We all lead terribly taxing and time-sapping lives. Twenty four hours is simply not going to cut it anymore. If I’m not train hopping, twiddling my thumbs at my desk or taking in a box-set from my mildly uncomfortable, internet-purchased sofa, I’m attempting to squeeze in a brief and frenzied attempt at keeping my body in a shape that loosely that resembles Greek marble and hastily filling a metallic basket-on-wheels with meat, two-veg and five-fruit. And this is my life.
Of course, I am generalising significantly and posing to speak on behalf of the hard-working city dwellers whom I know and love but left behind during my concrete exodus at the beginning of the year. We all like to add our continent hopping and bespoke past-times in countryside retreats when city salaries allow. But stack this upon an already busy schedule and you leave yourself heading into Monday morning wondering where the previous week and much-awaited weekend went.
Today, the ‘supermarket’ really does live up to it’s name. Head into any branch of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and now Lidl and Aldi and it is clear to see, they are super-sized market places, existing on and offline, offering so wide a variety of product that you could almost get everything you need in one weekend visit. With convenience like this, why would you bother frequenting the local butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, et al?
This is the big question. A question of convenience versus engagement in a sustained local economy. There is no question, with lives as busy as ours, with so many box-sets to power through, the big hitters’ offering is so vast that it perfectly services our needs. In return we keep feeding them with our hard-earned income, fattening them, ensuring they keep expanding steadily until they engulf us all, destroying our homes and way of life as we know it…
"The point is, as convenient as the big superstores have been and continue to become, what benefit will this eventually bring to our local communities?"
I exaggerate. The point is, as convenient as the big superstores have been and continue to become, what benefit will this eventually bring to our local communities? Yes, they can grow bigger and employ more people - an obvious benefit; but how does this contribute to the growing wealth divide in our society? With more workers on mid to low incomes, employed by massive money-making (tax-phobic) machines, cash will pile up atop the mountain like snow and only slowly trickle down over time. With so much produce on shelves, there is more demand to import, funnelling money away from local residents, workers and farmers. And with these vast quantities of goods and foods there is an unavoidable waste; from the unused to the unconsumed.
The impact on our world is huge, but largely unseen. We live out our lives, sheltered from the uglier aspects of our consumer driven existence; happy to float from home to work and back again in our warm, glossy bubbles. How far have we really come since the days of slave labour and wealthy individuals lording over society. It isn’t perhaps as raw and brutal as days gone by, but not altogether far removed.
It’s time to make change. Simple change. Let’s think a bit harder about how we spend the money we work so hard for. Rather than take what little we are offered from the big employers, only to give it straight back to them, why not see what your local community has by way of independent businesses. The little guys, striving for a better outlook, working all hours of the day so we can enjoy the freshest foods, most unique clothes and hardwares.
It is about something more than convenience. It’s the quality we hope to receive, the service, the friendly smile and chin-wag, the acquaintance with local characters, a more fulfilling and welcoming community. So next time you take your pound to the supermarket, retail chain or online superstore, think about the value that pound has to you, what it represents to you and what you might see in exchange for it. Think about what you want that pound to do for the recipient and how they will use it in turn. Think twice and build a better local economy, something you can be proud to be a part of.
"It’s the quality we hope to receive, the service, the friendly smile and chin-wag, the acquaintance with local characters, a more fulfilling and welcoming community."
And so to our sense of priority. We all have our priorities and they are all quite dissimilar yet in so many ways they same. Twenty four hours will always feel too short a time to fit our busy schedules. So maybe we need to rethink how we best use our time. As if to lead by example, and despite often succumbing to the lure of the Nectar point, my recent shift in behaviour has led me a mere 100 yards down the road from the neatly formed box I call my flat, to the ‘local’ amenities, quite conveniently as it happens - a butcher, fishmonger, grocer and bakery. Rather than the usual 40 minute return car journey, I helped the Earth’s ozone layer deplete a fraction slower, using my legs, mildly perspiring and feeling wholly satisfied with the nicest sausage sandwiches I have rustled up in some time.
So come join me on my high horse. The weather is lovely up here.