Of Retail and Robins

James Proclaims (4)

The walk to my local supermarket is eminently pleasant. It’s a twenty minute stroll through charming green parkland, alongside a canal, complete with lock and canal boats, and at one point a dramatic river crossing, which incorporates a stunning vista of the Thames in all its glory.

It makes me feel a little guilty that I tend to get my groceries delivered to my door. Not that guilty though – however pleasant the walk to the place, the actual experience of navigating around Tesco Extra, is never less than gruelling and the delivery service is very convenient.

Also, if my shopping needs are so small that I’m able to carry the bags home without the need of my car, then I’m far more likely to pop to Waitrose. Not because of any middle class pretentions that Waitrose is a more pleasant experience. It rarely is, but it is quite a lot nearer to my house. Also they give you a free coffee if you have a ‘My Waitrose’ card, which is an added bonus. Although I was a little incensed when I discovered they’ve changed their coffee-giving-away policy to one where you now have to buy something in order to get the cup into which the free coffee goes. It’s now marginally less convenient than it once was and suggests a lack of trust between customer and retailer.

But then I realised that getting angry about stuff as trivial as that is indicative of someone who doesn’t have any real problems, so I congratulated myself on living a relatively trouble-free life and moved on.

This morning I awoke to discover that supplies were a little thin on the ground in my kitchen. It’s symptomatic of the fact that my other half and I are both teachers and it’s currently half term. We’re just a bit less organised than normal. With Reading Bridge being out of action at the moment, it was impractical to drive, but our grocery needs were such that we needed the options of the larger supermarket and so off to Tesco we went.

The walk was as pleasant as ever, and even the shopping experience was not overly horrific, given that it’s a normal working day for non-teachers and consequently there weren’t too many other shoppers. We also treated ourselves to a breakfast in the new “Harris and Hoole” coffee shop onsite. It’s much nicer than the cafe they used to have but it’s also quite a lot more expensive. It seems like Tesco are fighting the war against the discount supermarkets of Aldi and Lidl by appealing to a different consumer entirely. It’s almost as if Tesco now wants to be Waitrose…

But in Waitrose the coffee is free…

Nonetheless it was all quite pleasant and on the walk home, things took a turn for the idyllic, when I caught site of a little Robin Redbreast going about its business as if it were the central character in a children’s story. How utterly charming, I thought to myself.

But then I reflected – it’s the latter end of May and all of the maxims from my infancy, as well as a large number of Christmas cards that I’ve received over the years, would have me believe that the Robin is intrinsically linked with yuletide celebrations. Now I’m not stupid enough to think that Robins can’t exist at other times of the year, but I did wonder if the Robin is ever really likely to be seen in the winter months, or if it’s just one of those myths purported by popular culture.

So I did a bit of research and what I found out about the robin’s place in British folklore was truly fascinating.

Obviously I haven’t got the time to go into it all here. This is just a facile blog post about going to the supermarket. But why not look it up for yourself?

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