Sunday, 26 June 2011

Shopping is the new thing but I prefer reading and walking

Like Macaulay, according to Walter Bagehot, and like my father, I suspect I do not have an experiencing nature. Last night, I was dismayed to be told separately by two friends whom I respect that they were shopping in  the 'malls' of Bucharest which are apparently thronged at 9 on a Saturday night. So it is true then that shopping is now a form of entertainment. Robin told me that it has replaced television as the British favourite form of diversion. I told my cousin years ago that I shop for one item at a time - a bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste - and he said 'You don't live in the real world!' I didn't understand this especially as I lived in the old town in Bucharest as it used to be, potholes, gypsies etc. but perhaps he was right. It's life, Jim,  but not as he knew it.  I love shopping for books , but nothing else and books are the least material of material objects though collectors misunderstand this. Nothing but books and travel are worth spending money on but this shows I am still an adolescent. On the other hand shoppers according to Melanie McDonagh do not look happy while they are shopping and what an inherently selfish, ungenerous, aspirant and nervous form of pleasure it is.

God made the wicked Grocer
For a mystery and a sign,
That men might shun the awful shops
And go to inns to dine;
Where the bacon's on the rafter
And the wine is in the wood,
And God that made good laughter
Has seen that they are good.

But I approve of grocer's shops and love them in every country. Grocers' shops and public transport are the best way of knowing a country. Countries that don't have much of either are not worth knowing.  In Bucharest grocers' shops are also for some reason cheaper than the hypermarkets (dread word) as well as being five minutes away and with short queues. 

In the nineties when I came to live in Romania shops closed at 1 on Saturdays and as I scarcely ever shop I didn't know till long after everyone else that this had changed. 

Very recently I learnt that it is not just Romanians that drink beer from the bottle (not being offered a glass on a terrace made me feel how very foreign Romania is) but the British do it too (a Romanian told me everyone in the world did this in the late 90s and I smiled in disbelief). Perhaps I should have been a High Court judge before they became right-on and trendy. Only observe said Henry James but I have been away from England rather a long time. 

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