I had only just got over missing my chance to make a day trip to the M25 for the vernissage of the new service station between junctions 9 and 10 – one of the nation’s top visitor attractions after Westfield and surely next in line for Unesco World Heritage status – when news came through that I had missed opening day (yesterday) at the new Tesco in my local shopping hub, Faringdon. Tesco is the talk of the town.
It was my daughter’s piano teacher who alerted me. “What do you think of the Tesco’s?” she asked, adding that she felt sorry for Budgen’s, whose months are surely numbered on one hand’s worth of fish fingers. I felt the same, though quite why either of us should feel sorry for one supermarket being replaced by another I am not sure. If Budgen’s had free parking, it might be a more level playing field.
Normally the 45 minute piano lesson puts me in a quandary. Not worth going home, but what else to do, while the scales and arpeggios are rehearsed? Now I can go and do a bit of shopping.
The new store seems quite similar to other Tescos I know. Bigger than Wimbledon but smaller than Abingdon, which is open 24/7 for sightseeing, rather less than that for shopping as I discovered when I went there on a recent Sunday morning hoping to enjoy some quality shopping time during my daughter’s tennis lesson.
A little boy looked around him in wonder, turned to his father and said. “Daddy, the new shop is made of wood.” And it’s true: a strip-lit hangar-like structure, with exposed wooden beams supporting a corrugated roof. At ground level, the design looks admirably logical. Toilet Rolls, next to Toiletries, next to Customer Toilets.
Only one problem. I couldn’t think of anything to buy.
I know: Camp Coffee, the measure of every good supermarket, just as risotto is the measure of any restaurant. The important question being: where will it be stacked – Home Baking, or Tea and Coffee?
Imagine my horror, on discovering that neither zone has Camp Coffee. Surely not sold out, so soon? Nor could I find any coarse oatmeal. How long does Tesco expect to last in Faringdon?
“Camp coffee would definitely be here if we had it,” said a Tesco operative in a suit, staring with disbelief at the Home Baking section. “Let me make a note.” He tapped his phone. ‘Note to Lord McLaurin, Terry Leahy and Philip Clarke: reinforcements needed in west Oxfordshire. Send Camp Coffee and coarse oatmeal.’ I should think so too.
When you find your next refill, you know who to thank.
Nov 10 Update. Tesco Abingdon has moved Camp Coffee from Baking to Tea & Coffee. You read it here first.
Nov 15 Update. Free parking at Budgen’s! A small demonstration of the power of the internet, to improve lives and level the playing field for us all. But will it be enough?