I was accosted in the supermarket last week. I had stepped over the mark
and my behaviour obviously invited a public rebuke. What heinous crime had I committed?
Apparently, I had pre-emptively started unloading my shopping trolley onto the counter. I know! Imagine it. I used to be such a nice upstanding citizen. I did use the divider. I did leave space between the divider and the
old hag woman’s groceries. But she was not amused. Like the Queen when Buckingham Palace has run out of sherry, no doubt. She started ramming my bread and she scowled and tut-tutted.
I looked up out of my stupor as I registered (slowly) that all was not well on the grocery Marginot line.
It had been a crap morning. Lots of angry words between the Englishman and I. About money. I know everyone fights about money, but it really has been the biggest adjustment of all, in this second marriage. You see in that time when I escaped the horrible marriage, I enjoyed rediscovering myself, and I spent money on myself. I made the decisions about what we would spend and I miss those days accutely. After spending £15k on ‘immigrant tax’ just for the right to remain here with my Englishman, and then being restricted from earning for the past year, my savings haven’t simply dried up, they’ve fossilised.
Since gaining my residency permit (Hurrah!) I’ve been trying to earn our keep with this writing gig and the ROI has been slow in coming. I miss being able to keep myself in perfume (Versace Crystal Noir, darling if you’re reading!) and earrings and clothes – all the essentials that make us feel human. I miss having my leg waxed and the occasional facial.
I’d stormed out of the house without asking how much he’d put into the account for the grocery shop and when I enquired of the ATM it (typical!) didn’t display a correct amount. So I’d gone into the war zone unprepared. Of course I picked up the trolley with the dodgy wheels that seemed hell-bent on driving itself into other people’s chins. Then, I’d realised I couldn’t buy any decent meat without taking out a second mortgage on the house. After an hour of indecisive wandering interspersed with ‘stuff it I’ll get this’ grabbing, I’d arrived at the counter.
The finish line. I’d carefully picked the shortest line with only one woman ahead of me. She was old, but still standing upright so I was hopeful for a quick exit. But then, came the territorial argument about counter space.
She rammed my bread again, so rolling my eyes, I started to put all my groceries back into my trolley. ‘I should think so’ she muttered and humphed and clicked her tongue.
Wearily, I turned to flee but before I did I leant in to her and said;
‘I would have thought a woman of your age, might have learnt some manners during her lifetime’.
She turned puce. Her eyes widened. She called me ‘a bitch’ and then started pelting me with limes.
But I’m not! Truly I’m not!
I’m the nice woman who gives everyone right of way on the road. I’m the one who helps old women with their groceries, and lost children to find their mummies. I’m a nice person, friends lean on me, my children ask my advice, my husband values my opinion. Everyone knows that.
Except, they don’t here. They used to in Auckland, where I’d lived for so many years, where they knew me. But not here. Now I’m just another pissed-off middle aged woman in the supermarket, who doesn’t understand the complicated territorial cultural mores of placing your shopping on the counter.
I may speak English, and look English, my accent is soft, and I know all the words of ‘God Save the Queen’, but I’m the foreigner, who still, from time to time, gets it wrong and gets pelted with limes.