Monday, 21 December 2009

Sheer purgatory...........

We're finally back home following a marathon trip into Hastings during which icy rain, driven horizontal by a cutting north-easterly wind, successfully managed to flush away most of the ice and snow, save for a few renegade pockets up our road.

As predicted, Hastings town centre resembled nothing so much as all of Dante's 9 levels of hell rolled into one, which is the closest to classical allusion the place is ever likely to get.

Every shop was packed to capacity, labyrinthine queues snaked round every aisle, and a full contingent of lethal baby buggies waited round each corner to knee-cap the unwary.

On our peregrinations I noted that the most salubrious level of hell was most definitely Debenhams, where there reigned an air of quiet desperation amongst the better-heeled customers, which the store tends to attract.

Predictably, the lowest level of hell was reserved for Poundland, where the great unwashed jostled cheek by unshaven jowl to snap up the bounteous wares on sale. I lasted just 10 seconds before I had to beat a hasty retreat in order to avoid being swallowed up and lost forever in the milling, heaving mob.

After a few hours we had more or less lost the will to live so headed back to the car where we heaved a mutual sigh of relief at being safely out of the madness.

However, an even deeper, hitherto uncharted region of hell awaited us at our next stop.

Deeper than all the Stygian depths of Hades and containing tortures so diabolical that people were falling horror-stricken by the wayside even on the approaches.

The Tesco Extra Superstore.

We should have turned back right at the outset, when we registered that the enormous car park was full almost to capacity.

We should have turned back when the keening howls and screams of dozens of hyperactive children reached our ears.

We should have turned back when the lift doors opened to reveal a scene not unlike the chariot race from Ben-Hur.

However we girded our loins, stiffened our resolve, and set off into the maelstrom, heedless of the dangers which awaited us.

It seemed as if the entire population of Hastings and St. Leonards was of one (probably unhinged) mind, and alerted to the possibility of further inclement weather hampering their conspicuous consumption, decided to do their big Christmas food shop today at 3.30pm.

We had to queue 15 minutes purely to glimpse the parsnips, and the fresh sprouts were housed in a mythical Shangri-La section, accessible only to those who had achieved nirvana. Mere mortals could only sigh and pass on.

However, the Armageddon Scenario was being played out for real in the fresh turkey aisle, at which a free-for-all was in progress over the remaining carcases which didn't need funding from the International Monetary Fund to make them affordable.

I mean. £35 for a turkey!

Has the world gone mad?!

We raised our eyes heavenwards and smiled our secret smiles, secure in the knowledge that a frozen bird at a fraction of the price of fresh was our achievable aim.

I'll gloss over the unseemly fracas we encountered at the stuffing and cranberry sauce promotional area.

Similarly I won't give the oxygen of publicity to the scuffles which broke out periodically by the mince pies display.

Not to mention the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the only salt in the whole store was hugely overpriced Maldon Sea Salt. So deep was the general despair that there was a member of staff permanently stationed by the empty shelves to explain that the stock situation was due to profligate panic buying by frail old ladies attempting to stave off the potential for broken hips by slipping on icy paths.

Undaunted, we ploughed on, tenaciously sticking to our list, unswayed even by BOGOF Pringles and Half Price silverskin pickled onions.

Then we came to an aisle eerily deserted and silent, as if it existed in a temporal dimension outside of the frenzy of activity elsewhere.


They had sold out of frozen turkeys.


Our anguished cries rent the air and our shuddering sobs eventually alerted a member of staff to our distress.

"HO yus" he said. "We 'ad loads but they're all sold aht. Youse should've got one wen we 'ad 'em. Nah, dunno if we're gettin' em back in."

Broken and defeated we headed back to the fresh turkey aisle, where a few plucky survivors were tending their wounds, and surveyed the shelves. Aside from the possibly gold-plated birds at £35 upwards, only a few sorry specimens remained.

Some with only one leg. One with two necks. These were probably the results of genetic engineering experiments gone wrong but needs must, and we sorted through the flaccid bags, our spirits sinking ever deeper.

We did eventually manage to find one which bore an approximate physical resemblance to a turkey and shuffled away from the carnage to join one of the 36 queues at the checkouts, where all the staff were wearing comedy Christmas hats, or reindeer deely boppers in an effort to jolly shoppers out of their catatonic trances.

It didn't work.

So after forking out the equivalent of the Gross National Project of a small third-world country we are now back home safely.

Poorer and wiser.

The fridge is straining at the seams and we have had to set up an overflow coolbox outside the back door, which is hopefully cat and fox proof. Although I suspect no self-respecting fox would risk all for several boxes of fresh vegetables and a few cartons of clementine juice.

Just why this mayhem transpires year after year amazes me. Everyone appears to be laying in for a siege. The shops will only be closed for 24 hours on Christmas Day, so the chances of anyone actually starving to death within that time, especially in Hastings, is remote.

I need a drink and a lie-down. Not necessarily in that order......


Anonymous said...

We made exactly the same mistake as you. We thought that by going to shop on Monday - leaving three clear days between now and Christmas, the shops would be fairly well stocked and quiet. Nope - not a bit of it.

Our drive to Oban was down reasonably well gritted roads but there were patches where it was hard packed snow and ice - just to kick us out of the false sense of security we had been lulled into.

The guy in front of us was expecting black ice and was therefore driving at between 25 and 30 mph. Graham was driving and I was doing the swearing and arm waving. Eventually got past him.

The car park in Tesco's was hard packed ice and absolutely treacherous. Didn't put anyone off though.

Tesco was heaving - how can people trying to work their way to the carrots have four elbows and use them all at once?

Did my usual shop where Graham had the trolley and was in a completely different aisle to me so I was walking round with arms full of vegetables while he was wandering around with an empty trolley.

No frozen turkeys in our shop either but we managed to get a frozen breast which will do the two of us along with a chicken and a duck.

Eventually got through the check-out having spent a month's food money on one day's eating - supposedly.

Obviously the person who coined the phrase "season of good will" never went to Tesco.

Hopefully we won't have to go back out but I bet there is some recipe that we can't do without over Christmas and we don't have one of the main ingredients and have to go shopping again.

Wonder if Christmas eve will be quiet.


rosanna said...

Sandra, you make me laugh so much !!!! I agree, £35.00 for a turkey is burglary! nonetheless I laughed and laughed... Best wishes Rosanna

Debbie said...

Sandra your post had me rolling with laughter. Reminds me so much of last year, we popped out for a cucumber and some cranberry sauce and I ended up in hysterical laughter in Tesco as nearly every shelf had been cleared. Its only for a couple of days, totally unbelievable how people go mad. At least your done now, enjoy the drink.. xxx

Sandra Morris said...

I can look back now on the whole sorry episode and practically raise a smile.

However I am sure that there is something vitally important we've forgotten, so a mercy dash to Tesco will very probably be on the cards between now and Friday.

Can't wait..........

tattyhousehastings said...

Ha. Very Funny.

kathi said...

I'm laughing until my sides hurt here! I have been there and done that! In the USA it is the mega WalMart store where everyone in the entire city seems to gather at 5 pm!
No room to breathe, let alone walk or find what you are looking for!
This year I went there at 8 am and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of shoppers! Guess they were all licking their wounds from the night before!
Merry Christmas and thanks for the good laugh today!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making my day seem slightly better - set off for Gatwick at 13.00 to pick up aged parent (travelling from IOM) due in at 15.05 Arrived home at 01.15 (having spent the christmas allowance on coffee & car parking) to a freezing cold house since the boiler has packed up for the 2nd time in a week. However, I did perfect my rugby tackle in order to purchase one of the few remaining sandwiches in the airport. Meanwhile poor parent, having heard the landing gear deploy, was whisked off to Birmingham in order to travel, by unstocked coach, via the worst roads in the region back to the steppes of Surrey. Now all we've got to do is the Christmas food shop - aaahhhhhh !

depesando said...

The CO-OP in Ore is actually quite well stocked, not madly busy... and has loads of really quite decently priced turkeys ( but no mince pies or salt )

Alas - as we had xmas dinner last week.... It's no good to me ... actually planning liver and bacon with savoy cabbage and broad beans on the big day.