Work of the devil.

I've come to the conclusion that supermarkets are the work of the devil. (I hear you asking, how come he believes in the devil when he doesn't have a god? Well, my considered, philosophical response to that is shaddup and work it out for yourself.) Anyway. in the UK they are driving down prices paid to our farmers, buying huge tracts of land that could be used for golf courses and training their till staff to spout meaningless platitudes like "sorry for keeping you waiting today". I wait every day in Sainsbury's. Get more staff and restrict old people to shopping at 4 in the morning when there are no queues.

My local butcher is a diamond bloke. He and his meat remind me of the good old days when shop staff had a ready smile and knew your name and when "we value your custom" actually meant something other than inflated profits and marketing awards. The meat is about as natural as you can get and hasn't been injected with water, chemicals and colourings. Joe, as I'll call him, has an encyclopaedic memory for customers' names, knows his products inside out and makes time to help, trim, bone, string and talk. He reminds me in the nicest sense of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army (for our foreign readers that a brilliant BBC comedy about the Home Guard in WW2 and whose day job was a butcher) who had a twinkle in his eye and who took great pride in his trade. He is a master butcher.

Last week, after slipping Mrs Smith an extra sausage, he told me a story of someone who was also a master butcher but who'd been made redundant from a well-known chain of supermarket to make way for extra management whose talent lay in the optimisation of packing boxes. He also told me a horrifying tale of meat that glowed in the dark, because of some unpronounceable chemical used to prolong shelf life. Is this the sort of world we want? Having berated supermarkets though, there is one place you have to visit. It's near Nice and is in the Carrefour chain. It is magnificent and has a vast range of beautiful French food, as you'd imagine. Even though it's huge, it most definitely has that certain "je ne sais quoi" that ours seem to lack. It's also got a marvellous coffee bar where, the last time I visited, you can smoke without having some grumpy half-witted security guard clapping you in irons and wishing you a nice day. The French seem to be able to do it without irony somehow. (See chapter in this link.)