An Awkward Encounter at the Deli Counter

James Proclaims (4)


Saturday lunchtimes are often a conundrum for Mrs Proclaims and I. Most meal times are pretty regulated these days due to a highly efficient grocery-shopping schedule.

(That’s right I’ve opened a post with the phrase ‘highly efficient grocery-shopping schedule’. This one’s going to be roller coaster of a post…)

Essentially we get our groceries delivered every Sunday and Wednesday by a major supermarket. We do this because neither of us can be trusted to actually go to the supermarket and restrict ourselves to purchasing the stuff we need. Very often other stuff finds its way into the trolley. Stuff that is bad for us.

But the modern age of the online shop and home delivery has eradicated the temptation to be quite as ill-disciplined when it comes to healthy eating.

Indeed, we do eat quite healthily for the most part.

And thanks to our established schedule we’ve managed to stick to a fairly balanced and nutritious routine of evening meals. Most of it actually tastes pretty good too.

In fact, so disciplined have we become that even the Friday night meal, traditionally a pitfall for both of us coming at the end of what is nearly always a mentally and physically draining working week (I perhaps exaggerate – but we’re both pretty weak-willed, so even being moderately tired is enough for one of us to falter and when one of us falters the other is not too far behind…), is now more often a reasonably healthy homemade curry rather than an expensive (and admittedly delicious) takeaway meal.

This commitment to healthy eating comes, at least in part, through thriftiness. If I’ve committed earlier in the week to purchasing the ingredients for my Friday night curry, I’m loath to let them go to waste just because my inner glutton is demanding a takeaway.

The one meal where there is a little ‘wiggle room’ is Saturday lunchtime. Obviously sometimes we go out on Friday and Saturday evenings too, but those are usually occasions that are planned well in advance of me ordering the weekly grocery shop. Spontaneity is the exclusive reserve of Saturday lunchtime.

Now you might be reading this and feeling a little bit sorry for Mrs Proclaims, having a husband like me who allows for so little impulsiveness. Don’t pity her. No-one fears spontaneity more than my wife. We’re very well matched in that regard.

Indeed, she thinks I’m quite the cavalier for leaving Saturday lunchtime so open to interpretation.

But I do, because sometimes it is nice to go out for lunch and Saturday always seems like the best day to do that.

Sometimes, however, we don’t go out. Such occasions occur when we’ve already been out in the morning and are so annoyed by our fellow citizens before lunch rolls around (neither Mrs Proclaims nor I could be described as being a ‘people person’) that we have to make a hasty retreat back to the homestead. We’re usually smart enough to purchase something nice for lunch on our retreat from wherever it is we’ve been and then we eat it at home instead.

Sometimes, though, we find that we spend all of Saturday at home. Here there is more of a conundrum because when lunch rolls around, my ‘maverick’ attitude to the weekly shop comes back to haunt us.

Up until recently that problem was solved by a quick visit to a nearby ‘baguette’ shop. That baguette shop was, quite possibly, the best thing about living where we do.

And we quite like where we live.

So it was pretty good baguette shop.

Unfortunately, I’m forced to use the past tense because, for seemingly no good reason, that baguette shop has recently ceased trading.

It was a thriving business, there was no reason for it to close down.
But for some reason the landlords of the building it was housed in, decided that they wanted the property back, so the owners were forced to shut shop.
People were outraged.

It actually made the local paper.

But apparently the property has been reclaimed ‘in the name of development’.
I’m not sure how an empty shop augments the environs of my neighbourhood, for that seems to be the only ‘development’ that I can see.

Maybe I’m being harsh, but a similarly favoured café of mine was seized by the same landlord about two years ago for the same reason and that has stood empty ever since.

Maybe this development will happen one day.

Even though the demise of the baguette shop is nothing to do with Brexit, I’m blaming Brexit. I now blame most things on Brexit. It’s a convenient scapegoat in that regard. Which, to be fair, is the only convenient thing about Brexit.

In the meantime, I’m forced to go without baguettes on the occasional Saturday lunchtimes that I want them.

Has anyone suffered greater misfortune than that?

Anyway this Saturday was one such an occasion when the disappearance of our cherished baguette shop impacted upon us.

We were at home and without even the most rudimentary ingredients for a satisfying lunch.

Well we had some stuff. Stuff that would’ve been fine for your common-or-garden Monday lunch. But a Saturday lunch? I think not.

“What shall we do for lunch?” I demanded.

“We could go out,” Mrs Proclaims pondered aloud, before adding, “except I don’t really want to go out.”

She appeared to give the matter some more thought but it was clear to both of us that a decision had been made. Mrs Proclaims would not be going out for lunch and I would be going out to buy lunch for both of us.

Which if there were a baguette shop still trading in our vicinity would have been no problem at all.

But there wasn’t.

I was forced to go to Waitrose.


Do problems get any more ‘’first world’ than having to brave the Saturday lunchtime crown in the local Waitrose supermarket.

Possibly not, but it was still an ordeal.

Oh it started out well enough, I was able obtain a demi-baguette easily enough from the bakery section. And some nice chickpea falafel was quickly into the basket with virtually no difficulty. We already had the makings of a rudimentary salad in our fridge at home, so no need to dwell in the crowded vegetable section.

Even the gratuitous cupcakes from the ‘patisserie’ counter were obtained with minimal fuss and there’s nearly always a queue there.

But there still remained the challenge of the deli counter.

As mentioned in multiple previous posts, Mrs Proclaims doesn’t eat meat but I do. And I quite fancied some ham for my lunch. During the working week I often have ham sandwiches for lunch. I buy enough pre-packaged ham to last exactly the five working days I need to take in a packed lunch. There is no superfluous ham in my fridge. Remember I have a highly efficient weekly grocery schedule.

So all I needed for my Saturday lunch was a solitary slice of ham. If you’re buying ham in such small quantities, you have to go to the deli counter.

Which I hate doing because whenever I go to the deli-counter, one of two things happen. Either I’m stuck behind a customer who literally wants to know the life story of the animals that contributed to every available meat product before they make their choice, (or similarly they make the assumption that the teenager working behind the counter earning money to see them through sixth-form or college is an renowned expert on the various cheeses on display) and I have to wait for ages to be served, or I get to the deli-counter to find it conveniently bereft of other customers but inconveniently bereft of any staff and I have wait for ages.

Basically I always have to wait for ages when I get to the deli counter.

And Saturday was no exception.

It did at least give me time to peruse the various hams on offer and not being a ham connoisseur, I selected the one that was on special offer. It was some kind of ‘Seville Marmalade’ ham. Others available included a ‘Muscovado Sugar’ ham and a ‘Dorset Al and Treacle’ ham. But the ‘Seville Marmalade’ ham had the biggest reduction in price and it looked ok to me – there wasn’t actually marmalade on it or anything (presumably it had been cooked in marmalade?).

Eventually my time came to be served and I asked for a single slice of the ‘Seville Marmalade’ ham. The assistant looked at the ham and then back at me.

“There isn’t much left,” she said, “it’s basically all on the bone now.”

What I heard, when she said that, was, “there’s not much left so it’s going to be difficult to cut you a proper slice, but if you’re not fussy I can cut some smaller chunks for you.”

So I replied, “that’s fine, I’m not fussy. Small chunks will be fine.”

And she looked at me.

With hatred in her eyes.

As if I were the devil himself.

Apparently when she said “There isn’t much left, it’s basically all on the bone now” she didn’t mean what I thought she meant.

As she slowly and clearly with great difficulty set about trying to get anything that resembled meat off what was now clearly and visibly just bone, it was clear that what she’d actually meant was:

“This going to be really difficult. I don’t want to do this. Can you just pick a different ham please?”

Eventually, after several minutes of silence, where I looked anywhere but directly at the angry assistant struggling to produce edible bits of a ham that I’d always been fairly indifferent about purchasing, she had managed to gather enough lumps to fill a sandwich.

With ill-concealed hate, she weighed the offending ham, quoted the not unreasonable price at me, (to which I nodded my fearful assent) and handed me small plastic bag containing my ill-gotten bounty.

And to be fair it did make a pretty decent sandwich when I got home.

I miss that baguette shop though.

  21 comments for “An Awkward Encounter at the Deli Counter

  1. January 30, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Oh dear sorry to hear about the closing of your baguette shop & the cafe, I just think landlords have become greedy or is it a government thingy whereby they get paid more for keeping the premises empty than actually renting it out?

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      No, there is supposed to be some kind of development happening but it’s been delayed for ages so not sure why they couldn’t let the baguette shop stay open while they sort out the delay. As it is the shop will probably stay empty for another year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. January 30, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    The similarities between your household and mine are frightening! Also – you’re back in the Reader 👏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 30, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      Glad we’re not the only ones! Sadly I’m not yet properly back in the reader – I have to ask WordPress to put me in there every time I publish a new post. But they assure me they’re working on the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 30, 2017 at 7:12 pm

        What a nightmare! Don’t think I’d have the patience seeing as the tech teams aren’t always the easiest to communicate with.

        Liked by 1 person

      • January 30, 2017 at 7:16 pm

        No, it is a bit annoying having to explain the problem every time. But I suppose there are worse things in life. Like not being able to get a baguette when on a Saturday…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. January 30, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Now I really fancy a baguette…

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 30, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      Me too – I still haven’t had one. And now I may never have one again. Unless I’m prepared to walk a bit further.
      Which I’m definitely not…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. January 30, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    This was a pretty fun real. I like you’re style, felt like I was sat across from you. RIP mystery baguettes heaven

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 30, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      Glad you enjoyed and thanks for your condolences on the baguette shop. I’m still grieving…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. January 31, 2017 at 5:08 am

    I know what you mean about annoying people in lines. I had to change lines three times today at the discount store because either people didn’t know how to use a credit card or the cashier didn’t know how to work a cash register. Why do these things seem to always happen when I’m in a hurry?

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 31, 2017 at 6:55 am

      I feel your pain 😔


  6. February 1, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Funnily enough, I nearly missed my train the other day. “Curse you, Brexit!” I thought. Between it and the election of Donald Trump, I think the world now has ready-made, fits-all-sizes excuses for pretty much everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 1, 2017 at 4:24 am

      In some ways it’s quite convenient…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. cultivatingtime
    February 1, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    We try to be strict with our food shopping and meal planning. Part healthy eating, budgeting and reducing waste. I do still need some treats though!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rukmani Krishna
    February 2, 2017 at 7:57 am

    What a fun read! I really like your narration style. It’s comforting and empathetic 🙂 Keep writing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 2, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      Will do. Thanks 😀


  9. February 22, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Thank goodness. You’ve just reminded me that I haven’t finished off my weekly shopping list and I only have an hour to do so! I blame Brexit!

    Liked by 1 person

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