Sunday, 1 August 2010

What I did on my holidays

I'm back and unfortunately I've had a revelation, which is always inconvenient. Anyway. Photos first, revelation later.

We had an excellent holiday. We started off in Aldeburgh, and travelled round the Suffolk and Norfolk coast to Hunstanton, then drove back to Cambridge. For my American readers who are used to living in a larger country, this is the equivalent of going on holiday to the other end of the street. However, Suffolk especially was quite an experience, and I felt like I had travelled a very, very long way from Cambridge. This was Aldeburgh.
I have not made it look bleak on purpose. Look at that lowering sky! Don't ever go there with anyone you don't like. I can't imagine anything worse than nursing a failing relationship in Aldeburgh. The word on the street in Aldeburgh was that it was an excellent place to go for birdwatching. So if you are into birdwatching and peace and quiet you will have a great time, not so much perhaps if you are into there being a shop open after 6pm.

After Aldeburgh we started to adjust emotionally to the out-of-the-wayness of it all. This was Southwold, taken from the pier. Southwold had a pier! We were taken aback by the entertainment possibilities. Actually, the pier was rather cool and had these funny machines on it:

There were also lots of beach huts.

I liked the beach huts but I suspect they change hands for large amounts of money as they have a retro middle-class charm. Or it is possible they are controlled by the Mafia.

These were vintage mink stoles in a shop window in Sheringham (I know it's very sad :-(, but I couldn't resist the photo!). And it was in Sheringham that I had my revelation. 'This is so weird' I was muttering to Partner. 'All these places are so weird. Why are they so weird?' We considered. Then it came to me.

All the places we went to had high streets full of independent shops (this is Wells Next The Sea). There were hardly any chain stores – a couple of banks, Budgens, the occasional Boots – but that was it. The streets were absolutely full of independent food shops. And that should have been lovely, but actually it was very disconcerting, which is disconcerting in itself. We are so used to high streets being all the same that honestly, going to town after town and not seeing the same old shops felt really strange. Then I began to like it. Then I also realised that everywhere we drove, houses and farms had home grown produce for sale, and fish they had caught. Now, obviously most of this is because of the tourist economy. However, it did seem to me that the shops were fairly rooted in the community as well, for example this one can't be catering only to tourists:

Let's wish Pete well for his recovery! So, as I was walking round these places where all the food was local and sold in independent shops, and the restaurants and B&Bs all served local food and could tell you where everything came from, it struck me. Isn't it actually really weird to not buy local food? Isn't it odd to be so deracinated that we buy food from huge supermarkets, out of season, and have absolutely no idea where it comes from? How on earth have we come to this?

So I'm going to try to reduce the amount of things I buy from supermarkets. I've made a start today by setting up a new veg box (I became a bit disenchanted with my old veg box which seemed to be aimed at people who don't like veg very much) which comes from organic producers around Cambridge. I cannot say I will be able to give up supermarkets immediately (indeed I've got to go to Waitrose tomorrow and stock up!) but I am going to try to make inroads. Anyway we will see. We also have people selling their own produce at the side of the road when you drive outside Cambridge and when I am feeling a bit more assertive I may go off driving around, quizzing people about the origins of their honey and eggs.

Is anyone else trying to give up supermarket shopping? Or does anyone think I'm being unfair on supermarkets? (I don't think I am, but I'm happy to hear the other side!)


Anonymous said...

i Think that is really good of you :) hope you had a good holiday :)

Mumma Troll said...

I have tried this now a few times, but being in London with 3 kids it's hard, especially as we don't have a garden big enough to grow much. I would love to do it though, but I just settle for buying from the supermarkets, but concentrating on eliminating rubbish instead.
It looks like you had a lovely holiday.xxxx

Susie said...

Thank you yes, holiday was great! Mumma Troll, yes I agree, doing it in London with 3 kids wouldn't be easy. I have a feeling it's all going to be a lot of effort and I won't be able to get rid of Tesco completely. Anyway we'll see! :-)

Susie said...

And I meant there, get rid of Tesco as my main shopping place, not get rid of it out of the UK. I just don't want anyone to think I've got delusions of grandeur. / Susie, Single-Handed Breaker of Supermarket Monopolies.

anna said...

I try to do this. I live in a great area of London for non-supermarket shopping since we have a big market. It's much cheaper too. I find it a real struggle - the lure of being able to get everything under one roof can be too much, especially with my toddler along. I suggest intermittent reading of anti-supermarket literature to fire one up again - Tescopoly, Not on the Label, etc.

Silver said...

I would LOVE to severely reduce the amount of supermarket shopping I do. I was talking to the first mate the other day about trying to catch our own fish. We do live in Florida ... ;)

We're also members of the local CSA — which is one of those acronyms that makes no grammatical sense when you expand it, so I should probably say "CSA farm" or something like that — and when it's the growing season, we are INUNDATED with vegetables from our CSA share even though we only have a half-share. There's no room for supermarket vegetables in the fridge during the growing season. ;)

Unfortunately, the farm's growing season doesn't last all year, and we live in a tiny condo without a yard. GR. If we had a yard, I would do my darnedest to avoid buying vegetables at the grocery store unless I absolutely NEEDED something specific that was not locally in season. Supermarket produce baffles and saddens me, now that I've had organic vegetables that were literally picked from a field two hours ago.

If I weren't having transportation problems, I would be shopping at the local fruit and vegetable stands to fill my hankering for locally-grown produce, but ... well, I *am* having transportation problems, and there isn't one within walking distance. ;)

We can at least buy local honey at the weekend markets — though sometimes we buy honey from someone not-local, but who we know is a small business owner with a good conscience and who supports a lot of different local businesses with her business.

I would LOVE to find a good super-local source for eggs and meat. Especially eggs. I can't stand standard supermarket eggs, and even the organic/free range ones from there aren't as good as getting them from, say, next door. And there *is* a place about two hours away that raises grass-fed beef, but we don't have the freezer space to buy half a cow yet. ;)

And holy crap, if I could have my own cheese cave, and churn my own butter, and milk my own cows and goats, and grow my own fruit, I think I might get fat and happy. Clearly, I need to live on a farm, or in a farm community. Or something like that.

Susie said...

I'll have a look for Tescopoly etc, thank you very much!

Silver, you see this is where I feel a bit bad, because we have a big garden that I under-use (working on it!) and we have reasonable access to local food here - we have a farmers' market and farm shops, and there is fruit and veg on the market daily. It just isn't as convenient as the supermarket (although it's better and cheaper!) - I'm going to try and conquer my inertia though! - (and you made me think about churning my own butter - it's supposed to not be too hard, you can do it with a handwhisk - I shall dig out my recipe.)