For the flancer, ANY reason to exit the house is a viable reason. The smoke alarm won’t stop bleeping because the batteries are low. A pigeon spontaneously catching fire in the garden. An in-progress mugging that demands intervention – anything really that means you’re not sitting in front of that laptop deciding whether tearfully inhaling another crème egg before 8.30am constitutes a borderline emo-psychological eating disorder.
As most people don’t really know what to do with a burning pigeon* (or for that matter, what to do when standing between a youth wielding something they found in a toolbox and an old person who still hasn’t twigged that this isn’t someone trying to help them cross the road) the corner shop constitutes a safer option. A nice, straightforward getting-out-of-the-houseness that doesn’t give rise to third-degree burns or an eyesocket full of Phillips screwdriver.**
The Corner shop is a Godsend. It’s a journey short enough to make in house slippers. There’s never anyone there you recognise and therefore have to communicate with (despite having lived in this area for ten years) so you needn’t put a bra on. It also provides a quick fix of what you need so you can get on with your day feeling more alive, without having to get out of your Florence & Fred work wear (ie pyjamas).
There are only a limited range of essentials on offer, so you are also exonerated from the guilt of being a bad person who puts bad things into their ruined body because – hey – is it your fault if all there is here are E-Numbers, high fructose corn syrup, nicotine, aspartame and salt? Would a drowning human turn their nose up at a Tesco Value life buoy? This is an emergency!
On second-thoughts, the Corner shop’s not really a Godsend is it? It is a Crackhouse.
Feral faced, teenage guttersnipes lounge around outside smoking joints and sitting on stolen bikes. Your paranoia heightens as you pull your outsize belted cardi even further around you and clutch your front door keys to your chest. You suddenly remember that you are braless under that 1996 charity fun run tee-shirt. You feel horribly vulnerable.
Once inside, to blend in, you shuffle over the peeling lino under the flickering strip lights. You feel dirty but excited. After all what choice was there? Tescos is at least a half hours drive away and that would mean getting dressed and removing the scrunchie. You slink past the ancient hair-dye, the long plastic tubes filled with Kiddie-Madness powder, the packets of Skips (only Corner shops still sell these along with Discos and spicy Nik-Naks) and toilet roll with a thick, grey layer of dust on the top.
The chilled counter houses what can only be described as items you might find if you go poking about in the local hospital’s amputee ward wheeliebins. It is lit like a scene from a David Lynch film in which they hang someone up and do horrible graphic things to them with a Ladyshave and simply being near it is hugely depressing.
Your pupils dilate as they settle on that gigantic bag of orange-coloured cheesy snacks that glow in the dark – which you know are going to be like chewing wool – and a treacle tart by some baked goods consortium that has Mr. Kipling up at night screaming. No, even a devoted Greggs fan would not touch that de-devilled treacle tart.
You pay, you leave. You hear Genesis playing gently on the corner shop radio.
No. No-one must know of what happened here.
*Gordon Ramsey might.
**Unless you live in Clapton, E5.