Tuesday, April 10, 2012

1979: It might be a sin

"Everything's good," remarked Dad apropos of nothing as we drove back from the off-licence where he'd nipped out to buy some chocolate to see us through an evening of family viewing.

It was a Friday night, about half past eightish. I'm sure this song was on the radio. I liked it up until that point. Sitting beside him in the car I knew that while he thought everything was good now, it wouldn't be when we got home.

I was right. Mrs Jones from next door had come and told Mum everything. I'd hoped against hope that she wouldn't but of course she had to. Me and her son had been cautioned for 'shoplifting'.

It's not quite as bleak and Crown Court as it sounds of course. Most Fridays, about 5.30ish, Mrs Jones from next door would go to Carrefour, the by now five years old hypermarket on the edge of town. With it being such a great place where you could by everything under one roof, including records, she'd take her son and daughter and me and usually my brother. We might have something to eat in the cafe, then browse the records - Roxy Music's Country Life being a source of great joy/amusement - or the posters - the one of the woman taking a piss standing up at a urinal is one that has particularly lodged itself in the memory for all the wrong reasons, and it was the kind of place that because it was so large and anything was possible, excitement took over and silly things were done.

So this week, rather than pop packets of Trill in unsuspecting shoppers carts or wheel the trolley around the corner leaving them thinking they were going mad, we decided to have a mushroom fight. This involved picking up the ones that had dropped on the floor and throwing them over the tops of the aisles to land on the poor, unsuspecting shoppers below.

We thought it was hilarious, oblvious the all-seeing eye cameras that spied down on us. I suddenly felt a strong arm grab mine. 'You run, we can run faster' barked a tall woman in a white jumper and green skirt, with hair like Vivien Merchant in Alfie. Next to her was a man who had my friend in a similar armlock. We were marched to the manager's office. Mrs Jones was duly paged over the PA.

We were told that what we were doing amounted to shoplifting and they had a good mind to prosecute. They'd seen us here before messing around and would stand for it no longer. They'd take it no futher but we were both banned for life.

Mrs Jones was furious. An eccentric at the best of times, she didn't quite know what to say. While she'd be a pushover, my parents would be the exact opposite. I'd said nothing when we got home, but I knew if was only a matter of time. So when dad decided to go and get some chocolate, I jumped at the chance to go with him, just to avoid the knock on the door that I knew was inevitable. But it was hardly the crime of the century.

Needless to say they were furious. That was Friday night ruined then. I was immediately despatched to my room. And I so wanted to watch The Pit and The Pendulum. I had to make do by creeping down stairs and sitting just outside the door. I'd often be allowed in eventually if I did that, but not tonight.

The next day it was all forgotten. A few mushrooms and all that heavy-handed store detective stuff. It's not like we set out to actually steal stuff. Just youthful high spirits.

I was back that supermarket in the four week's time. No one batted an eye. And now I knew who the store detectives were.


  1. You went back four weeks later? Now that's brave. Did you swagger or creep in - and did you ever come face to face with either of your nemeses again?

  2. I entered gingerly.

    Saw that horrible woman only once again. She didn't see me. I put my head in a freezer cabinet.

  3. The devil was looking for a soul to steal. Presumably he went to a Georgia branch of Carrefour.