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Our daily bread

I entered the shop this morning to find that Shopmeister had been left holding the baby.  No, I don’t mean he was running the shop by himself, although he was also doing that, he was literally holding an infant.

Saturday mornings are a good day to attend the shop all year round.  There is always a boat on Friday so on Saturdays you can stock up on milk, bread and vegetables.  Although in the winter the boat arrives at lunchtime on the Friday so it’s not advisable to leave your shopping until late on the Saturday morning as you are likely to find that the shelves have been picked clean and there is no milk and no bread and you will be reduced to eating UHT and oatcakes…………..again.

A few weeks ago we had dinner with the couple who live next door (well, in the neighbouring field) and the new school teacher.  We have all moved to Colonsay from cities fairly recently and talk turned quickly to what we missed about the mainland.  Cafes was definitely a common theme.  The Pantry is great but having lived in Edinburgh I was used to there being a cafe on ever corner many with play areas for children.  In fact there was a lovely pub at the end of our street where you could let the little darlings loose in the massive play area whilst drinking yourself into oblivion if you so desired.  They would even help you carry your pram up the steps.

One of the things I am most surprised to miss is the Scotmid at the other end of the road.  For those of you not familiar with Scottish culture Scotmid is a chain of small supermarkets (I think they are owned by the Co-op) they are quite cheap and distinctly un-middle class.  It won’t surprise you to learn that the Scotmid was at the other end of the street from the yummy mummy pub.  Our street acted as a kind of bridge between posh Edinburgh and scummy Edinburgh.  At one end was the baby friendly pub, Valvona and Corolla, John Lewis and the New Town; at the other Scotmid, a betting shop, several (very good) charity shops and a football stadium.  You could say we lived in purgatory.  Anyway, although Scotmid stood next to a very nice little bakery we rarely went in there.  Instead, on a Saturday morning after I had taken Helen to an even more middle class part of Edinburgh to her Tumble-tots class (sort of like SAS training for toddlers) I would pop into Scotmid.  By 11am they would have received a delivery of freshly baked bread, croissants and rolls.  Helen and I would buy a few and stroll home avoiding the dog poop and puddles of vomit on the street to a pleasant family brunch. The bread was always delicious, fresh and soft – one of my favourite things about weekend mornings.

Since moving to Colonsay we’ve had to give up on this kind of thing.  Although there are still plenty of SAS style activities for the children to engage in the only fresh bread that is readily available is my own.  I’m actually quite a good baker – in fact I won first prize for a loaf of non-breadmaker white bread in the recent root and grain show (sorry to blow my own trumpet there) – but getting up on a Saturday morning and making the bread yourself doesn’t create the same leisurely brunch mood.

So you are probably wondering why I’m still wittering on about bread, cafes, Edinburgh and my past life whilst leaving poor Shopmeister stranded in the shop holding Shopbaby.  Let’s just take a minute to discuss Shopbaby.  Shopbaby looks how I would like my children to look.  In fact they often look like she does on leaving the house but by the time we go anywhere they are generally plastered  with food, hair stuck to their faces with snot with questionable stains on at least one item of their apparel. Shopbaby always looks like she has just stepped out of a salon.  She is always well coordinated, I have never seen her with sick in her hair and her hair is always fluffy and shiny not matted with food or non-existent as in the case of my two terrors.  Shop baby was a little grumpy this morning though.  Shopmesiter was holding her in that slightly tentative manner that indicated to all present (me) that she may detonate at any moment.

Fortunately Shopmeistress was not gone long.  She had spent the morning slaving over a hot oven to produce the very same bread that our local shop used to sell!  Evidently the islanders had fallen upon it like starving animals and she had to rush home to bake more.  Word spread like wildfire across the island – people were phoning in their orders and rushing to collect them.  No sooner had she arrived with the second batch it was gone and we were lucky not to have been trampled in the rush! High on refined carbohydrates the islanders had become insatiable.  We managed to emerge victorious from the melee carrying a bloomer, two rolls and a croissant (for Allan).  Helen carried the bread out to the car in a reverent fashion ‘it’s warm mummy, it’s still warm’.  She insisted on holding it all the way home.  Sadly when we reached this house there wasn’t much of it left – next week we’ll have to order double!

Come on baby!

You know that feeling.  You’re heavily pregnant.  You’re uncomfortable, miserable and you just can’t wait for the baby to come out because however tough it is after it’s born it’s got to be better than things are as they stand.  I’m feeling exactly like that now – except it’s not my baby.

It’s been a week since the Shopmeister and his girlfriend left these shores to await the birth of the Shopbaby in a safer environment.  One week since Allan and I started looking after the shop and it seems like a lifetime.  In fact, hideous as both of my childbirth experiences were, I would happily go through both of them consecutively or simultaneously tomorrow if it would relieve me from my shopkeeping obligation.

I love being a shop assistant.  I love standing behind the till and beeping things.  I love chatting to people and I enjoy counting out their change.  My favourite game to play on quiet afternoons is scanning random items and trying to guess how much they cost.  However being a shopkeeper is much less fun.  All of a sudden I am responsible for the flow of essential items such as milk, bread and toilet paper onto the island.  We are the only outlet for these essentials and let me tell you people do not respond well to having to put UHT milk on their cornflakes.  Not only have we brought the island to its knees with a Whit induced famine (who was to know that Whit lasted a whole week and not just a weekend?) but we also seem incapable of the relatively simple task of writing people’s names on a newspaper and then not selling that newspaper to other people.  It’s strange.  You would think that people who are on holiday on a beautiful Hebridean island enjoying glorious sunshine, with miles of unspoilt beach to walk along would be able to forsake their Daily Telegraph.  You would be very wrong int that assumption.  The Tourist becomes extremely angry when deprived of his newspaper.  It’s not always my fault that the newspaper is unavailable.  When you only get five boats a week it stands to reason that newspapers are not going to be delivered seven times a week……..doesn’t it?  Surely part of the charm of Colonsay is the unavailability all the commodities we take for granted on the mainland.  If I have to explain to one more red-faced, corpulent, pompous old fool that no we don’t have todays paper I will not be responsible for my own actions.  Lets just say I’ve had to move the lighter fluid from behind the counter.  That along with all those newspapers is just asking me to commit pyrocide.

I’m rather disappointed to find that I am not the perfect shopkeeper.  I had fond imaginings of Allan and I running the shop perfectly.  We would never run out of bread and milk and the vegetable fridge would remain constantly stocked with the finest of fresh fruit and veg. I would stand behind the counter, holding court to a gaggle of admiring customers and occasionally carrying the bags of elderly locals out to their cars.  The reality is that we didn’t order quite enough milk and we’ve managed to run out of eggs.  It’s not the end of the world but we’re not going to win any awards either.  More worryingly in terms of stress levels and temper I appear to be turning into my father.   The good news is that since Shopbaby doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of coming we have plenty of time to practice.  Next week we will probably have so much spare milk we’ll all be bathing in it and surely that will be relaxing if nothing else.

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