One morning, shortly before I started working at the shop, there were two young mums who had come in early.
Having deposited their small children at their first day of nursery, the ladies had probably just nipped in for milk, bread, mung beans and whatnot, and ran into each other.
It transpired they were, in fact, near neighbours, only a couple of doors apart, but they hadn’t had a chance for a proper catch-up in ages.
And there they stood, just inside the front door to the shop, observed by staff and customers alike, chatting away as if they hadn’t spoken in years.
One of the mainstays among the staff (she’d been there for over twenty years. Never got dusted, rarely complained) asked the ladies if they needed to pick up their children.
They looked up at the large, dairy-sponsored clock on the wall. It was lunchtime. For a split second, they locked eyes, panicked, and exploded out through the door.
Not being a large supermarket, we didn’t have more than half a dozen trolleys lined up outside the shop. People rarely used them, needing the shop only for their run-outables, not their weekly pile-it-high shop.
Sometimes people used the trolleys as a mobility aid, but rarely to convey a large quantity of consumables around the knotted tiles.
There was a little older woman who walked miles daily to get to the shop for bread, milk and cigarettes. And then, from nowhere, we realised all but one of our trolleys had disappeared. They had been depleting for some time but somehow it took being left with one for us to really notice.
I was driving through a village a couple of miles away, went round a corner and found myself looking at a driveway, with all our trolleys in it. The walking lady had been using them to balance herself when she walked home. Every day, she’d meant to bring one back with her, but being without pavements, she didn’t feel as safe coming up as going home. She had accumulated a few from the Co-op, too.
One night, a regular came in for his standard two Yorkie bars. A special but usual treat for a day lived through.
When he handed the cash to the seventeen year old I was working with, the lad gave him back an errant pound coin that had slid into the jumble of copper and silver.
“Aren’t you honest?” the man remarked.
“We’re very proud of this one,” I said.
Without a moment’s hesitation, the man tapped the lad’s elbow, “I see you’ve brought your mother with you.”
I was twenty-five.
One day, there was a little boy standing with his mother in the queue for the Post Office. He could only have been about four years old. Clearly, at one point, he’d become bored of standing in line, let go of his mother’s hand and took a little wander towards the bakery.
The bakery was only six feet away from the Post Office, it was all under one roof.
The mother collected her thoughts and sorted her mail into some kind of order, waiting for the Post Mistress to weigh and stamp the village.
The boy had discovered the hot food cabinet. As is so often the case, it was time for a sausage roll. I know that time well. Unfortunately, we kept the sausage rolls on the top shelf of the four foot tall cabinet, and the boy could not reach.
His mother was almost at the head of the queue, fiddling with her purse. There was a moment, I later learned, where onlookers saw the boy make a decision, and nod to himself. He then proceeded to climb the hot food cabinet.
It fell down with an almighty crash, glass chunks poured over the floor like water, and pasties landed fatly, erupting beef skirt and potato on the pale grey tiles. The boy, uninjured having been catapulted to one side, was badly shaken and howled his poor little head off. His mother, having established he was unhurt, was mortally embarrassed.
The other supervisor, much more experienced with children than myself, bought the boy a lollipop and made him giggle. I swept the floor. My boss ummed and ahhed about whether or not we could sue them for the cost of a new hot food cabinet.
I checked on the Post Office mistress. Apart from a dubious feeling that the Earth had moved, which standing alone behind a post office counter was quite an achievement, she was fine.
There was a lovely older man, in a baseball cap, who used to come into the shop every morning.
Not a tall man, he would walk in like sunshine from the cracked walkway. Every day, he had a wonderful, easy smile on his face and bought his copy of the Racing Post. Whichever member of staff served him, would be greeted with the words, “Morning, beautiful,” and would be put a good mood that would last all day.
I later learned that he was Harry Sprague, jockey, the winner of the 1959 Whitbread Gold Cup. Very well-known in the area, and a thoroughly nice chap.
A very dignified lady came into the store one despicably wet Wednesday. When she came to the till, the girl who served her asked if she was having a good day, as we’d been taught to do.
The lady replied that she was quite tired, having driven back home all the way from work in London.
The girl asked her why she didn’t try to get a job closer to home. They were looking for staff in the new Tesco, she told her.
The lady didn’t say anything, she just smiled.
She was pretty famous high court judge.