The butcher the baker and the rag and bone man who rings his bell and shouts ‘any old iron?’. I know you were waiting for the candlestick maker, but this is 2016 not 1816. The supermarket experience in the UK is made up of going to the butcher, the baker and others. Yes, we do have supermarkets but we don’t do Costco or Sam’s club.
Going to the butcher for the first time was a bit intimidating. There was meat everywhere perfectly tied with string. A fly buzzed hazily and the butcher behind the counter was burly and butch with thick sausage-like fingers. He wore a kind gap toothed smile and wiped blood on his apron. Get. Me. Out. seemed to resonate through my body as my vegetarian status was quietly contemplated. I must admit, I felt a bit lost. How could I order what I wanted when I didn’t even know the proper names of sections of the cow (or other animals)? Further, nothing looked familiar and of course nothing was cooked. ‘Hello Madam’ chirped the butcher, as he grinned broadly at me. ‘What are you after today?’ I thought sheepishly to myself-I am after the EXIT sign-can you please direct me in that direction? Am pretty sure he could smell my fear-I was in a butcher’s shop after all. He spoke to me politely. I told him what I was after and how many people were in my household. He proudly showed me his best cuts of meat and even told me how to cook them! It wasn’t so bad, my intermediary-err…my butcher educated me, helped me and wrapped my meat up nicely for me.
Next stop, the bakery…this was more my territory. The baker was a middle aged woman with bright shining eyes and ruddy cheeks. It did not escape me that she was generous around the middle. I liked her immediately and knew I could trust her. With my life, if needed. We spoke politely about the weather as I ordered a 4 Marlborough buns, 3 Eccles cake, 2 Egg custard tarts and 1 Mince pie. I left happy and was pretty sure I would be visiting the dentist in the next week or so.
‘Any old iron?’ the old Gypsy with pockmarked skin called out as he drove his white van up and down the neighbourhood. What? He wants scrap metal? I just give it to him and then our transaction is complete? Yes. Weird but ok, I am cool with that. I recently heard a story that a couple had been cleaning out their kitchen, so they put their washing machine and tumble dryer in the front garden-a sort of temporary resting place. In the UK you will find the washing machine and tumble dryer in the kitchen. Weird. Don’t even get me started. Anyway, the couple later returned to their garden to retrieve their white goods, but quickly realised that both items were gone. They had not heard the cry of ‘any old iron?’ as their washing machine and tumble dryer were subsequently scooped up by the scrap metal man.
The butcher, the baker, the rag and bone man and me. Welcome to England, mate.