The fabulous thing about being middle class is that there’s always something new to feel guilty about. Of course, no-one wastes time feeling bad about the essentials that gave us entree into this class in the first place – the huge privileges of education, and the subsequent income that this confers, both seen as our birthright. No, we much prefer to feel guilty about going to cheap supermarkets.
First, I saw an article in the Guardian saying that it was possible to go to places like Aldi and Lidl and emerge with your accent intact. Then I heard people in Crystal Palace singing the praises of Lidl’s take on kettle chips. True Love came next, reporting the check-out man in Sainsburys had said he never shopped there himself, and much preferred Lidl. Finally, yesterday, I found myself scurrying into the Sydenham branch of Lidl, not quite with a paper bag over my head, but certainly with a backward glance and a furtive gait.
My trolley was very reluctant to disengage itself from the pack, and kept listing back towards its friends throughout our journey round the store. But this inconvenience was soon forgotten as I hoovered up the delights, starting by marvelling up at an uncompromising banner hanging over the entrance: ‘Wow, that’s cheap!’ it read. Wow, that’s …. frank, I thought. You’d never catch Mr J Sainsbury admitting his stuff was cheap. On special offer, maybe. On bogof, (buy one get one free) perhaps. But cheap? Darling, perish the thought. Sainsbury’s main aim in life is to get us to buy their ‘taste the difference’ range. Now I’ve always found this range annoying, as it only promises to be different, not better. And it’s always more expensive. What’s the point of that?
Maybe I am a Lidl girl after all, I thought, feeling like Dorothy on the yellow brick road as I snaffled up a bouquet of gorgeous coral pink roses for £1.99 (hoping True Love would think they were from my Imaginary Secret Admirer), bagged a vast mango for 37p – yes, 37p, and generally hurled stuff into the trolley as though I was on my own special version of supermarket sweep. I left the shop having forked out £40 less than usual (though perhaps that was because I just couldn’t quite like the look of any of the meat) and with my arms beautifully toned from hauling my trolley hither and thither.
And the proof of the pudding? B-who-lives-the-dream came round for a light ladies’ lunch and declared that my melon was better than hers. Did I admit its provenance? Did I hell! And I hope she hasn’t got her reading glasses on now or the cat is out of the bag. Went round to another dear friend’s for drinks and did, sheepishly, admit that my offering of salted almonds was from That Shop, as the conversation had turned to such matters. Apart from a sharp intake of breath, I think I more or less got away with it.
Of course, it won’t be possible to enjoy Lidl for long. It’ll be another Primark. One minute we’re revelling in cheap T-shirts, the next we are, quite rightly, flaying ourselves over sweatshop children in Asia. The stories will start coming out about just how they get mangoes for 37p, and then one simply won’t be able to say Wow, that’s cheap without knowing, Wow, that’s total exploitation. Until then, I think I shall keep slinking in there. Well, with so many hungry lawyers to feed, I don’t have that much choice. And I can’t resist just a Lidl bit more.