Frivolous Monsters

Saying Shoo to a Goose

I once found a good-looking Asian checkout girl in Tesco who had piercing blue eyes. She was a right Peter O’Toole. I didn’t have the courage, the first time I saw her, but on the second occasion I asked what I thought was the obvious question.goose

She seemed perplexed by my questioning. Mostly because, I think, I’d deigned to treat her like a human being and not just as some barcode-swiping bean-counter which, I get the impression, is the normal interaction they get from customers. There I was, deviating from my designated role, but I was right, though: they were contacts. I don’t know if it was all the attention but I never saw her wearing them ever again.

When I was younger I wouldn’t say shoo to a goose, but things have changed now and since ol’ blue eyes I like to think that I’d go in for the kill more quickly these days as with most people you don’t get a second chance. What can I say: I’m a man with questions. All I want to do is understand the world around me and, as the teacher explained to his pupils in an episode of South Park once; there’s no such thing as stupid questions… just stupid people.

I was rushing to get in for last orders at Holland & Barrett last Sunday and rather than finding them shuffling people out of the door I found the place buzzing with the usual clientele that ranges between militant vegetarians and the affluent middle class who just happen to have undiagnosed deficiencies of strange vitamins, which you’ve never heard of, that can only be found in highly-priced jars.

I mean they sell artichoke extract for gawd’s sake, and vegetarian rocky road, and even bags of Israeli salt which reminds me of a particularly harsh winter when I went to a Morrisons supermarket to buy some salt for the ice to find that everyone else had got there before me. With what was left we almost found ourselves using Himalayan organic rock-salt to grit the drive.

I was there after dehydrated vegetarian mince and found that all they had in stock was the entirely tasteless variety, which I’m sure bears a closer ancestry to dust than with actual mince, but needs must as the devil drives so clutching a bag I headed for the checkout counter where there was a girl with green hair called Emily who was having to deal with a nearby demanding small Asian lady wanted to know how much this jar of Manuka honey cost, and how much that jar of Manuka honey cost, pointing up at them on the giddy heights of the top shelf which were out of bounds to her.

I’ve never liked honey and once, in a former life, an acquaintance remonstrated with this notion: “How can you not like honey; bees make it.” I found that there was no answer to this perfectly balance argument.

Emily wondered away from the till and picked them both up; her green Holland & Barrett overalls making it look as if she should have been working on an allotment potato patch somewhere rather that indoors in a health food shop.

After having scanned both jars of honey and relaying the information she then, perhaps cruelly, put them both back out of reach on the top shelf, as if to remove temptation, and came back to serve me at the till.

The small Asian lady then demanded to know what the difference was between one twenty-eight pound jar of Manuka honey and another completely different twenty-eight pound jar of Manuka honey.

Having seen professional expertise in many shops before I reckoned the woman didn’t stand a chance of finding out but Emily replied with and air of authority which belied her age and said that the only difference was the packaging.

Perhaps it was all a lie.

Perhaps it didn’t matter at all.

The little Asian lady couldn’t reach either of them anyway.

Besides who pays twenty-eight pounds for a jar of honey?

Even if it is Manuka?

I have no idea what that is.

When I had Emily’s full attention I handed her my bag of mince flakes and – all geared up – I asked her the question: the question I felt it was crying out for me to ask: whether she dyed her hair to match her uniform.

She said that’s what everybody asks.

It turns out I’ve lost my touch.


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24 thoughts on “Saying Shoo to a Goose

  1. Would it be cheesy to then say… And does everyone also ask you to meet up for coffee?

    Yep, I guess it would be cheesy. Never mind. 😉

    Very nicely written, and I’m glad to read that absolute madness takes place not only in health food stores here in the US, but also in the UK. Was the Himalayan salt pink? If so my room mate has container of it large enough to clear all the roads from here to Minnesota. I rarely spend crazy amounts of money in health food shops. Instead I let my room mate do his shopping and then wait till he begs me to help him eat something before it goes bad.

    • In this instance, very nice girl, but she was probably eighteen, or twenty one, or something like that. And in answer to my question her hair was dyed blue but only looked green.

      BUT… I will be coming onto that topic very shorty. I’ve been away for a while. Lots of things going on. But I have been writing. Out of the three blog things I’ve been writing this is the more frivolous and short.

      To be honest it probably wasn’t organic or Himalayan but that’s how my mind remembered it at the time as it was posh and very expensive (the only reason no-one else had bought it) and recently we’d had someone on Dragons’ Den (Shark Tank in the US) trying to sell his business which sold Himalayan rock salt, and it was pink! I don’t think he got any money.

    • Thanks, but you say that but I’ve upped my expectations. These posts have been accumulating and I’ve been quietly compiling them and sifting and editing and am hoping to fill a book’s worth. Can I make a (sort-of) autobiography of a none-famous person work? And make some money from writing after all?

      There are a couple of personal topics I still haven’t covered which I’ve always meant to. One of them, after years, is finally in preparation. It won’t be short. It won’t be pretty. The other coming soon is a follow up to a certain previous blog story after advancements in that story…

      • For what it’s worth, in my opinion, I think you could definitely earn money from your writing. You’re skillful enough, interesting enough, and without question funny enough.

  2. Haha! I like this. Stop asking the obvious questions and just say you like what ever it is and then make them laugh, even if it’s with self depreciating humour, then throw in a coffee request. I get asked the contacts question about my lime green eyes. Then when I say they are real I get asked what mixture of races I am. You might want to avoid that line of questioning as it gets boring quickly ;0)

    • All I have is self-deprecating. And I wasn’t after anything, both times, and had no ulterior motive at all. All I wanted to know with the Tesco girl was were they really real? Because I didn’t figure blue eyes and Asian heritage went together but I would have been interested to know that they did. Another thing known. They really suited her, but as I say never again did I see those blue eyes.

      Another example of the scientist taking a measurement and thus interfering with the experiment, perhaps.

  3. Oh I LOVE Holland and Barrett – best place for all my expensive jars of random extracts. No, seriously, I generally go in there to see if they’ve got any good reductions and because I’m a fruit and nut junkie. Not seen the rocky road though … have you tried it?

    And I agree re: manuka honey, what’s that all about? I’m guessing its health benefits are about as great as artichoke extract.

    • Oh you are one of them? I can understand it to an extent with all your cooking with good ingredients but please tell me you’re not buying Israeli salt!

      To be honest I know they sell a lot of odd stuff, but when I was buying my mince I only noticed the Israeli salt, at the inflated price, as I didn’t know I would be writing about this then, obviously. When I knew I was I had to go back (picked up some of the re-stocked “savoury” mince which tasted better) I had a nosey to see what I could add to the list.

      I used to look for vegetarian marshmallows, which were impossible to find in a shop, so I’m not sure what they’re making their rock road with. Expensive though. I just buy my mince there after “issues” with frozen supermarket mince which saw them all remove it from the shelves and refuse to tell us why, and what was wrong with what we had been eating.

      I did look up Manuka honey today and apparently it’s from New Zealand made from the pollen of a specific tree. I think the summary was that it has: “no conclusive evidence of benefit in medical use”. So well worth the money. As for artichoke extract…

  4. I never understand how Holland and Barratt keep trading as most stuff you can get cheaper elsewhere, but maybe people think Manuka honey at £28 is superior to the stuff you can buy in Tesco or Boots.

    Just as a matter of interest, my nephew in San Francisco has a very successful salt company. He sells both bath and gourmet salts sourced from all over the world. (at a price!) When I asked him what was in them to make hem special he laughed and said, 99% sodium chloride!

    Love Denise.

    • PS. manuka honey is supposed to have antibacterial and anti inflammatory qualities. It is said to be good applied topically on wounds. There is always a number on the jar and the higher the number the more effective it is supposed to be and the more expensive, so the £28 jar must be very very powerful!!
      Not sure what the effect are if you ingest it!

      • Your nephew wasn’t on Dragons’ Den with his pink Himalayan rock salt then? I like how you’ve just done a Ratner and blown the gaff. But then what did people think was in it? I never knew bath salts were mostly salt though. Good for him though.

        Yeah Wikipedia did say “antibacterial properties in vitro” along with “no conclusive evidence of benefit in medical use” but I didn’t know what that meant, so thanks for that. It is interesting although I would struggle to see how they measured their number on the jar. I guess you’re not supposed to have it on toast then, and who can afford to?!?

      • I’m going to butt in on the Manuka honey discussion and say we always have it in our house. Of course if it cost the equivalent of £28 we’d live without!

        It tastes more liquoricey than normal honey and the kids and I use it to get rid of sore throats and coughs. Heating it up supposedly kills the good stuff within.

        We don’t use gourmet salt though, I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any salt tasting different from any other salt!

      • Well for you it’s practically local produce! You must have Manuka trees in your back garden. For us someone has to cart it all around the world which must account to much of the price.

        I would say that the sore throat thing you mention I think people do here with just honey.

        Apparently, as nice and organic as it sounds, Manuka honey is a bloody business according to a recent article in the Independent which says that “rampant demand has led to antipodean turf wars, hive sabotage, the mass murder of bees, shoplifting and – now – a flood of fakes” as they say more Manuka honey is sold around the world than is actually produced. That’s what we’ve come to now: counterfeit honey!

        p.s. My favourite fact I’ve gleaned off QI is that at the turn of the last century there was a thriving trade in raspberry jam. This was made from wood and rhubarb!

      • We don’t have any of them in our garden, but we do have plants from the same family out there and the bees love ’em!

        I’m a bit of a honey lover, I drink far more tea than is good for me and like it sweet, so I use honey instead of sugar. Iron Bark is my preferred but the local fruit and veg has lots of different kinds. Until I started tasting them all I never realised how different they can be from each other.

        Wood and rhubarb for jam? Yuck!

  5. Your branch of H&B sounds vastly superior to any I have ever visited where the staff seem uninterested in either products or customers.
    Luckily for me, Baldwins is up the road and offers a much better service.
    Out of interest, are many of your conversation openers to do with colours?
    How are the cats?

    • I know, funny that, about the colours. I guess though that if there’s something obvious to ask then it’d have to be something physical. I could say coincidence, but then it was me who put these two incidences together here as I felt they fitted.

      As for the cats the “cold” that swept through them is gone. The last one – the one who developed pneumonia and abscesses in his throat and spent time in an oxygen tent – is a lot better but he still had a feeding tube in his throat and wearing a cool bandana. He has sort-of started eating himself so hopefully, fingers crossed, he will recover.

      Unfortunately our big old boy (recovered from the cold) developed a lump, which became a hunch back, which the vets drained of blood before it was apparent he needed growths removing. They’re being analysed now but I am worried for him. Our last cat died of a mouth tumour that was cut out and grew back quickly. He now looks a cross between the bride of Frankenstein and a traditional monk.

      It’s been hard going.

    • I forgot to add the picture.
      Here’s the worst of it.

  6. As someone in the retail industry, if someone is spending that much time over price, be it food or clothes, 99% of the time they won’t buy it. But anyway, artichoke extract. What the what?

    • Well after this I went through with my whole transaction – and stupid hair question – without hearing another peep out of her. I must’ve had to walk past her to get out of the shop, so perhaps. I suppose I am the opposite to that characteristic as when I’m wandering about I try not to catch the eye of shop people who gravitate towards you wanting to “help”.

      When I was wandering around the aisles (the second time when I knew I was writing this) wanting other wacky items to add to the Israeli salt, to make a bit of a humorous list, and when I saw artichoke extract and immediately thought “that’ll do”. It was either artichoke extract or artichoke essence but I normally try and check my facts so I was probably right the first time. What you use it for I do not know.

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