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Thursday, 6 December 2007

Where I Spend Too Much Time

“You mustn’t worry about having gone to the Factory Shop,” advised Mrs Northern Posh, notwithstanding that I hadn’t worried at all for I’m quite the little regular. But by now she was laying a reassuring mitt on my arm, and speaking somewhat sotto voce, shooting an anxious glance around to assess who might be in earshot. “I was in Lidl yesterday.”

We contemplated in silence how the mighty are fallen. I wondered if now was the time to admit yesterday’s sofa buys from Sue Ryder. Perhaps not. One step at a time.
“They do do good chocolate,” I said.
“Excellent olive oil,” she continued gamely.
“And ice-cream,” I offered, willing to help a soul in peril: I could not have such a one as Mrs NP floundering around adrift and alone in a brave sea of Lidl-affinity after so generous a confession. “And apparently they took the colouring out of Smarties before Smarties did, so the children don’t go mental. And we got some fab wine in Spain from Lidl for 99 cents.”

We were off.

Our favourite part of Lidl, mention of which we circled round warily until sure that we’d agree, is the middle aisle wherein can be found a weekly-changing treasure trove of items you had no idea you needed but now find yourself hovering over, most horribly tempted.
Socket sets for £4.99? Who can resist.
Winceyette pyjamas for a fiver? Better pop a pair in the trolley.
Is that a job lot of 45 small sub-Tupperware tubs winking at me? It is. Best buy two.
We don’t touch the veg - we'd been scarred by some oranges once, and Mrs NP by a nasty episode involving a cabbage. And meat-type products, all scary pink, leave us weak. Mrs NP and I have our standards.

My own blush-worthy foray into the Factory Shop had been occasioned by the repeated ugly rearing of the head marked: “want more trainers”; this crops up at random, and with increasing frequency and is uttered, you will not be surprised, by the boys.
For if the children aren’t poring over strange catalogues aimed at dull men scratching a drill bit itch, then they’re demonstrating an intense need for trainers. Since I am mean and consider that I already spend a fortune on “proper shoes” for school, trainers are bought from the pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap haven that is the Factory Shop. This is possibly not wise budgeting given the regularity with which we find ourselves dazed at the shoe section; me lured by the fluorescent screams of Price Cut, the children by the dubious standards of the trainers themselves. But at a fiver a pop, I can temporarily play the Merry Mum chortlingly conceding to my nippers’ whims.

The Factory Shop is a grim warehouse, gaudily plonked in the next village along and permanently heaving with seniors in search of a bargain. Please leave your tartan trolley at the door.
It is too big for its location, yet cares not, for it shares similar size disparity blindness with the optimistic fattie tucking her marbled tum into teeny-weeny size 16 jeans. More stock than space. You’ve really got to want to be there to deal with it. Design flaws. Shoddy. Very third world.
I seem to spend too much time within its portals.

If a film were to be made about it – and here I must clarify that this is a game that E and I play, who would play whom In The Film: would Nicole Kidman be the new glam mother at school (E’s opinion) or can we get away with a mere Renee Zellwegger (my lust-inhibiting input), that kind of thing. Time for a new sentence. At this point I can sense him stretching across the ether, to interrupt me to say kindly but firmly, “there won’t be a film” but, if there were, then it would be best made by Tim Burton. Tim Burton under strip lights and big on freak-show. Maybe John Walters would be nearer the mark. Parental Guidance advised.

The walkways are narrow, and peopled by gargantuan maidens (possibly in the inappropriate size 16 jeans) with hammy arms pushing push-chairs. Dull-eyed, they won’t get out of your way, and tug in their wake a trail of moppets, strung out on E-numbers, clutching non-branded Barbies and wailing for chips. The garg maids travel in pairs but talk to someone else on their mobiles. All look listless and bored and walk more slowly than you can believe. I may dither, but I dither briskly. One suspects that they have been there for 8 or 9 hours. Maybe longer. You can only admire their dedication.

The range of items is more bizarre even than that to be found in the glorious middle aisle of the very spacious Lidl.
It is here where I found my iron (half price, naturally). A stand away, lurid wheelies jostle for space alongside bird cages; unfamiliar DVDs share shelving with East European slippery chocolate; piles of plastic plates give way to bras in whose cups a couple of sheep could nest for the winter.

Yet somehow, unlike IKEA where the shock at the till is nasty (just how can those few tea-lights, that unlikely storage unit promising happy hours with an Allen key and a hammer, and an unnecessary light suddenly total £200?) even an armful of odd stuff is never more than £30 at the Factory Shop, and sold with heartening cheeriness by jolly ladies showing great interest in your purchasing choice. You can only give internal thanks for not having succumbed to a sheep bra, for it would be waved around the room and discussed approvingly.

While over at Lidl, one glum lad sees out his youth processing unlikely middle class ladies’ selections of olive oil, superior Smartie-type sweeties and ice cream.



Ah Milla a shopper after my own heart.We have lidl and you can tell if there is something interesting on sale as on monday or thursday ( new products days) there will be a line of french men and women lined up waiitng to go in clutching their glossy flyer advertising this week in lidl.However I think they must send all the low grade tupperware to the Uk for we had complete ski suits for the classe de neige for 25 euros,assorted stout walking boots and top grade wine of the 8.99 euros a bottle kind!
Alas no factory shop tho! AH me... I can but dream!

ChrisH said...

Oh, I think you saw me! An Aldi opened up in Cardigan last week and half the population ie 2000 people poured through the door... including me. Tragic.

Suffolkmum said...

I'm so pathetic, I can barely venture out of Waitrose. Can't bear the bright lights anywhere else, darling. I've never even been to Lidl's, as it's quite a drive from here (that's my excuse anyway) but all my friends justify their frequent trips there on the grounds of olive oil so this really made me laugh. I'd be a regular in the factory shop though; I've just been informed that my 4 year old in part-time reception apparently needs trainers and a tracksuit. Facotry shop here I come.

Bill said...

Very amusing, if highly un-PC. I thought you bought the iron at Argos.

Frances said...

Milla, I think that you've been to Wonderland. It is the mix of factory shops that create the fun.

Real estate value being what it is here in Manhattan, we have no such shops, but they do exist very happily in the more spacious geography of the "outer" boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.

A very stylish couple I know decorated there apartment in a very eccentric, and delightful way. When asked if they found the various pieces of furniture and other bits in their "travels," they always answer, "Oh yes, in our travels to ... (please fill name of your craziest factory shop.)


mountainear said...

Some lovely pictures of 'budget' shopping and the porky shoppers who block the aisles. I recognise each and every one - I fear they must be on a day trip from Welshpool......

The Country Craft Angel said...

I have never had the pleasure of Lidl or Aldi! Have ventured to a Wilkinsons once!
Must be a great place for 'people watching.' I understand it is 'budget type shops' that Matt Lucas and David Walliams got much of their inspiration for Little Britain!


Preseli Mags said...

I'm a big fan of Lidl and Aldi (haven't been to the Cardigan one yet, but it's only a matter of time!) But I do hanker after a Waitrose...

The 'gargantuan maidens with hammy arms' made me laugh. That's Matalan that is! Another favourite. I swear some of them actually live there!

Anonymous said...

A kindred spirit! Where would we be without lidl and the merlot and the garlic spread and how else would we get more out of our euro? sentimental sigh!

Casdok said...

Our Lidl closed :(

elizabethm said...

We have a Lidl too - great jam, hideous pink meat as you say. I think you must have been there, description is spot on, especially the slow moving, pushchair pushing, ponytailed, big girls talking on their phones. perfect.

Pipany said...

Oh just brilliant Milla! I so needed a laugh after picking a run-in with Dave all because I hadn't eaten and turned into the Incredible Sulk!!!! Damn him, it took forever to get a response too! Love this blog - Aldi rocks (apparently and according to friends 'cos I am too ashamed to dmit to them that I don't know where it is. Lazy too as Asda is just down the road, barely a car journey actually so I am saving on fuel and therefore saving the planet...think I need to go to bed and catch up on sleep as am rambling like one insane) xx

Cait O'Connor said...

Great blog, I loved it.
Our Lidl is 50 miles away unfortunately and I don't know of a Factory Shop near here but I am on the case, sounds right up my street (that makes no sense!).

Cowgirl said...

Milla, that was fab - totally sums up the shopping experience in NZ known as the Warehouse or Red Sheds as they are affectionately termed (being erm, red). Particularly salient was the phrase "trail of moppets, strung out on E-numbers, clutching non-branded Barbies and wailing for chips." Staying away from the slippery chocs and the sheepbarn bras? - wise. xx

Hannah Velten said...

Right, we've got a new Lidl's opened up about 20 mins away so I'm off...wine, olive oil, sweets, sockets, nighties....but not meat or veg - is that right??? Mootia x

KittyB said...

Let's clear this up. Lidl veg is most often half price. Much of it is British. In spring when the Big Supermarkets only stock apples from NZ or SA, Lidl has Italian ones - much friendlier on the air-mile. I bought local celeriac last week, and laughably cheap fennel in the summer. What Tesco charges an arm and a leg for, Lidl flogs off cheap when it's in season.

And as for the meat? Well, lardons, neatly chopped and in handy twin-packs for not one but two quick and easy pasta meals or casserole additions - less than a quid. No difference to those in Tesco, apart from the price. I have not, it's true, bought pork, chicken etc there yet (it's still suspiciously mass-produced battery farm and not often British), but the fish fingers are just fine and dandy.

My friend was at a party recently with the biggest supermarket potato grower, he grows for many of the biggest - guess who has the strictest quality control? Waitrose? No - M&S? No. It's Aldi.

'Nuff said.

Aldi and Lidl rock. And Netto's not bad for a bargain neither. Plus, cute scottie dog-design on the bags.

KittyB said...

Gosh the above comment sounded teriffically fierce, no? Hecky thump, love, not meant to and all that, (skulks away quietly). I love Lidl, me.

LittleBrownDog said...

Pure poetry, Milla - the sheep bra was a peach! I'm afraid like Suffolkmum, I've never actually found a Lidl in the vicinty (I suppose there must be one in Swindon, but Swindon? It would have to be a life-and-death emergency for me to find myself there...) Have heard their ice cream is very good, though.

So glad to see you writing again - I'd missed your unique take on life.

LBD xx

Exmoorjane said...

No Lidl around here but Kitty makes it sound impressive - anything stocking British is good by me. But your warehouse shop sounds like the mighty Rainbow SuperStore - where I spent much of James' toddlerhood. Hmm, note to self, must cram in a trip before Christmas....Fabulous blog, beautifully observed....I can even smell the sour breath of those stolid pram-pushers as they barge past.jxx

muddyboots said...

yorkshire is the land of factory shops! we even have a laura ashley seconds shop!

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Fennie said...

Oh Milla, that is superb - really superb. Wonderful comic - I was going to say invention but observation is probably more accurate. Made me laugh out loud anyway, which doesn't often happen. Loved 'I dither too, but I dither briskly!' Know just what you mean.

I can't resist charity shops. I have just bought a photo-frame (good quality), a model ship with sails, and two (working)radio-controlled electric cars for £6 and the price of batteries. Amazing.

CAMILLA said...

There was a Sue Ryder shop not far from me that I used to love going to. Used to pop in there with a friend for pot of tea and cakes, then venture round it's display at other end of shop for Christmas gifts for the Charity. Sadly this Shop along with it's Nursing Home has ceased to function.

A lovely blog Milla with wonderful observations and added with your beautiful wit.

Off to Lidl soon to buy the stack of Wine that is available at a more managable price,cheaper than Tesco's I believe.


Pondside said...

That was a great read, Milla! Over here we have 'Outlet Stores', some full of interesting new things, and some full of stuff that looks as though it last saw light in the 80's. We also have a SuperStore nearby, but it is so large that I get into a terrible state just walking though the doors - the clerks wear roller skates to get around and I am always afraid of being run over!

@themill said...

Best we've got is Boundary Mill .....

bodran... said...

Love Lidl it's never busy and theres only ever one person on checkout And the recycled loo papers brilliant 12 rolls for £1.19 i buy a dozen packs a go, love it xx and as for the catalogue shop i thought you where describing llanrwst for a minute!