IT’S reasonable to say that the vast majority of people in the UK live in town and cities, which means no-one is ever far away from a branch of one of the big four supermarkets.
Away from these town and cities – let’s call it the countryside – communities there rely on smaller versions of the big supermarkets which are often part of a chain or a buying group but with equally familiar names such as Spar, Premier, Londis and Co-op; or they are totally independent.
As already mentioned these shops are a necessity for people living in small places; yes, they have a limited range of stock, they focus on essentials items, but they are all equally as valuable for outdoors enthusiasts because at the end of a day walking, climbing, mountain biking or whatever else floats your boat, they are there – for those essential items.
They are so much more welcoming than a big supermarket; there are fewer raised eyebrows (if any) when you enter a Spar; and the shopkeeper is quite often keen to know where you’ve travelled from and what you’ve done that day.
Walking around Tesco or Asda in full walking gear – and from time to time full wet weather clothing – just doesn’t feel right.
Perhaps I’m paranoid, but I feel like I don’t belong there among the busy yet focused mothers trying to keep check on their children, or the besuited man trying to fathom out the difference between biological and non-biological washing powder.
No, I’m definitely not paranoid; it’s just that someone in hiking gear, or mud splattered cycling clothes, sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Regular shoppers don’t understand us or want us in their clean stores tramping mud around, dripping rain water or, at worse, soaked in sweat.
Local small shops are places of calm, and are often the first port of call after a day in the hills to stock up on; wait for it… essentials, for that evening or the following day or in my case for a chocolate milk drink.
I also like to have a glance at the front page of the local newspaper; best ever headline, “Suicide rates down in Millom”.
These shops invariably seem to have the same layout, with the till on the right as you walk in, and then two or three aisles to the left.
And it’s a very precise range on offer; which means you know what to expect and there’s generally no tramping around looking or searching.
Because they all seem to stock the same things and are laid out the same way it’s easy to get in and out; it’s easy to find my chocolate milk.
There are never any surprises; maybe one or two local delicacies such as macaroni pies in Scotland, and that’s another reason why these shops are so great.
Hanging around outside, or should that be loitering, while eating and drinking (technical phrase, refuelling) is a good way to wind down? It’s just not the same standing outside an enormous Tesco.
So let’s raise a chocolate milk drink to these local shops!