You can’t get a signal for a mobile in my local Morrisons and I tend to think that it isn’t by chance. A person could get lost in there and never come out, stuck in a time warp where they can’t decide which biscuits to buy. When I was in there today, in a coma induced by the fact that there were no pick and mix ciabatta rolls left, I realised that there was an elderly gentleman next to me. He was smart and bright eyed, with a neatly trimmed moustache and a shock of white hair which he had combed back neatly. He had dressed for the occasion in a tartan tie and a sheepskin jacket. He was having a day out among the aisles and he was looking at me curiously. So curiously in fact that I told him what was the matter.
“There are none of the bread rolls I like left.”
He looked at the empty plastic box where they would have been calmly.
“I don’t like any of the others.”
Last time I was in Morrisons there had been a bit of an incident in the bakery department which had ended in a very nice young man having to cheer me up and wish me a nice day. I didn’t want any more trouble. He smiled at me.
“You need to ask them. They will have some in the back, they always do.”
I didn’t want to ask them. I might have to talk to the woman who had sent me round to the other entrance to have my bread sliced because they had moved the machine “six months ago”. The nice young man might not be there to fend her off this time. The old gentleman (and he was most definitely a gentleman to his fingertips) thought that I was hesitating because I didn’t believe him.
“I know what goes on in here you see. I have come in here for a couple of hours every single day since my wife died in 1997, to fetch my bit of shopping, and I don’t miss much. My wife always did the shopping and I had a lot to learn. I know everything that goes on.”
I tried to work out how many hours in Morrisons two hours every day for over ten years would add up to. Too many.
“Thank you very much.”
I went over to ask them if they had any more rolls and they said that there would be some more in about ten minutes. I smiled at him and pushed my trolley listlessly back towards the salad section. I was trying to remember how many bananas there were left at home and how brown they were when I realised he had followed me. He was standing by my right shoulder looking anxious.
“Excuse me. They said that they were bringing some out for you.”
I tried not to look irritated. He meant well.
“Yes, but they said it would be in ten minutes.”
He shook his head and held his basket in front of him defensively.
“They will have put some out for you.”
He walked away, still shaking his head. In the distance I could just about see that the empty plastic box had been filled with ciabatta rolls. They were only just baked through. I expect he knew that as well.