Living In The Fast Lane

I have finally gone and got myself a brand-new shiny set of wheels. (I only wish I’d taken the plunge and done it a lot sooner.)

But I don’t need this shopping trolley because of my age. The young and ultra-stylish are sporting petite pushcarts like mine (so I’m told.)

I did enough research before committing. Well, more like a bit of casual observation (restricted mainly to Bethnal Green Road), which confirmed that the lowly but cleverly constructed shopping trolley is still reliably serving its invaluable dual purpose as a balancing frame for the frail and elderly, while conveniently transporting so many of their lives’ essentials home for them at no extra charge.

But I saw no evidence of it actually being ‘in vogue’.

So even if I had been tripping over oodles of spinning trolley wheels as flaunted by youthful fashionistas zipping tirelessly between E2 and WC1 in a relentless mission to sport them as the latest must-have practical accessory, I’m not the type to jump lightly on the latest trend bandwagon for  the sake of some glorified grocery cart.

We’re not talking about some small and delicate item that you can discretely tuck away the minute it starts to cramp, rather than enhance, your style. You need a lot of inner poise to carry off an accessoire de mode the size of a shopping trolley.

In truth though, I actually needed one. I just didn’t know which side of the pavement I was meant to stick to (literally and metaphorically), being too long in the tooth to fall naturally into line with the hipsters, but not quite (over-)ripe enough for relegation to the old Lady Lane.

Yet, the longer I delayed, the less of a fashion-statement and the more of a necessity any pushcart for perishables of mine was destined to be.

Trolley
Serving a Dual Purpose?

Meanwhile, a lot of plastic ‘bags for life’ left Tesco with me, sadly never to return. (They were more like ‘bags for 48 hours’.)

I do, nonetheless, have a bit of history vis-à-vis shopping trolleys in general – or at least a deeply ingrained habit of giving them a wide berth.

Back in the day, my Nana would offer me the use of hers, genuinely, if mistakenly, thinking she was doing me a huge favour. (While I never thought of her as particularly cutting-edge, maybe she was ahead of her time on this one.)

However, the risk being seen trundling Nana’s battered but functional beige effort along to the Co-op, all for the sake of half a dozen small eggs and a medium-sized sliced white loaf (and maybe a Swiss Roll if she really felt like pushing the boat out) just wasn’t worth taking. Back then I didn’t care how bulky the shopping was. I would sooner have schlepped a whole week’s supplies in a motley poly-bag medley from her dog-eared ‘Coiture‘ carrier collection than be in any way associated with Nana’s sagging accoutrement on casters.

But, more recently, each and every time I’ve had to lug carrier-bags full-to-bursting with boxes of washing powder, bags of self-raising flower, bottles of olive oil, tins of beans, cartons of milk, rolls of tin-foil, tubes of toothpaste and, most importantly, tubs of ‘Pringles’ those final few back-breaking yards home, I’ve sworn it would be the very last. However, I knew I’d have to get myself a trolley so trendy that it would make me look quirky (maybe even a bit ‘out-there’) – anything other than way-too-bushed to carry my own shopping bags.

But I still couldn’t bring myself to buy one.

In the end, Fate lend a hand, as Fate often does. I urgently needed to take some bulky rugs to the launderette before Friday’s last wash. (Yes, I do know how to live right out there on the edge.) But I had nothing to transport them in.

Time was tight as I rode the 55 bus up Hackney Road, keeping my eyes peeled for that special shopping trolley that must surely have my name on it.

And there it was, perched just inside the doorway of a baggage-shop otherwise crammed full of suitcases and rucksacks. It bore random thick black headline slogans set against a crisp white background and was artfully emblazoned with masses of colourful Union Jacks. This trolley wasn’t just bang-on-trend, it was totally topical.

Didn’t our PM specify a red, white and blue Brexit?

It might not make a fashion statement in the classic sense, but, as Brexit really does mean Brexit, then it least this model reflects the current Zeitgeist – even if 48.1% (of a 72.2% national turn-out) won’t necessarily love my choice.

Don’t get me wrong, if I was trying to express any opinion whatsoever on EU membership, I would not be doing it with a shapeless bag on wheels.

Trigger Article 50, as you surely must, Mrs May, at least I am going to look up-to-the-minute as I trundle towards Tesco.

I leap from the 55, and gasp through the shop-doorway: “Can I have that please?”, pointing at the Brexit trolley.

“That one’s for display.” replies the shop-keeper “We’ll get you one from the cellar.”

An assistant disappears down into the bowels of Hackney Road for what seems an interminably long time, leaving me increasingly anxious about my prospects of making that last wash on Bethnal Green Road. Near as it is, I still have to go home first and pick up the rugs.

The guy eventually re-emerges from Hackney Road’s underbelly with my timeless yet current artifact. I pay my tenner (yes, it’s that cheap), and scurry off into the night. In my fervour (and to be honest, mild discomforture) I haven’t even registered that my trophy trolley is still flat-packed, and that the wheels aren’t even attached.

I haven’t got very far with it (under my arm!), when I hear the shop-keeper’s voice reverberating behind me into the darkness:

“Would you like me to put the wheels on that for you?”

“Wheels, ha ha, yes, thanks, that might help!”

He kneels to the pavement and deftly screws on my casters while I hop embarrassedly from foot to foot. Just hurry up will you, passers-by might think you are assisting some Old Dear. At least this is only a two-wheeler, and less potentially damaging to my street-cred (if indeed I have any left by now), than a four-wheeler. Four wheels might well have looked like this kindly retailer was trying to stabilise rather than accessorise me.

“There, off you go to Sainsbury’s” he grins, with a final flourish (I don’t see the joke?)

I can now carry on quite proudly (if a bit sheepishly) up the road, head bowed, as yet still to self-conscious to risk making eye-contact with anyone.

As I attempt to cross, the traffic coming both ways is so dense that I have to cruise along the middle of the two lanes for a while. OK, I don’t have to…I just want to. I feel like these new wheels have given me some God-given right to occupy the road-centre. Look at me, I’ve finally ‘arrived’.

Who knows, perhaps some passing Porsche driver will clock me and think: “Wow, this woman looks so liberated. It must be that clean hard Brexit shopping trolley that’s given her that palpable sense of freedom.”

But for now, I’d maybe best get back on the pavement. Not everyone will necessarily see me as trail-blazing as (imaginary) Porsche Man surely will. Some Remainers might not particularly appreciate the spectacle of a stray Union Jack-bag on casters bowling its way along the middle white line.

I’m not out to upset anyone with this thing.

I get home and pick up the rugs. They pad this flaccid trolley out quite nicely. I am also pleased to discover it has some serious capacity. Best of all, it’s now ‘semi-firm’ – and still clean. [It wasn’t ‘hard’ on Hackney Road – that was poetic licence.]

Needs a bit of padding out

I lock my casters on what I hope is a steady course to the launderette. Come on Theresa, hard, soft, or medium-rare, let’s at least make sure these rugs are clean before 8.30 pm. But while my red, white and blue carrier now adequately echoes Mrs May’s sentiments, it doesn’t seem to hold the pavement all that well around corners.

So do you pull two-wheelers and push four-wheelers? Is that how it works? Perhaps a four-wheeler would do the job better. But let’s park that (idea) for now.

Either way, it’s hardly rock ‘n’ roll, is it?

But I manage to rock up in fairly decent time at Last Wash City.

As I roll my show-vehicle in front of a large washing machine, pitch up and start to unload, a young guy at the dryers looks me up and down. As his eyes come to rest on my new hip trolley, he quips:

“You’re a bit too young for one of those, aren’t you?”

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