Ayn Rand at Sainsburys; and other suburban stories

Putting out the rubbish and I hear a slight controlled scream from the street. Looking up the path between the hedges and a girl of about 7 glides edgily past on a pair of inline skates with a look of delight and panic on her face – the most danger and excitement you can have at one and a half miles per hour.

My Conservative voting neighbour – who still has an election leaflet in her window – comes out to inspect her bins on collection day; opens the lid, gives a proprietary glance in and down, with a face that expects disappointment, and an appraising sniff; just to see if standards are being maintained.

In Kingsbury, May means mangoes. Buying a box from a teetering pile on the street and the bloke offers me a plastic bag. “No thanks, I’m trying to give them up.” I find that this line gets a smile and the message across.

Whenever I use the cash point at the local Sainsburys I am haunted by the ghost of a horrible incident from last year. Bit of a queue. An old lady fumbling a bit with her card and the buttons and a very aggressive woman started shouting at her to get a move on or get out of the way. Everyone just looked – the way people do – while the woman looked around for approval because she was obviously doing us all a favour by harassing this inconvenient woman out of our way. So when her eye contact landed on me I told her to leave the old lady alone and have a bit of respect and care for the elderly. Quite reasonable I thought. A volley of abuse ensued. The word W*****r prominent as she stated her firm belief that the future belonged to her. This put the old lady off her stroke even more and she went off shocked and grumbling, despite some encouragement from me to stick her ground and take her time. The upsetting thing about incidents like this is always the way that people just stand and look and allow bullying to take place, even if they disapprove.

At the bus stop opposite the Magistrates Court on Sunday, a small team of young Eastern European men; clean cut, wearing (non matching) neat clothes and shoes, stand and have earnest conversations while carrying enormous black bibles zipped up in leather covers like filofaxes of the latter day saints.

Phrases that gain a little too much in the translation dept. In VBs off Kingsbury Circle – an Asian Cash and Carry that has settled in an old garage, with the feel of a barely refurbished factory where you can buy hundredweights of rice or flour, jaggery in jute sacks, gallons of mango juice, industrial quantities of ghee in huge tins and every spice known to man and then some – and I’m looking for Kashmiri chilies. Time was that my social anxiety was such that I would wander around for hours looking rather than actually ask someone. Its odd that I can stand up in front of quite large meetings full of people I don’t know and make a speech, but asking a worker in a shop if they have some produce has always been a struggle. Reflecting on how daft this is, I take a deep breath and ask the woman stacking bags of lentils if they have Kashmiri chilies. “They are in the bottom,” she says; which sounds a bit painful to me.


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