A Nerd’s Last Word

by Michael Bosley

The way we shop has changed unrecognisably in the past twenty years.

With just a burst of binary data down a copper cable, we can guarantee a same day delivery of our bread, milk and Preparation H, straight to our door.

This in turn gives us more time to immerse ourselves in the rich, cultural pickings afforded to us by a society that values artistic and creative expression and understands the vital role that broadcast media has in being able to present for our delectation the likes of Tattoo Disasters UK on Channel 5 and The Woman With No Face on er, Channel 5.

With technology now sapping so much of our free time, it’s important that we aren’t distracted from the warm glow of liquid crystals flickering away on our walls and in our hands¬ by what our parents would probably have termed ‘chores’.

In the western world, chores are those inconvenient administrative gaps in life that technology or the free market hasn’t been able to fill yet. Dishwashers wash our dishes, washing machines wash our clothes and window cleaners clean our windows.

Shopping is one of those chores that, thankfully, can be outsourced to another party in exchange for custom. But sometimes, even with these processes in place, we can still forget the milk. And when we have half an hour of Katie Price: In Therapy (Channel 5) still to watch on catch-up, there’s no option but to throw on a pair of slippers and amble down to the nearest Spar.

The Spar, despite its Dutch roots, is as quintessentially English as the rapidly depleting Post Office. Like the American equivalent, the 7Eleven, the Spar is the place to go when you urgently need a packet of fags, a coffee from a machine or you’re desperate to carry out an armed robbery.

Like a snowflake, no one Spar shop is exactly the same, but here are ten things to look out for that I believe capture the magic of the Spar:

1. Someone buying lots of scratch cards, insisting on scratching them at the till.

2. A huddled gang of bored suburban youths (if found in rural areas, usually harmless and unarmed).

3. A small forlorn dog tied up and howling outside.

4. Alcohol priced per can rather than per pack.

5. Everything slightly more expensive than a supermarket.

6. Unrivalled selection of ‘own brand’ crisps (see onion rings/bacon rashers etc)

7. Till/counter plastered with peeling notices held on with old sellotape (No Cashback‚Minimum ¬£5 spend on cards etc)

8. A CCTV system that lets you watch yourself queuing on an old CRT monitor.

9. Automatic doors that don’t open in time.

10. An ATM with a tiny screen that charges for withdrawals.