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Tuesday, 9 December 2003


Mood:  vegas lucky
Everywhere on earth has somewhere like Lidl. It's the place near the welfare offices, where the poor people shop in small values for items that were bought in huge bulk. The place that wastes no time on ambience, customers, heating, even on shelving. A wooden pallet on the floor containing 500 tins of Polish corned beef is enough - the real attraction is the price.
The first time I went to Lidl, my mum took me, and I was surprised by how similar it is to shopping abroad. You know that disorientation you feel when not a single package in an entire aisle says anything you recognise, in the colours you're used to letting rest in your supermarket peripheral vision, or even any labels in your own language. Similar products, but with ever so slightly wrong names. I bought a packet of Jaffa cakes yesterday, only they were fairy-sized, in a pack, not a tube, and they were called Mini Orange Sponges.
This spring, I'd waited a few times in Lidl car park while the ex signed up for her UB40 at the council offices across the road. But I'd concentrated my energies then on posing with my new secondhand car, and seeing how many pikeys I could persuade to wink at me by wearing ever more revealing outfits. This is not at all the same thing as Shopping at Lidl.
So, shattered after a two hour detour through the wrong Thames tunnel, last night I decided to break my commute at Limehouse Lidl, in the hopes of buying some Germanic looking crap. Germans do Christmas food well, don't they?
The first thing that hit me was the clinging, uncared for damp smell. This is like walking into Iceland a day after they switch the freezers off.
The second was: no shelves. Lidl will dump the packing box on a crate on the floor, saw off the top and bung a price sticker on. Bish bosh. No arranging of the organic pasta sauces so the labels face outwards.
Then the lack of organisational theme: summer flip flops next to battered Advent calendars, next to alien breakfast cereals that feature unfamiliar cartoon monkeys, next to Swiss cheeses. Of course I say a lack of theme, but whoever placed the lighter fuel alongside the cheap bottles of Schnapps must have had some sense of humour.
I hadn't leapt back in horror at the size and texture of a fat uncooked Bratwurst for a good twelve months, so there was a welcome sensation. Some of the less exotic products did attempt to translate themselves for the uninitiated - just as whenever I go to France in winter I get reminded that truly no lie, the rosbifs love to eat rotted food each Christmas (mince pies? plum pudding?), so the mince pies here had helpful subtitles: pastry cases with mincemeat inside. I dunno, still sounds a little rotted to me.
Clutching my stack of comestibles (mini orange sponges, apples in metric weights, Magenbrot and bon-bons mit sahne), I queued with the other plebs. And queued. And queued.
Because at Lidl, there's only ever two people on checkout, and they can take all the time they want to, knowing full well there's nowhere else you can go if you don't like it. Even Kwik-Save is pricier. Inching past the special offer Stollen, marzipan fancies and other utterly non-english sweetbreads, I began to notice the unhealthy pallor of my fellow shoppers. The way a cut glass accent sounded wrong. How many people were clutching multi-packs of Eastern European branded lager. People in thin looking unbranded clothing, with acne, rosacea, and pinched expressions.
I once rented a flat in Berlin, during reunification, and the interminable queues at Lidl made me recall being poor and going over to the East in order to feel richer for a day; before the border controls dropped entirely, and during a particularly cash-strapped spell. In West Berlin I was just a hick Britisher with crappy German, who used to get spat at on the U-Bahn if I spoke too loudly in English, and wore the wrong fashions (white instead of black - horrors!) (Christ, I loathe Berlin, but that's another story...) Behind the Iron Curtain, I was suddenly transformed into rich decadent Westerner. I minced up to the largest department store, where elaborately made up, grandiose assistants gave you a chit that allowed you to approach the one single triangular stack of tinned fish in the store. I followed the shopping spree with a trip to the restaurant of the most expensive hotel I could find, and stuffed myself with the finest bacon, eggs, cold gravy and lumpy mash, because that's the most expensive thing they served. From that point on, I decided not to glory in my wealth, but to stick to feasting on fried chicken in Kreuzberg. Brrrr.
Back in Limehouse, fourteen years later, as I paid for my wares (in cash - coins - putting your food on Visa as I'd normally do seemed to express a wanton and unseemly frivolity), I was interrupted by boozer number six in the queue returning to quibble about his 50 pee money off coupons. I left the change and got out of there.
Perhaps I should buy a cheaper flat, something that still allows me enough money to shop in a place that sells Clementines.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:50 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 10:14 PM GMT
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Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 10:12 PM GMT

Name: jatb
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I would offer to send a food parcel of home-baked cakes, if I didn't know you'd prefer to take your chances at Lidl.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 10:15 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I've just polished off the gingerbread thingy-Brot. Slurp. But, yes, please send cakes. Any particular time, week, decade, send cakes!

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 10:26 PM GMT

Name: Hotline

Are U sure you want her cakes? Sounds like they're booby trapped, parcel-bomb cakes from what's written on her blog.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 10:29 PM GMT

Name: Hotline

UB40? I think you're showing your age there... Is the band still going, and if so is it still called that, or did they change the name after UB40s became whatever it is they have now?

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 10:35 PM GMT

Name: tess
Home Page:

I shopped at Lidl's a few times, when I was absolutely totally broke beyond belief. It was a soul destroying experience. Avoid it at all costs - get the cheaper flat if youhave to, but sterr clear of Lidl's. It's ok to go to in order to laugh at people who are forced to shop there, but when you realise you have no other option, it's a sad, sad day.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 10:57 PM GMT

Name: ThePimpress
Home Page:

sounds a bit like the "welfare" places here in the states. like goodwill and such. i went in one time with a friend to see what became of the things we donated. basically there was the floor, and piled upon the floor were boxes of stuff. i say stuff because some was not immediately (or under closer examination) identifiable. the stuff that wasn't in boxes was piled on the floor itself.

i purchases a ball hard plastic ball for about 25p and when i left the "store" i dropped it by mistake. which causes the ball to split into 2 pieces, inside of the the ball was a dead baby mouse. gave me the creeps and never went back.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 11:03 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I am indeed showing my age - I was a mere babe when I first heard their big single, 'I Am A Wanitep'.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 11:06 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Uggggggggggggghhhhhh! That's horrible.

I think Goodwill is perhaps a charity shop, like Oxfam, whereas Lidl is a food store. I used to donate my old things to Oxfam, till once I went into a store near one I'd left a bag with, accompanied by a boyf, and pointed to some shoes on the counter, marvelling that they were my old shoes. The old biddy serving only saw the pointing and reassured me: "oh don't worry dear, they've just come in for sorting; we'd never try to sell you anything that ugly."

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 11:07 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Yes, I know exactly what you're saying, but trying out new lifestyles is my new Saturday night out. After the delights of Chorlton 24 hour Asda's car park last Saturday evening, and the week before at Leyton Mills' TK Maxx, I feel ready for anything.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003 - 11:08 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oooh, good point.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 3:30 AM GMT

Name: ThePimpress
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yes Goodwill is a charity shop like Oxfam. i didn't figure that Lidl was a charity shop just your description of it reminded me of my one charity shop experience. brought back very scary memories for me.

about the shoes and the old cow.. that (pardon me for saying so) made me giggle. i saw a pair of shoes i'd donated and realise they were quite ugly shoes sort of your experience in reverse i guess.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 7:26 AM GMT

Name: JoJo

Lidl is like Aldi - only to be used for their weekly specials like their electrical goods, kitchen equipment, gadgety stuff, not food! Go to Sainsburys on a Sunday afternoon (after 3pm) and freeze every bargain you can. Stick your potatoes/ onions/ ginger/ garlic/ grapefruit in the fridge as they last for weeks instead of days that way. Don't ever buy anything other than fresh fruit and veg (and dried pasta for some strange reason) from Aldi/Lidl. The trick is to go on a Thursday morning when they have all the special offers on - instead of pikeys, you just have loads of internet bargain hunters in there (don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing :-) Tell everyone (neighbours) you're a busy, dedicated ********* in the hope that they'll bring you tasty, home-cooked, food parcels.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 7:27 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Lol at the food parcels! Wondering now if I can get free soup for Christmas......?

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 11:22 AM GMT

Name: jatb

Its too late to back out now...

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 2:51 PM GMT

Name: yidaho
Home Page:

.. which was nowhere near as good as their previous big hit "De-earthed Icecreaming"

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 3:33 PM GMT

Name: Pan
Home Page:

Guess I can give Lidl a miss then - Iceland is lovely by comparison. It sounds a lot like the no-brand store near the Archway Roundabout (for non Londoners the AR is an utterly soulless multi lane switchback system that always seems to have crowds of people just hanging out 2 yards from the roaring traffic for no good reason). I think you might have a point - in these places it's not so much the crapness and bad value of the products and the failure to employ modern marketing methods in displaying them that is depressing, it's one's fellow shoppers. They look desperate and miserable and ill. Certainly makes you count your blessings that you don't have to shop there because that's the only place you can afford!

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 5:16 PM GMT

Name: e
Home Page:

Sadly, until Sainsbury's started stocking Lindt (not that long ago really), Lidl was the best place near us for finding decent continental chocolate. Now what does that say about Cadbury's? (sorry to all you Cadbury's fans, but really, it's not chocolate- it should more accurately be described as "slightly cocoa-flavoured combination of vegetable fat and sugar")

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 6:14 PM GMT

Name: Hotline

I've lived outside of Pudding Island for some years now, but nonetheless had fond childhood memories of Cadbury's chocolate. Until, that is, I tasted some again recently... I think your description makes it sound more appealing than it really is. Goes to show, there is no perception without contrast.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 6:15 PM GMT

Name: Leary

Hey, grammar and spelling stickler! What happened to the apostrophe in the contraction of "it is"?

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 6:35 PM GMT

Name: jatb

Being accused of being a grammer stickler does not actually make me one. Lucky the logic stickler isn't here, he'd have far sharper things to say.

Still, good to know you're trying to keep up.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 6:54 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

No bullying in the comments threads or I'll whip you senseless, boy.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 6:55 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Lol, I was trying to lure you out of your hiding with that reference!

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 6:57 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Pan said: It sounds a lot like the no-brand store near the Archway Roundabout (for non Londoners the AR is an utterly soulless multi lane switchback system that always seems to have crowds of people just hanging out 2 yards from the roaring traffic for no good reason).

The whole of Archway in its entirety seems part Lidl. Genetically, I mean.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 7:00 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oh I always preferred my chocolate with crap in it. That godawful Green and Black's stuff, or the 95% cocoa Lindt make me gag.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 8:56 PM GMT

Name: Hotline

I'm not a pure chocolate fan, either. Eating that 95% stuff is like sucking on dry ice. But it's the quality of the crap they put in it that counts...

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 9:01 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Nah, gimme a good Mars Bar and I'm happy.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 9:33 PM GMT

Name: Hotline

Is that all it takes? Should've thought of that years ago!

Wednesday, 10 December 2003 - 9:43 PM GMT

Name: Hotline

If that's what you consider bullying then your clients must be TERRIFIED of you.

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