Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Sometimes, the answer only becomes clear when you stop trying to work it out, and give in to the incongruity of things. I was buying some shopping at Sainsbury's in Balham. I picked a check-out where the conveyor belt was empty and the cashier looked as if she was waiting for the next customer.

But as I started to unload my shopping, she looked up, shook her head and said: 'Not closed.'

'You're closed?' I said, thinking that must be what she meant.

'Not closed, ' she insisted.

So I went on unloading my shopping.

Upon which she shouted, 'Not closed!' and motioned at me to take my shopping back off the belt.

'Not closed?' I asked.

'Not closed, ' she said.

And it was at this point that I uncharacteristically gave up arguing, for reasons I shall explain later, walked to the neighbouring check-out and unloaded my shopping there.

As I was doing so, another customer started unloading her shopping at the 'Not Closed' counter.

'Not closed!' the cashier shouted at her as she put a tub of Lurpak on to the motionless belt.

'Not closed?' said the lady, looking as confused as I had been.

'Not closed!' the cashier shouted again.

'You're closed?' the lady said, picking up the Lurpak.

'Not closed!' the cashier yelled, getting really quite agitated now.

'I'm sorry, ' said the lady, putting the Lurpak back on to the belt, 'I thought you said you were closed.'

'Not closed!' the cashier yelled, and motioned for her to take her items away.

'Oh, you are closed?' said the customer.

'Not closed!'

And on it went. Just give up, I thought, as I watched her putting the tub of butter on and off the belt. Give up, throw in the towel, put your hands in the air. Admit that it makes no sense. There is no point fighting. The reason I had not even begun to fight, on this occasion, was that I had just spent several gruelling days trying to deny that I had called the RSPCA to a horse with bad feet.

Several people in the village where I have my little weekend place had secretly called.

But not me. I don't have much confidence in the RSPCA. But what I had done was this: a few weeks ago, in this column, I called certain people who keep horses on the cheap 'pikeys'. …

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