Fifteen Minutes: why is life such a rush?

"Will you please stop that!" I shout from inside the refrigerator.

The girls are blowing bubbles in their after-school milkshakes and giggling as I bang through the cupboards putting together a quick shopping list on the back of a junk mail envelope.

It's Thursday: Acrobatics and the weekly shop.

They noisily drain their milk, then it's: “Out, out, out!” as I shoo them from the house, grab my collection of jute bags and leap into the car. Thursdays are mad days. On Thursdays, I deliberately forget my 2 mph lesson for a few hours.

We arrive at the village hall with two minutes to spare. Today the girls will be attempting forearm balances - the seemingly impossible act of hanging your body in a scorpion tail over your head whilst resting only on your forearms.

I wave goodbye, as they pull out the mats, and drive the mile back into town.  I pull up in Sainsbury’s car park. I search my purse. I search the little tray thing in my car. I search the door and glove compartments, my pockets. There’s not a pound coin in sight so today I will be attempting the seemingly impossible act of completing the week’s shopping on the fifteen-minute free parking ticket. This is a good thing, I say to myself, and start to spin myself a green-tale...

The philosophy behind the fifteen-minute-shop is this: you haven’t got much time, so you only buy essentials, which means you don’t end up with surplus food shrivelling in your fridge at the end of the week; and it makes you reassess what your essentials really are.

So far so good, but...

The philosophy behind the fifteen-minute-shop is not: hare around the shop like a woman possessed with a small trolley piled six foot high, showing no regard for toddlers or the elderly as you take blind corners into aisles, and shooting up so much adrenalin that you don’t come down for three days.

I ignore the voice telling me the latter, press the green button for the free ticket, check my watch and race my trolley over the anti-slip bumps outside the store nearly rattling my teeth out of my head.

Fruit and Veg: since Mark started the new Weight Watchers program where fruit is ‘free’ he seems to consume a good three kilos a day; I fling bananas, apples, pears, satsumas and grapes into my trolley. I don’t linger in front of so-called special offers weighing the bags of fruit and checking out the price per kilo against the normal ‘loose’ price; if the fruit is wearing a Union Jack or Fair Trade logo it goes in. I add carrots, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms and I’m off.

In Dairy, I seize cheese.

In Meat, I snatch sausages.

In Frozen Food I grab fish fingers as I fly past towards Tinned; baked beans for swimming night, plum tomatoes for Mark’s Saturday breakfast.

By Crisps and Snacks the trolley is full. I balance two multi-packs on top and dash for Cereals rearranging the trolley as I run.

Where are Raisin Wheat?

Coco Pops, Weetabix, Cornflakes...

I’m having to slow down.

Oats, All Bran, Shredded Wheat...

I’m at a stop.

Where are the Raisin WHEAT?

I find them in Adult Cereals.

On the top shelf.

At the furthest reach of my campaign, I grab a carton of orange juice from Soft Drinks and start the home run; it’s dishwasher tablets and washing up liquid, then the tills.

I check my watch: four minutes remaining and I’m not going to make it if I risk a chatty check-out operator, so I swing the trolley into Self Checkout to the surprise of the singles with their baskets of ready meals and wine. I activate the screen as the trolley judders to a halt.

Are you using your own bags?

Of course!

Please place your bags on the counter.

Bags! Where are the bags? I ferret around the trolley, dropping the broccoli, wrestle them loose and shove them on the counter.

Cannot verify your bags please wait for assistance.

For goodness sake!

I wave frantically at the assistant. He saunters over, scans his pass and enters his pass-code.

Tick, tick, tick.


He smiles and shrugs.

I start to throw items over the barcode reader and into my bags.




Cannot verify the item please ask for assistance.


I wave the guy back again. He does his stuff and then watches amused as I pound through the weigh your own screens trying to find broccoli.

I get through four bags - bulging and badly packed – and four visits from the assistant in four minutes. I swipe my loyalty card, shove my credit card into the reader, punch in my pin and I’m away, trailing coupons and my unexpectedly long receipt in my wake.

Back at the car, I check my watch and smile at my achievement wondering whether the girls have managed their forearm balances yet.

Read last month's post: fickleness.

Emma is a columnist and feature writer for Liberti Magazine.

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