To get out of the Big Food Shop just moan like hell | Steve Canavan

The worst thing about the festive period is having to do things you wouldn’t normally do. You know, like pretending to be happy; or watching reruns of 1980s sitcoms on TV that you weren’t very fond of in the 1980s.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 1:10 pm
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 1:54 pm
Steve Canavan and Mrs C don't even like pickled onions - so why are they buying them?! Pic: Shutterstock

You know, like pretending to be happy; or watching reruns of 1980s sitcoms on TV that you weren’t very fond of in the 1980s let alone now; or having to visit family members you’re not that keen on (in my case my Uncle Terence, who has a conviction for flashing that no one ever dares mention … though we can’t help but feel apprehensive whenever he turns up for a family party wearing a brown mackintosh).

Worst of all, though, is having to join in with the shopping.

Mrs Canavan, you see, is one of those people who likes to do things together.

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I’ve never understood this. My ideal day is to spend it on my own. Hers is to spend it with me (you can see what a perfect match we are).

Indeed the biggest source of frustration for her in our increasingly wobbly relationship is that I don’t bestow enough of my time on her.

‘You never hug me or show affection,’ she often says.

“I do,” I argue back. “We held hands on holiday in Devon in 2003” (which is true, though only because I’d been drinking and forgot myself).

I once got told off for not getting out of bed and showing concern when Mrs Canavan, after an evening of drinking rather heavily (this was clearly pre-children, back in the days when we had what’s known as a social life), suddenly bolted from bed in the early hours of the morning and ran to the bathroom to be sick (from the sound of it several times; it took 25 minutes and three plungers to unblock the loo the next morning).

‘Why didn’t you check I was all right and stroke my hair?’ she later asked, moodily, as if I’d let her down.

Now I’m a broad-minded and, I like to think, caring individual (when an elderly neighbour unsteady on her feet needed a lift to the local shop for milk and bread, I stopped my car, wound down the window – though not too far because it was raining violently and I didn’t want to get my leather upholstery damp – and told her there was a short cut through the ginnel which would knock at least three minutes off her journey).

But I draw the line at stroking the hair of someone, no matter how well I know them, while they’re projectile vomiting partially digested bits of kebab into a toilet bowl.

I digress though – back to the shopping.

Usually I manage to get out of it, mainly because I have spent many years cultivating a very powerful and emotional story about a serious foot complaint I’m suffering from that makes it exceedingly difficult and painful to walk around a supermarket. This is slightly undermined by the fact I play five-a-side football and badminton twice a week but nevertheless Mrs Canavan usually allows me to stay home while she traipses off to the shops (mainly because she actually quite likes doing the shop on her own; it allows her to sneak some of those ridiculously expensive women’s shampoos into the trolley – you know, the ones that claim they contain secret ingredients from the Amazon and guarantee ‘stronger, sleeker and more vibrant looking hair’ – and pay for them using the joint account card).

But at Christmas, there’s little chance of getting out of it. When your partner – already frazzled and stressed out by the pressures the festive season brings - asks you to accompany her to the supermarket, you accompany her.

So I went and, gosh, what a depressing experience.

At dinner-time on Saturday as we approached the store (which is the size of a small country, so large there’s a luggage carousel and passport control at the door), there was a line of traffic actually queueing just to get in the damn car park.

Once inside, I was in charge of the trolley. It's something I insist on - a man's job, like buying the Christmas tree or painting the shed - but it was a little like being on the M25 during a particularly congested rush-hour. The most I could progress before hitting a queue of other shoppers was about three inches. This in turn led to frayed tempers among several shoppers and indeed a fight almost broke out in the canned food aisle when two women dived for the last remaining tin of beans and sausages with added Worcester Sauce. ('Now with new improved recipe' said the slogan on the side, which always makes me wonder what the hell they were putting in it before).

It took more than an hour and a half to complete the shop, not helped by Mrs Canavan’s addiction to special deals. Standard exchange: “Pickled onions are on offer.” Me: “But neither of us eat pickled onions”. Her: “It’s two jars for £1.50 – we’ll get them for a rainy day.”

Then the piece de resistance. The young lad on the checkout - so young he had to ask his colleague Geoff to swipe the bottle of wine we'd bought (‘thanks Geoff, oh and can you help me with my geography homework too?') - totted up our bill.

We paid, as the security guards prefer you to do, then the lad, handing us our receipt, said with a cheery smile on his face "well done, you've saved £11.80 by shopping here today".

Our bill had come to £171. I had to stop myself from shouting 'are you having a laugh mate? We've not saved anything, in fact we've almost had to re-mortgage our house to pay for that'.

I sulked for the remainder of the day and spoke minimally. Childish but it worked.

'OK, you don't have to come to the supermarket again this Christmas," said Mrs Canavan at about half nine that night.

Result. One shopping trip a year is one too many.