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The Scrivener: The Simple Things

Despite supermarket frustrations, author and columnist Brian Barratt still identifies and finds deep delight in simple things.

At the supermarket check-out. I present two canvas/hessian shopping bags, one green, one orange. They reduce the need to use plastic bags.

Me: Please divide it [pointing to my shopping] between the two bags.

Assistant puts all the shopping into one bag.

Try again next time.

Me: Please put the toilet rolls [a bulky pack of six] into the other bag.

Assistant: Do you want me to use the other bag?

Another supermarket.

Me: Please use both bags. It helps distribute the weight.

Assistant, after putting some into one bag: Do you want me to use both bagsl?

And so it goes on. Perhaps these ladies don't understand my English accent, though I've been away from England for nearly 60 years. Maybe I'm an old man mumbling, but I've been told I have a clear, baritone, even mellifluous, voice. It could be that the good women are tired, or have had a bad day, or are thinking about a domestic problem. What? All of them?

It's only a simple thing, so I shouldn't get worked up about it.

Sometimes when I'm standing in the queue at the check-out, I notice a very small person studying me intensely. In bygone years, that was because they noticed my beard. Nowadays, however, beards are ten a penny, so it's something else. Is it my fat face or stern expression? No, it didn't take me long to work out that it's my clip-on sunglasses. They flip up and down, you see. Or, rather, I can flip them up and down.

It happened again today. A tiny person, probably with about 18 months under his belt, was sitting on the baby-seat in his grandad's shopping trolley and staring at me. I smiled at him. He smiled back. We had established communication. When I go into shops, I flip my sunglasses up to the halfway position, which is horizontal. So while this small person was watching, I flipped them down, covering the lenses of my spectacles.

He was delighted. One of those smiles that makes your day. I flipped them up again, and his outstretched arm and open hand indicated please would I let him have go? Not likely! I lost a pair years ago when I let an acquisitive 3-year-old at close quarters grab and mangle them.

People queuing behind us were getting a bit twitchy, wanting to move forward, so I'm afraid the sparkling non-verbal conversation had to finish. It had been one of the simple things of life, and totally delightful.

And so home to put away the shopping — not enough for two bags so no problems in that matter this morning — and to have a nice cup of tea. I believe there are still a few tea snobs who will not use tea bags because, they say, the bags do not contain real leaf tea. That might have been true, or still be true, for some brands. Nowadays, though, we have a wonderful choice of real leaf tea in tea bags produced by Twinings and, at the top of the list for variety and excellence, Dilmah.

There are many sites on the Web which purport to give the history of tea bags but, as so often happens, people just seem to copy the same information from each other. If you'd like a more informative history of tea bags, have a look here:


Anyway, I enjoyed my cuppa while gazing out of the window at the bright green lemon verbena bush that sprawls onto the back verandah, and the trees leaning from left and right over the lawn, creating a rich green arch haven. Life can be pretty complicated. Thank goodness we have some simple things that bring relief and delight.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2012


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