and flicking two anchovy tins into the trolley. This is her way of showing she can multi-task and you can’t. After dinner she’ll tell you how crap you are at loading dishwashers, and if you sneeze going upstairs to bed – vaguely expectant but not overly optimistic – she’ll make a crack about Man Flu.

So no, I didn’t see car-drive unisex shopping at the supermarket as any kind of move forward fun-wise from wrestling mammoth to the ground armed only with a slither of sharpened flint. And as those supers have turned into hypers wrapped in malls and surrounded by parking lots about as communitarian as a Lambeth Council health-and-safety overseen firework display, my attitude problem hasn’t been addressed. This is probably because I don’t want to address it: I vastly prefer the decades before I was inna relashurnship, when all the shops were a few ambling strides away from my flat. Or, just before that, my Mum.

Having been on my own for three years now (terrifyingly, that’s the longest I’ve been without a partner since 1966) I have learned many things as a lone hunter freed from the demands of provisioning a deux. And the main lesson for others either on their own or empty-nesting with a Ms is don’t go to mainstream supermarkets. Find the crappiest looking épicerie or Lidl or independent retailer in the area, and shop there because:

  1. They don’t do impulse purchases: the ambience is crappy, so nothing is tempting.
  2. Most of them have everything you’d need, and something supermarkets won’t have (like cured Schwarzwald ham or clothes pegs).
  3. Their fresh produce is at least 20% cheaper than that preservative-ridden stuff the Big Boys are knocking out.
  4. The cheeses are local and taste like cheese rather than gruyère-flavoured Sellotape.
  5. Ethnic independents in particular have high quality unusual stuff to die for.
  6. You’re putting the commune back into community.
  7. The independents are putting the entrepreneurial back into capitalism.

As you walk down your local High Street now, try to remember this: all those charity shops, boarded up places and financial service outlets used to be fishmongers, butchers, greengrocers, hardware stores and greasy spoon cafés (‘caffs’)….way back when nobody was very rich – but everyone could afford to shop there and thus didn’t need charity shops. Don’t write me off as a grumpy old starry-eyed git: slot me in the ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone pigeon hole’. It fits me to a tee. And don’t label me a poncey bourgeois with time on his hands: I’m a busy bloke existing on €23,000 a year fixed income before taxes.

The beauty of community is that the suppliers know you and each other. When you are in trouble, they will help rather than say “Have a nice dayeeenow”. The pharmacist will recognise you as a local – not a druggie trying to scam the Health Service. The bar owner will still serve you with beer and say “drop in later with the balance” if you forgot your wallet and are a few cents short.

I’ve just bought a very expensive printer, and installed satellite internet. Both came from large multinationals, but both were supplied by independent shops offering personal back-up. The Epson printer decided (the way they do) that it doesn’t want to print app-related stuff; the retailer spent 20 minutes with me this morning taking me line by line through the process of debugging it, whereas the Epson call centre I tried yesterday put the phone down on me. This morning, the TV I also get with satellite web access wouldn’t talk to the digibox. The local supplier gave me the step by step solution patiently – it took under three minutes.

The problem with the word ‘communitarian’ is that it is very easy for neoliberal gargoyles to put one down with the standard clichés about sandals, tree-hugging, trestle pigtails, brown rice, peace camps and fart-recycling. But there is nothing fluffy-hippy-bonghead about communitarian capitalism: its mutualism is good for social stability, its self-perpetuating equality is economically sound, its citizen support reduces mental illness, and its insistence on an entrepreurial capital loan emphasis is a far better driver of innovation and wealth creation than either Big State socialism or globalist monopolism.

Most important of all, communitarian capitalism – marrying cooperation with competition – obeys the dictates of our species via social anthropology. It isn’t settled science (there’s no such thing) but at least it isn’t the bad science of financialised capitalism wherein there is no hierarchy of value whatsoever. Even in its ancient barter form, communitarianism offered recognisable relativities of ‘price’: it was in fact the ultimate free market in which foodstuffs and comestibles found a natural value level. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the  signature on paper of a derivative certificate versus twenty metres of copper can rival that?

I have no desire to put the recent past of genie economic escapism back into the bottle: apart from anything else, the bollocks wouldn’t pass through the neck. But I do very sincerely believe that nimble, creative small will always – on a level competitive paying field – win over dull Bigger-Wigger process. Remember the old nonsense poem of yesteryear:

The bigger-wiggers lived upon a mountain top/ they ran about all day/ because they could not stop

The problem for us, the real citizens, is not that we are fluffies: the problem is that the Blue Meanies will not give us a level playing field.

Yesterday at The Slog: Playing games while globalism burns

36 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Our 1981 edition of the “Larousse Gastronomique” States: “Elephant meat is edible but leathery”. This particular edition of culinary encyclopaedia was first published in 1960’s when folk were seriously worried about global cooling. It has a section on the potential reappearance of Mammoth on the menu. It states: “The best method of procuring a Mammoth is to drive it over a cliff. This method has the added advantage of tenderising the meat in one fell swoop…..”


  2. As you walk down your local High Street now, try to remember this: all those charity shops, boarded up places and financial service outlets used to be fishmongers, butchers, greengrocers, hardware stores and greasy spoon cafés

    In a seedy little DDR town there is a street with a baker – actually two bakers, both with cafés serving decent coffee and two dozen kinds of bread – greengrocers, butchers, hardware stores, chemists, a toy shop (not a chain)… the list could go on.

    Because you see, Britain de-regulated its high streets and allowed the conglomerates to suck custom away to the hypermarché that is eight kilometers away – nay, miles! a big difference! All in the name of progress, don’t you know? From my home, in a radius of eight kilometers there must be a good dozen supermarkets, all small, all big name – but all of them employing a dozen staff or more. In Britain you’d be lucky to have that many working at a Waitrose.

    Where Britain now has charity shops, Germany has pavement cafés and real cafés, serving real food. Tucked away somewhere will be a McDonalds, which are (thankfully) not always easy to find what with the regulations about shop fronts and the like. And then another bakery come café. There seems to be something going on with Germans and coffee. Is it the pressure of work?

    Lucky for some.

    Lucky for some that their government looks after its voters rather than its owners, and regulates accordingly. Some call this corruption; those who enjoy such luxuries call it democracy.


  3. Procuring a mammoth, like pandering a sabre-tooth tiger, actually requires a great deal of patience. It doesn’t help if you force it.. as the monkey said to the elephant.


  4. A long time ago I worked for a small company that grew and grew on customer service and support muscling in on the big boys using a model that worked. Eventually to big to ignore anymore it was bought by one of the 3 companies bigger that bought the addition to become bigger still.

    At that point, company I worked for vanished it is still there but only in name as a bureaucratic dinosaur where to allow competition can never be allowed. Immediately I left, was called to see the new CEO but not interested time to find another job thanks.

    You could stay and attempt to fight to change the dinosaur but it is better to upsticks and either do it again or do something else to avoid all the stress and hassle.

    That is how the corporate beast has been behaving devouring all the good stuff leaving you with little to no customer support, poor customer care and a raft of other issues.


  5. Better still, is to take a 2m trailer down to your local tiny “Open All Hours” shop (they still exist here in Germany known as a “Tante Emma Laden” and sort out all their cardboard and plastic*. In exchange you will get crate after crate of completely free food which wasn’t sold. I’ve been eating like this 15 months now and have lost 11 kilos from pure veg and fruit. I did even for a few months help build up their market stand and Jesus was that a back breaker! I fell over a table and bumped my lip, spitting out a mouthful of blood in the snow in February. Huge respect to our small market stands. I always support them and always have done.

    *I do this twice a week.


  6. I spend my time between a little village near Utrecht and a little town called Naumburg. It’s a stone’s throw from Leipzig. Well, it is if you own a motorcar.


  7. Great piece. I don’t recall quite as far back as you but I do remember having a good choice of books and music on the high street, rather than having to wait days for your choices to be delivered (and then not be in when the parcel comes so have to arrange a re-delivery), and paying for real books and vinyl/cassettes/CDs rather than a compressed file that costs the record company nothing.
    And what about TVs and radios that used come on instantly rather than spending a minute warming up?
    I’ve also been on my own a while, and, freed of many time pressures and distractions, it does get you thinking about how easily humanity is conned.


  8. I agree with this elegy for the vanished British high street of real local businesses, and I agree that a diverse high street is still there in Germany.
    But still the German death wish seems to have got suddenly worse and is now much worse than the multicultural idiocies and cover-ups of local councils in the UK. If German communities were real, surely some of them would be resisting the invasion they are now undergoing, which will make their town centres unrecognisable, and more dangerous than ours are in the UK?

    Here’s Max Erdinger – Finis Germaniae
    The German — thus intellectually amputated — is simply no longer able to defend himself. Not intellectually — he does not have the concepts. Not morally — he does not have the morality. Not militarily — he does not have the army. That is the condition of the Germans and their land. This completely whacked-out folk can be seen at present in train stations, with stuffed animals, signs with hearts painted on them and, balloons, welcoming those who will handle the last act of this drama. They no longer know what they are doing.


  9. I think you are right, Dean Ditchbank. The German idea of community – whilst more apparent and outwardly more secure than the Anglo-Saxons – is mainly based on the principle that they were born there and speak the dialect.

    Quite who or what was behind Merkel’s idea of allowing a flood of immigrants into the country is beyond me. Was she playing to the gallery (the US, who caused the problems in the first place)? Upping the ante, perhaps? Or just showing that Germany can take all that the US can throw at them in this undercover economic war? Or a mere publicity stunt?

    If there is one thing that is certain, Turkey has taken in one and a half million refugees, the Americans one and a half thousand (if that!). As ever, the Americans cause a problem, and act as the world’s policeman; everyone else acts as their sweeper-upper.


  10. @JW
    “As you walk down your local High Street now, try to remember this: all those charity shops, boarded up places and financial service outlets used to be fishmongers, butchers, greengrocers, hardware stores and greasy spoon cafés (‘caffs’)….way back when nobody was very rich – but everyone could afford to shop there and thus didn’t need charity shops. Don’t write me off as a grumpy old starry-eyed git: slot me in the ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone pigeon hole’.”
    Absolutely perfect observation. All Sloggers, go and Google Earth Northwich and flick to Street View…if you can get past all of the Charity Shops, all you will find is…bucking fanks!
    We are doomed.


  11. Good morning, Frau Merkel.

    Would you like to discuss this over a breakfast of Kaffee mit belegen Kaiserbrötchen? After all, I have a ‘nose’ for what people are wanting, rather than what they are just saying. Americans stink of duplicity, but you know that.


  12. O/T I would like to share my thoughts on the actual dangers that neoliberalism is posing on our safety ,doing even more harm than the potential loss of trident (am actually for renewing trident) Redcar needs to be saved for national security,if the middle East was to escalate Britain is most surely going to get drawn in! In such a case neoliberalism has left Britain inadequately positioned to defend itself or it’s people,we would heavily rely on the outside world for so many things steel being one,lets take a scenario where China sides with Russia the West steel making capacity in comparison is very weak & if we take than places like Britain is going to need shipping to deliver weapons armoury then i would argue Redcar is more important to us than trident,because unless we are capable of conventional warfare we are left with nuclear diplomacy,shipping has increased but the ships are larger easier targets & building them takes months & such shipyards are no longer out of reach has targets( i know the steelworks aren’t either)But between the short months of escalation & these places becoming targets,steel production is going to be vital for the national need to bolster shipping & other production lines we have already lost carbon fibre to the Chinese to strengthen bridges are we going to lose the ability to repair rail-roads,remember China is stockpiling not just steel but many other items & even if it remains neutral you can bet they will sell at a high price (the lend lease plan) whilst other economies are weakened even destroyed,strategically i would expect Germany to also remain neutral but once their produce leaves these neutral countries they will become targets at some point,So has Cameron leads us to conflict abroad his economic policies leaves us in peril at home!


  13. No more appropriate place than here to hint at the ludicrous solutions already in hands of the same villains who delivered you eight mile drives for victuals:


  14. Gathering a few chums to form the local model rocket club, with a cunning plan to bag us a few pizzas on a Saturday night !


  15. I shouldn’t worry too much about the ability to import goods to the UK like we did in WW2. Modern submarines will kill any surface shipping long before it reaches our sandy shores. In a modern major conflict we’d be best off declaring early on our neutrality ! However I’m pretty certain that Cameron would be more than keen to play soldiers from the safety of his war room given the opportunity….


  16. Having been offered a free cottage in Snowdonia for the last week, I can only comment on how reluctantly grateful we were for a CoOp, despite never using them by choice when home. We checked out the ‘local’ butcher; saltmarsh lamb started at £24kg for poor cuts, whilst CoOp sold Welsh lamb, best cuts at £6kg special offer. Bread was so far over a £ for a loaf, when we normally make our own, that we consciously bought the reduced out of date bread…from CoOp. The local grocer had silly sized lettuce for 89p, CoOp had a big one for 19p(reduced) but fine. I so wish we could afford to buy from the little man, but sometimes it is impossible, especially when we are unemployed.
    Now back home, we are grateful for the £ from aged parents who enabled us to drive to and climb Snowden (my legs KILL!!!) and eagerly embrace our oversized courgettes and split tomatoes. Local is great when we have cash, and we will investigate the possibility of Jeremy S’s idea of local for clearing plastics etc in return for food.
    It’s a man eat man world; we rise to a challenge, or sink.
    I certainly don’t remember glory from the old butcher/baker/grocer days though, more of a lending of my pennies so Mother could pay the Grocer ‘Bensons’, weekly until payday came, in the 70’s. Certainly ate what we needed, never what we wanted.
    If JW is, as a single man, living on 23k Euros a year, I applaud his ability to aid the local partisan supplier. Well earned, well met, yet well different from a lot of people who are trying to see through the cracks of modern life for the aspiration promised.
    Silver spoon was never our story, silver spoon has allowed others to discard us, and we are better for it, for now we seek mutual benefit from others, and have not failed yet, 8 months on.
    Trying to catch up on posts missed in a week, and as always, love the Slogs and replies. Sensible, in a world of fog, but like a lot of followers experience, Hubby is happier when I am adrift of it all, as real life can be billhooks!
    Thanks all x


  17. Ah I hope you ate at Pete’s Eats afterwards. I worked there a while as a student. Spent lots of my 20s hungover in Pete’s Eats in Llanberis waiting for my mate to drive up from Aberystwyth drinking a quick pint of tea then climbing the slate quarries – he led I was an obedient second following.

    Did all the hard classics there – Dinas Cromlech up the Pass, Idwal, Glyder routes too. I miss Snowdonia. I slept 8 feet below the summit once on a rock ledge on the longest day. dem was days.


  18. Life today is Sugar coated,i’ll Grant you that,On a clear day you can see everything from Snowdonia,Wrexham,Angelsey & the great Elms reach like treebeard beyond what can be seen with the EYE the Ashes & Crofts landed gentry initiate such fowl hunting much like the clans of the highland!


  19. Lidl doesn’t do impulse purchases? With that sort of accuracy Dacre will be offering you a column. Every week Lidl sells people things they didn’t expect to see there and had no inkling they needed. And I bet my kite, spot welder, mini wrench set and furniture moving skateboard that I’m not the only taker.


  20. Highly amusing dear boy, but if you recall what I said was that IyiyI don’t do impulse purchases. Render unto Dacre what is Dacre’s, and unto Slog that which is a fixed income, all cheques gratefully received Ithangyoo.


  21. As the authentic Garet Jax
    The earlier post was not added by me.

    Not sure what is going on here at the moment but I have noticed that a few posts by other regulars seem to be suspect including some by JW himself over the last several posts.


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