A year or more ago we were doing our weekly shop, and I found a shopping list in the trolley. Not ours—evidently somebody had been to the shop, got their stuff, and left their list behind (by design or accident is not recorded).

For some reason I was intrigued by the list, and kept it. Over the following months and regular shops I collected a few more such lists, for no other reason than it tickled me to think about what they said about the shopper. I thought it might be diverting to share them with you—as I re-find them in the garage, car, various piles of doom-laden paperwork…

This one is interesting first off because it’s written in fountain pen. It looks to be carefully collated with this particular trip in mind, perhaps the night before. (Quite unlike my own lists, which grow during the week as we think of things or run out of them.)

It’s written on the back of a carefully cut ‘Visit Canterbury’ postcard; the fragment I have has ‘Royal Museum and Free Library (Founded 1858)’ on the picture side. The edge is 4″, so if this is a 4″x6″ postcard we could hypothesize the shopper managed to get three shopping lists from this one card. I admire the thrift, and wonder where the other two are.

The list itself isn’t remarkable—cereal, coffee, peas (fresh or frozen though?), beans and fruit… ah! She (I think it’s a she, from the writing) wrote ‘peas’ twice and then scrubbed one out. If we were to categorize our shopping we might put peas with runner beans, although it’s that one that’s redacted.

Some, if I may be so bold, distinctly middle class fruit. A specific number of lemons. Four lamb chops… shopping for dinner with friends? A family of four Sunday lunch?

Milk, standing proudly alone (I never bother writing milk on my lists. We always need milk of a Saturday.)

Sourdough bread… just one, mind. Unit unspecified.

White wine, and red wine—1 bottle. How much white wine then? Multiple units? Is the ‘1 bottle’ an exhortation not to get carried away? What is it about the 1 bottle of red wine, an elegant sufficiency? And is our mystery shopper going to open it when they serve the lamb chops with peas and beans?

I do hope so, but I guess we’ll never know.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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