Friday, February 05, 2010

PJ Probe


Martin Clunes in Tesco ad from Daily Mail


This story is a few days old now. I've had a harrowing week (more later). British readers bear with me, I will try to find a new angle. Adored ones in Addis Ababa, Bad Homburg, Zaragoza and Puke, Albania, I intuit that you are sitting comfortably so I will begin.

Once upon a time there was a hideous monster called Tesco who single-handedly ruined the experience of buying food. It would herd courgettes, cucumbers and carrots onto horrid polyurethane beds, cover them with plastic, transport them for thousands of miles in stifling conditions and then shamelessly parade them in a market. It was humiliating for the vegetables and harrowing for the vegetable lover, who would often buy more than they needed out of pity and because the produce was very, very cheap.

So, this monster who devoured the gentle art of purchasing lovingly grown seasonal legumes for breathlessly anticipated dinner parties, hired a television star to impulse shop in his pyjamas. AND THEN turned the tables on ordinary folk seeking to emulate this star by refusing to serve them when they fronted up in their best winceyettes to stock up on Rottweiler mix and Embassy No. 1.  Come back Grendel, all is forgiven!

Incredibly, a decent hard-sleeping Mum has been shunned by the retail giant while attempting to buy cigarettes after dropping the kids off at school.  A more commendable mission is hard to imagine. Elaine Carmody of Cardiff, Wales explains following her expulsion from the sartorially exacting Tesco in St Mellons that she was just, "popping in for a pack of fags," but if she had been doing a full shop "then we obviously would have gone in clothed". She goes on to conjecture that there's not a lot of difference between full-length pyjama trousers and track suit pants. You'd have to concede that's a fair point. Although you might need to suspend a certain disbelief that one prepares oneself for the outside world with certain rituals, like putting on 'outside' clothes. 

There are times I think I was probably in Tesco really quite dishevelled, although I am reasonably sure I never appeared there in sleeping attire, which for me would have been 'the buff'. I once went to The Roebuck in Tottenham Court Road, I think for a Jesus and Mary Chain gig, in a pair of 1950s polished satin lounging pyjamas. I didn't get thrown out, although I did receive a gratuitous lager deposit courtesy of a fellow attendee.

There has only ever been one reason for Tesco to exist. It is cheaper than chips and opens even longer than a chip shop: 24 hours, six days a week. If you can turn a blind eye to animal, vegetable and possibly even mineral cruelty, you can bring yourself to admit that it is probably the best place to buy toilet paper and milk. I managed to do that for fully a quarter of a century because one does need toilet paper and milk and Tesco just happened to be the only supermarket within walking distance of my house. And it was open at the ridiculously odd hours I chose to run out of toilet paper and/or milk.

In the very recent past, milk was widely delivered throughout Britain to consumers' doorsteps. No one would have twitched a curtain should a neighbour appear in a full Carry On caricature negligee to claim that milk. Why then does the monster who controls the supply get to rule on the appearance of customers, given that they all pay the same price for their toilet paper, milk and mistreated vegetables in a democratic free-market economy?