When it comes to the trauma of lunchtime, I tend to accelerate the process by making it as unappealing as is humanly possible; particularly when working on site. My colleagues usually bring in something home-made, flaunting its worth from inside a little tupperware container with clip-down sides, accompanied by a lengthy dialogue about ingredients, how long it took to make and what was eaten the night before (apparently the journey is the thing, not the destination). However, cookery gives me the fear. So, instead of preparing something nutritious and delicious from the comfort of my barren kitchen – which also gives me the fear – I choose to take the heat off by allowing someone else to do it for me. This is not without its own inherent set of problems.
Tesco Express on the Pentonville Road is a culinary deadzone. The Meal Deal section is frequented, 24/7, by anyone that life has frowned upon – the unloved, the depressed, the haters, the hated and those, like me, who just want to get it over with. Our purchases are edible sackcloth and ashes with which we punish ourselves on a daily basis, so checking out becomes one of Danté’s inner rings of Hell. For there at the tills, they will judge us; for our lamentable taste in processed cheese, for our weak grins as they ask what we have planned for the weekend, for not taking a Tell Me How I’m Doing card with which we can rate their quality of service online, and for not knowing that a Twix and a Fanta do not constitute part of our five-a-day.
‘Rickin’ (4/5 stars) wants me to fill one of those eco-unfriendly 5p bags with my quarry; he wants to tell me what a lovely day it is when outside, Hurricane Desdemona is whipping toupees into the street; he wants me to enjoy my meal when I want anything but (if I genuinely wanted to enjoy a meal, there is a strong possibility I would not be buying it from Rickin in the first place). This doesn’t deter him: if I could just sign up for the Club scheme right now (in front of a queue of people, aching for release), I’d be eligible for astonishing discounts on stuff I don’t yet know I want. And I’d be in for a further 10% off the impossibly cheap swill I already have in my basket when all I want is for it to be reassuringly overpriced, so I have something to bitch about to my workmates when the whole sorry shebang is at an end.
Today’s sandwich had a yellow sticker on it: it was 20p cheaper because it was out of date. Curiously, this meant that it no longer counted as a Meal Deal and consequently I paid an extra 70p for the entire shooting match. We live in a Faustian, Brechtian, Kafkaesque garden of insanity. And I kinda like it.