Many of you will hopefully have seen the evergreen and ever-so green sitcom about self-sufficiency, The Good Life. You’ve certainly had plenty of opportunities. It originally ran for four series in the 1970s and seems set to be repeated every few months from now until the sun expands and vaporises the solar system.
In a real-life Good Life setting though, I wouldn’t last a weekend. I can kill a plant with a stern look, but I couldn’t kill a chicken or a pig under any circumstances. (Yes, I am the poster boy for hypocritical meat eaters.) Trying to use a rotavator would probably send me vaulting over the garden fence to raid Margo and Jerry’s drinks cabinet for a reviving Dubonnet or Cinzano Bianco.
While I would be bad at The Good Life and insufficient with self-sufficiency, I do try to live not off the land, but off purchases from local small businesses. I feel Tom and Barbara Good would approve. Here in the Isle of Man, we’re certainly blessed with independent retailers, both in terms of quality and quantity.
In spite of that, like everybody else, I sometimes find it necessary to do what has become known as The Big Shop. A trip to a supermarket to overfill your trolley and underspend your budget, to borrow an endearing slogan from yesteryear.
It’s inside a large supermarket that the idea of existing only off home-grown sprouts, and milk still warm from the goat starts to seem like a good idea.
Not that there’s anything wrong with supermarket food – it’s good quality and prepared and packaged and date-stamped enough to reassure even the most urban modern consumer. There’s just something about the design of a supermarket that makes part of my brain slide into neutral. That windowless space filled with straight lines and categories. I know there’s a carefully-planned logic to it, but it just makes all my purchase plans disappear. I usually carry out several circuits of the place, moving in ever-decreasing circles while I try to remember what I came in for.
In almost any other environment, I’m far less scatterbrained. I like lists, including shopping lists. Giant supermarkets though, leave me feeling listless.
I think that’s why I’ll always be fond of smaller retailers. They may not have everything you want, and what they do stock might cost a little more. But with their natural light, human dimensions, and time to think, they’re a comforting halfway house between The Good Life and The Big Shop.