Brave New World
New World on College Hill is not only the second most expensive supermarket in all of New Zealand, but it’s also one of the worst ones I’ve ever wheeled a trolley around. No New World Sympathy from me.
With all the glamour of Kwik Save, but with the price of Waitrose, the narrow aisles are blocked by undead members of staff unloading their Toyota Yaris-sized cages of Campbell’s Soup, whilst the meat fridges look like an explosion in an abattoir. Portions of meat come in two sizes: breezeblock or the entire cow, whilst the bagpackers clearly have no grasp of physics or the inelastic properties of polythene, loading up your carrier as if they’re trying to break some world record. Or at least the eggs they’ve put at the bottom the fucking bag.
All this means, then, that for a 30-something male who steadfastly rejects the Jamie Oliver-isation of his dinnertime (spinach and radiccio torte with warm parmesan squash, anyone?), for me trips to the supermarket are a perfunctory affair. A blank-eyed wander round the aisles, automatically and nonchalantly selecting items from the pre-prepared list in my head, never altering it from week to week.
Yesterday’s shopping trip, however, proved to be a little different in that three slightly off-kilter things happened within the space of about 12 minutes; nearly enough to wake me from my shopping somnolence.
Dwarves, Duncan and Drink
First, I saw a colleague from work. Not ordinarily confusing, if it weren’t for the fact that she was 6 inches shorter than the day previously. I immediately wondered if she had perhaps fallen down a pothole or had her legs severed, but since there are few potholes in supermarkets these days, and she was definitely still wearing shoes, I discounted this possibility.
No, the reason, I later concluded, was that most of the women in my office wear very, very high heels, possibly because in the world of PR, they equate height with stature. And it was heartening to see that although, at work, stood next to me she seemed a giant among men, in reality she was just a dwarf on stilts. One day, I may consider going to work wearing Elton-John-Pinball-Wizard boots to prove the point.
Three minutes later, a second thing happened. I realised, as I waiting for Louise to finish choosing an onion or something, that I was staring at someone I hadn’t seen in 10 years – Duncan. er….thingamajig….er…. Duncan....er….whassname.
Duncan, myself and a whole host of other people from various Manchester Universities helped set up Storm Fm, a student radio station in 1997. And as I looked at him packing away his shopping, I immediately realised who it was. He momentarily glanced up and looked down again. Then realizing, too, he’d seen someone he recognized, looked up and down again as if trying to place me, before pointing and saying “Phil!”.
I responded by pointing and going “Duncan!”. We had a brief chat, exchanged numbers and generally, mutually puffed out our cheeks and shook our heads about what a huge co-incidence it was.
Last, 5 minutes later and still trying to get my head around the fact that I’d bumped into Duncan, Louise and I had almost finished packing our stuff at the till, when the cashier refused Lou some cider because she looked underage.
Being nearly 32, this was obviously a shock to Louise and she immediately produced her driving licence. Yet, for the cashier, this was still unacceptable – “NZ Driving Licence or Passport only, please”. Now, I’ve never been refused alcohol in New Zealand, which meant that despite the fact that I am younger than my girlfriend, I am able to buy beer and she’s not. And the fact that despite the number of Europeans here, European Driving Licences are not valid ID seems to be ridiculous.
The upside to this, however, is that I am going out with a girl who looks young enough to be refused alcohol. And that can only be a good thing.