Monday, December 11, 2006


If I was a better person I wouldn’t want them to fail. They are probably a bright young couple, like us, trying to get away from open-plan hell and putting everything on the line for it. Perhaps they have children too, toddlers and babies and such like, and doubtless countless sleepless nights from which to recover, daily. And with Christmas around the corner, they will surely be buoyed by a false sense of security and, more worryingly, the total belief that organic, locally produced honey and oatcakes-for-twice-the-price-they-are-in-the-Tesco-metro-down-the-road will facilitate their bread&butter trade during the desolate, debt-riddled Januaries and Februaries that are looming large. This is a deli with a death notice.

But it is the reason why they thought their formula would work in the first place that is the most interesting thing to be learned here. We do not, for example, live in the best part of town. The nearest competition in the food department is the news&food shop across the road, holding nothing but sweeties&crisps, and a couple of general newsagents stocking six different types of white cider -- behind the counter – and 29 types of pornography. There is just one restaurant, a Siamese one, in over a mile of high street, and not a single bar you would want to go into unless you were alone and unwashed. If it’s a Belly Buster Special you’re after or a low-grade Indian, you’re in fucking Disneyland. But what you tend to find less of is those little tiny delis you see in covered markets and the like, glimmering windows full of wicker baskets of tea and lavender and overpriced chocolates, and overpriced everything, and open wooden shelves adorned with twirls of pine shavings and sawdust and boxes, and dishes of olives and a few roasted peppers. And a pile of dry organic bread.

Did they have one too many column-inches of Nigel and think there was a thriving community of day-trippers twaddling around with their shopping lists, with a fiver to spare for a mysterious silver bag of coffee beans? This is not what this place needs. It’s not what any of us fucking need. Why don’t they sell food that people can Eat? A small counter with a ham or two, some ultra-rare topside, a game terrine and a small selection of good cheese; a selection of bread, a load of wine in the 5-15 quid bracket, sandwiches made to order, soup on offer in the winter…open until ten every night. Nobody thinks about what people want. We don’t want honey, we just need somewhere we can get a good bag of pasta and a loaf of bread on a Friday night.

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