I went to the local supermarket this morning to get all the Christmas food I can only buy at the last minute such as vegetables, cream, cheese, bacon for the turkey and pigs-in-blankets. I always try to avoid going out on Christmas Eve as it is always so busy and in any case I like to spend the time at home getting organised, preparing and cooking. I thought I was being extra clever this year by going not only the day before Christmas Eve, as I usually do, but TWO days before. I have arranged to collect my mother from her home and bring her here tomorrow (I have been dithering about when best to do it as I was waiting to see what the weather was going to do and whether we would get snowed in), so today was really my last chance to get the last-minute food in.
Despite the fresh fall of snow last night, on top of the snow still lying around from last week, the main roads were clear and I only needed to slip and slither the car out of our cul-de-sac. When I arrived at the supermarket car park about a mile away, I encountered my first exposure to pandemonium. There was hardly a space available in the enormous car park. We are talking upwards of about 800 parking bays and nearly every one full. The ground was awash with slushy snow and huge puddles full of floating ice. I drove around and around until I found the last parking bay in England! This should of course have let off alarm bells but I valiantly sailed through the icy air into the oasis of the store with my trolley expecting the usual number of customers. What met my eyes once I was already cocooned in the warmth was utter chaos. I could not believe my eyes. Was there a war on? A lorry drivers' strike maybe? Armageddon on the way? The crowds were pushing and shoving (I have the bruises to prove it); there were trolley jams in every aisle; there appeared to be impromptu coffee-morning meetings being held in the middle of some aisles; they were four deep picking over the clementines and brussel sprouts. While I was waiting my turn hoping to have some contact with the tubs of custard, I had a trolley pushed up my back, as if I were invisible and not myself waiting for some large person with a trolley in front of me to budge. The staff looked just as fed up as they tried to stock up the depleted items with replenishments. To start with I politely hung back to let others through narrow bottlenecks (caused by huge pyramids newly-stacked in mid aisle of exciting offers like mince pies or turkey foil) but after it became apparent that it was every man for himself, I sharpened my elbows and battled forwards with a blank I'm-not-to- be-messed-with look. The touble was, a few others had that same sort of look too and carried it off far more menacingly than me.
I am pleased to say I made it to the checkout with only a few bruises and most of my sanity vaguely intact, though to be honest I was that stressed I might have had a bit of trouble remembering my own name if pushed. As I left there were more people adding to the throng. There were several cars eyeing up my car bay as I backed out of it. I suspect they might have had to call in the local constabulary to deal with the fights. I was glad to be out of there. On unloading it all at home again, I realised I had forgotten the gravy. I'm certainly not going back there again. Do you think I can get away with turkey in a custard sauce instead?