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Danny's Advanced Level Reading Practice - Shopping

Average: 3.9 (8 votes)

Approximately once a month, on a Saturday, my wife and I pack the kids into the car and drive off for a soul-destroying journey through the seven circles of hell…

In other words, we head for the local supermarket to do our monthly shop.

There are certain things that you need to know about me if our flourishing writer-reader relationship is to continue to develop. First of all, I hate shopping for groceries. Secondly, I detest supermarkets. And most of all, I resent having to do the former in the latter on a sunny Saturday afternoon, when I could be doing far more enjoyable things like idly scratching my bottom on the sofa while staring blankly into the middle-distance.

But a family of four needs feeding, and wears clothes that need washing, and has a thirst that needs quenching… and so off to the supermarket we go for a few necessities and, let’s face it, a vast amount of ‘un-necessities’.

The first stage of our quest begins at home. This mainly involves aimlessly opening cupboards in the kitchen and compiling a list of essentials that we’ve run out of – ie. everything – all the while knowing in the back of our minds that we’re inevitably going to forget the one thing that we really, really need. The absence of this crucial item is generally discovered the next day when we’re halfway through the cooking of the meal that requires it as a main ingredient. Since the next day is a Sunday, when all the shops are shut, we quite often end up eating our Quiche Lorraine, as it were, without the Lorraine.

But let’s get back to Saturday…

Having armed ourselves with a shopping list which would be the length of my arm if the length of my arm were, in fact, longer, we make our merry way to the supermarket, where we abandon the car in a dimly-lit underground parking lot, grab a shopping trolley that has a mind of its own, and begin our adventure…

Nothing is random in the layout of a supermarket. Milk and other necessities are normally located right at the back of the store so that I have to negotiate my way through aisle after aisle of stuff that starving Ethiopians would turn their noses up at in order to get to them. The idea being, of course, that one day, while finding myself stuck for a couple of hours in Aisle Three between a trolley laden with frozen pizza and an attractive display of potted crab paste, I might just suddenly realise that my life is an empty, meaningless void, and that my only hope can be found in a tin of six jumbo sausages in a rich onion gravy. Containing 98% less fat than other leading brands, obviously. Which makes me wonder why they don’t just get rid of the remaining 2% and have done with it….

And yes… I will get stuck in Aisle Three. In fact, I will get stuck in every aisle between myself and the milk I want, because that’s how supermarkets are cunningly designed, with anything that I may find remotely interesting placed conveniently at eye level. I will not fall for their evil ploys! I will not be taken in by promises of my sex-life improving a hundredfold if only I purchase this packet of freeze-dried noodles with added ginger! I do not believe that the pounds will ‘literally drop off’ if I spend my hard-earned cash on a box of whole-wheat soy flakes with no added sugar! And I will definitely not buy a jar of curry sauce just because they’re giving away a free limited edition fridge magnet! I will not be fooled!

Unfortunately, my three-year-old son’s eye level is considerably lower than mine, and he is not as cynical as I (yet), which is why half of our time in the supermarket is spent replacing things such as ‘Alphabet Spaghetti’ and ‘Choco-sausages’ from our trolley back on to the shelves on our return trip from the milk section. Sometimes, people think that I actually work there, and ask me where the bacon is. I send them to the other end of the supermarket, just out of spite.

Worse than the sneaky layout of the supermarket, however, are the women with trays of samples of whatever the marketers are promoting that week. These lonely individuals stand in darkened corners of the supermarket waiting to pounce on unsuspecting shoppers as they trundle past trying to steer their trolleys past wire baskets of ‘special offers’ that expired two weeks ago. They thrust their trays under your nose…

“Would you care to try a Ping-Pong Strawberry biscuit? If you buy six boxes, you could save eighteen percent!”

Which is all very well, but I don’t want any Ping-Pong Strawberry biscuits. This fact, you see, saves me a hundred percent.

Eventually, we get what we came for and make it to the cash point, where a sullen, po-faced cashier wearing a plastic badge reading ‘My Name Is Thea – How Can I Help You?’ swipes each item across an ominously beeping scanner and then demands a couple of hundred euros for the privilege. Eyeing our mountain of shopping, she asks if we’d like some carrier bags.

I look at her to determine if she’s actually serious. Apparently, she is.

“That’s okay”, I reply. “The car’s only a hundred metres away. I think I can juggle the shopping that far”.

I’m sure that Thea is a woman of many hidden talents, but detecting sarcasm is obviously not one of them.

“Okay then”, she says, and proceeds to ignore us.

We eventually get home, get the shopping from the car to the kitchen table, and from the kitchen table to the appropriate cupboards. Amazingly enough, when we’re finally done, it’s still Saturday…

“I never knew you could juggle”, my wife points out admiringly as she switches on the kettle. “Fancy a coffee?”

Coffee! We needed coffee!


By Danny, Teacher at EC Malta English language school

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

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