diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Everybody's heading for the local convenience store on Bow Road.

There's a big Tesco ten minutes down the road, but it's hot and nobody can be bothered to walk that far. It's worth paying over the odds for basic foodstuffs just to avoid hiking down the arterial road and sweating like a pig.

Somebody's tied a mangy dog to the handrail on the shallow concrete ramp outside the front door. A couple of schoolkids hang around waiting for their mate to emerge with a pocketful of sweets, maybe nicked while nobody was looking, maybe not. Bow's local beggarwoman accosts every passer-by for the small change they will never offer.

The door opens with a blaring electronic fanfare. Not far inside is the rack of lottery playslips - could this be your ticket out of here? In the first aisle you'll find several varieties of plastic bread, just beyond the mostly full-fat milk. Don't expect any of these to last long beyond their sell-by date - you'll be back soon enough to stock up again. Deeper inside the shop are the not-quite ripe bananas, the over-priced packets of cereal and the grainy photocopier. Many of the products never change, but it's not quite the old Co-Op it used to be.

Security cameras train their eye along the shelves, with random aisles flashing up on the big screen above the tills in glorious black and white. There's a Bow Quarter resident flicking through the ready meals, and there's a Bromley-by-Bow mother hunting down the cheapest rice. But many customers need never venture down into the farthest recesses of the shop. Everything they require is stocked up front, just behind the counter.

"60 Benson and Hedges"
"Bottle of Johnny Walker"
"12-pack of weak own-brand lager"
"Litre of cheap generic alcoholic throat-burner"

A beery tracksuited lout leans across the counter and harangues the shopkeeper, eyeing up his turban with poorly-concealed disgust. He repeats the same ill-judged racist insult over and over, his lager-soaked mind seemingly incapable of independent thought. Yes, prices in here are steep, but white pays no more than any other colour of skin. The Costcutter family edge closer for protection, dignified in their silence. Eventually their verbal assailant departs, confident of moral victory, but he'll be back again tomorrow for another bottle or three.

"Next please, who's next?"

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