Never, ever try to do your shopping in a supermarket a week before Christmas. If you do, you will seriously consider murder, suicide, or murder followed by suicide.
My local Sainsbury's have gone the whole hog this year; jolly decorations in the most festive of reds and golds; cholesterol-laden cakes at prices so low you'll be haunted by visions of starving children for weeks afterwards unless you've already succumbed to a heart-attack so severe it feels like someone's applied a jack-hammer to your chest; intrusively joyous music so aggravating that you'd rather cut your ears off, eat them, vomit them into your cupped hands and smear them on your face than listen to another nanosecond of Slade, and dead-eyed staff with red felt hats jammed onto their heads in a display of enforced jollity so pernicious that you feel it could only be topped by Hitler making the Waffen SS attach glitterballs to the ceiling in Auschwitz in a bid to raise morale amongst the Juden.
Throw several hundred dull-witted imbeciles into the mix, all pushing trolleys piled eight-feet high with shit they can't possibly need, and you've just created my own personal hell, thank you.
None of this was helped by the dawning realisation that I seem to be the only human being on the face of the planet with the vaguest understanding of 'spatial awareness'. They dawdle about in a fucking dreamworld, screeching to a halt without a single moments thought, glaring at me when I smash into the backs of their legs. Here's a handy tip - treat your shopping trolley like you would a car. Look around. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Don't blindly swerve about like Stevie Wonder at the dodgems with a ferret in his undercrackers, USE YOUR BASTARD EYES!
Fortunately, I was only buying a reasonably small selection of delicious breakfast items, so didn't have to stick around too long. Within ten minutes I was on my way to the tills.
Side Note: When I go to Sainsbury's, I write a list. This alone has earned me the opprobrium of certain friends who prefer instead to just browse and pick up what they fancy as the mood takes them. To me, that is insanity. If you don't have a list, how on Earth can you be sure you've purchased everything you require? Imagine wading through the river of faeces that is a supermarket in Southend only to discover when you burst through your front door, tears of hatred in your eyes, that you've neglected to pick up eggs. It doesn't bear thinking about.
Side Note 2: I also write my shopping list in order of where the items are in the supermarket. This, I will concede, is a bit mental. However, in my defence, there's nothing worse than getting all the way to other end of the store only to realise you didn't pick up the button mushrooms in aisle 1. My method is as follows:
1) Make a shopping list.
This is where you sit, gazing into space, jotting down tasty items of nommage as each one springs into your mind. "Home-made meatballs? OK, I'll need fresh beef mince, onions, Parmesan, garlic and eggs." Those items then go on the list, in the order you think of them.
2) Pick up a fresh sheet of paper and lick the end of your pencil.
3) Make a second list.
This is where you take the items from list one and put them in order of location. The fruit and veg aisle is first in the shop, so onions and garlic take pride of place at the top. The meat aisle comes next, so you write down 'minced beef x 1'. And so on.
In this manner, you avoid unnecessary buggering about and have a shopping experience that doesn't so closely resemble rubbing Scotch Bonnet peppers onto your cornea until you scream your lungs up so they hang down the front of your shirt like the ends of a particularly bulbous scarf.
Arriving at the tills, it appeared that in their rush to foist Christmas upon me whether I wanted it or not, Sainsbury's had neglected to address the reasonably important measure of actually hiring any staff. The queues were ridiculous.
In a moment of insanity, I ended up queuing behind a woman and her husband. The woman was one of those strange creatures who, in her younger years, was probably slightly eccentric in a way that was both amusing and very attractive. I could imagine the man, dark of hair and lean of stomach, looking at her and shaking his head, tears of mirth rolling down his cheeks, chuckling "you're mad!" and giving her a hug, convinced that she was the loveliest thing he'd ever laid his eyes upon. Fast forward thirty years and he clearly wanted to kill her. Fast forward thirty seconds and I wanted to kill her too.
Now, I should point out that when I'm unloading my trolley, I have a bit of a system. This involves placing items for refrigeration in a general heap and everything else can then be scattered around and about. Bread and eggs have to be placed at the end of the conveyor belt, obviously, or you end up with a loaf of wholemeal the size of a house brick and a fine smearing of albumen on your Coco Pops.
This insane woman in front of me, however, took the biscuit. Not only was she taking the items out one at a time, she was telling a little story about each one.
Broccoli - "Oh, we'll need this for dinner tomorrow. That can go next to the chops."
Paracetamol - "Right, I've got two of these, just in case. They need to go here."
Jelly - "Now, Mr. Jelly, you need to be over here, next to the evaporated milk."
Minute by painful minute, she cradled each item in her crazy hands, told a tiny story about it's history, what meal it was required for, or what bizarre scenario it might become an integral part of later, then reverently placed it on the conveyor before returning her gaze to the trolley, tapping her bottom lip, deep in thought, and picking up something else that she could have a conversation with.
Her husband stood at the far end of the till, desperately wishing he was somewhere else, like Baghdad for example, and failing rather spectacularly to do anything about the old witch.
My temper was starting to deteriorate and I was in real danger of shouting something inappropriate like, "Oi, Rainman, get a fucking move on!" but, of course, I didn't for fear of her suddenly rounding on me and tearing at my face with her clawed fingers which, I'm convinced, had probably dissected a thousand steaming turds over the years and smeared them across the bedroom walls.
My furious gaze turned to her husband who was still milling around six feet away, suddenly fascinated with a speck of lint he'd discovered on the lapel of his tweed jacket. She gave you a blowjob, you gave her a wedding ring, and you've regretted it ever since. Just because you've ruined your own life, it doesn't mean you have to ruin mine as well. Take some responsibility for your eccentric, grocery-loving wife and move the bloody queue along a bit.
Eventually, after she spent 3 whole minutes (I'm really not exaggerating here) examining the plastic wrapping on a fruit cake (the irony was not lost upon me) their trolley was empty and I was able to start unloading my own purchases.
Once they'd moved on, the till-assistant (is that the right word? I didn't want to say 'monkey') adjusted his Santa hat, flashed me a half-smile and apologised for the delay.
I told him it wasn't his fault, smiled (although it was probably closer to a sneer) and started to pack.