Double Take – (Or Why Never to Send A Husband Shopping!)

As some of you may know, as well as holding creative writing workshops I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) I’ve kept promising to share some of their work. Here is a piece written by one of my students, Alan Roberts. The  whole class dissolved into laughter! For those of a sensitive nature, be warned, this posts contains swearing. And I mean Swearing!!

Double Take

I was relaxed leaving the Creative Writing class where we had been asked to close our eyes for a few moments, breathe in deeply through our noses, exhale via our mouths and let our minds take us to a place each of us considered a haven, picture something there and then write about it.  Mentally I remained in my chosen haven as I walked to my car.  The phone rudely interrupted my thoughts.   Betty (my wife)– can I get some things from the local supermarket to bake a lemon cake for unexpected family visitors due to arrive in a couple of hours?  As I drove the short distance to the supermarket the reflection in the interior mirror confirmed my serene state of mind.


I arrived at the store at twelve twenty.  Time was now of the essence.  I walked into the store, still relaxed.  I chose two lemons before moving to the lower aisle to pick-up Stork margarine and some milk.  I noticed the Anchor butter on offer – two tubs for £4 instead of £3.25 each (I can never resist a bargain!).  I placed them in the basket without examining them and moved to the biscuit aisle.  I bought all I needed in just over ten minutes and made my way to the checkouts.  Still relaxed, still smiling.


As usual only two of the five manned checkouts were operating and there were numbers of customers in both queues.  Reluctantly I moved to the automated checkout.  Mistake!  I had come into the store with our ‘Bag for Life’ (one of the few occasions when I remembered it) and so pressed the ‘I Am Using My Own Bag’ icon.  The plummy female voice bade me – “place the bag in the bagging area and press done when complete”.  Unfortunately my ‘Bag for Life’ was at the bottom of my basket and so had to remove some items to retrieve it.  Stupidly I placed those on the “bagging area” and the voice declared – “unidentified item in the bagging area – please remove it and press resume when done”.  I returned the items to the basket and then juggled some things to free the bag. This process took a little time.  My still calm thoughts were interrupted by the question – “do you wish to continue?”  Of course I want to bloody continue I almost shouted but managed to keep myself in the mood. 


I hung the bag onto its hanger and pressed the ‘Yes’ icon.  I removed my first item, turned it until the bar code was located and manoeuvred it over the scanners and placed it into the bag.  Scanning the milk and the tub of Stork was soon achieved.  The time now was twelve fifty-two.  Still on course.  Next the first tub of Anchor and this I scanned and placed into the bag without problem.  As I retrieved the second tub I noticed a paper bar code placed over the top of the carton’s own bar code.  With my mind still just about resting in my haven I scanned it before noticing the broken lid.  Across its face was a yellow ‘reduced to £1.99’ sticker.  Too late: it was scanned and so I had to summon an assistant to remove the damaged tub from my bill, which she did.  I now faced a dilemma.  Should I just keep one tub and pay the normal price or dash to the butter aisle and get an undamaged tub.  The bargain was too good to miss and so I made for the aisle.  The next tub grabbed also had a broken lid and a reduced sticker and the next and the next.  Finally I held an undamaged one.  More valuable time lost.  I returned to the check-out to hear the voice repeating, “do you wish to continue?”.  As I punched the ‘yes’ icon the store assistant approached and asked if everything was okay.  Although I didn’t have the time, I couldn’t stop myself questioning whether the damaged butter should be on display.  A shrug of the shoulders as she turned away told me to mind my own business.  The time had moved to ten past one.  Panic set in.

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I scanned the butter and another two items.  All complete but, knowing I had money-saving points coupons, I stopped to search for them through the junk in my wallet.  The repeating of, ‘Do you wish to continue?’ made me fume and without thinking, I voiced “Yes, but I’m looking through all those bloody pieces of paper you spew out.’  I heard my unknown shopping companion at the next checkout audibly chuckle.  I again pressed the Yes icon and continued to look through the pile of coupons.  All out of date.  Bloody bollocks, I said to myself!  The delay prompted Mouth Almighty to ask – ‘do you wish to continue?’  “Yes”, I barked.  I pressed the continue icon and then the ‘Finish and Pay’ icon.  The voice enquired ‘have you swiped your store points card?’ Back into my wallet to find the card.  ‘Card accepted’ she said a little more pleasantly.  Prompted by her question about how I wished to pay, I pressed the cash symbol.  My bill was thirteen pounds twenty seven so I removed the solitary ten pound note from my wallet and then searched my pockets for the remaining amount.  The time had moved rapidly to half past one.  More abuse from Mouth Almighty sent my blood pressure soaring.  My haven had long been left and I was caught in stressville.  Unthinking, I placed my wallet onto the bagging area and Mrs Irritating Tit shouted – ‘unknown item in the bagging area – please remove and press done when achieved’.  I restrained myself from putting my fist through her screen.


Peering at the scanner’s opaque glass, the reflection seen was of someone I barely recognised.  My face was florid and my eyes mad wide.  In just over an hour I had moved from my haven of peace and tranquillity into a supermarket hell. I slammed four pound coins into the slot and even here Mrs CleverDick had a response – ‘Please take your change – notes are dispensed below.’ Yes, I thought, and I can guess what you’d put on the note.  Enraged, I forgot to pick-up my ‘Bag for Life’ and she couldn’t resist one last dig – ‘Please take your items.  Thank you for shopping here today.’  F**k off, I wanted to shout.

This post belongs to Alan Roberts – exemplary student of the Tenby Writing Class