Wednesday, 14 July 2010


The bored teenager in Greggs has short-changed me by 15p. He has charged me for a cheese and ham baguette, not a cheese ploughmans. I don’t say anything. I have already tested his patience by asking him to cut the sandwich in half and to stamp my coffee loyalty card, tasks which caused him to sigh heavily.

I give the sandwich to my friend, along with 15p from my own pocket. I don’t want her to think I stole her 15p, or admit to not wanting to confront the assistant.

‘I need to toughen up,’ I think as I drink my coffee, mildly disgusted with myself.

To succeed in London, and possibly life, you need to be single-minded, driven and not care if people badmouth you behind your back, because undoubtedly you will have given them reason to. The ruthless creatures are the ones who rise above the ranks in my newsroom, get what they want or get headhunted. Nice guys and girls finish last.

After my coffee I go and help out in the charity shop. There is a new disabled volunteer in his 50s. I say hello. He seems very driven. He keeps telling me to do things, even though I am meant to be doing something else.

‘Put a label on that,’ he barks, pointing at something. ‘No! Put it up there. Come and look at this. Move it there. No, there. Hurry up.’

I am not sure if his disability means he is not aware he is being rude and bossy, or if he just enjoys being rude and bossy. I’m also not sure if I should stand up for myself, or say ‘Move it there please’. I decide to do what I am told. After 30 minutes I go and hide from him by the video section.

I leave and go to Sainsbury’s. I am lugging around 4 giant folders of science magazines I bought from the charity shop. There are 50 magazines, dating from 1981-1983, neatly bound in silver folders, all in immaculate condition; not that you would expect anything less from the nerd who originally owned them. There are clusters of atoms printed on the front of them and ‘Science Now’ written in a futuristic font. One article predicts 'Phones that fit in your pocket could soon be with us', another has a feature on a talking suitcase, although it does not say why anyone would benefit from owning one.

I am weaving about the cheese aisle like a drunk person, weighed down with Science Nows, shopping and a handbag. I sway to the check-out. A woman in her 70s wearing bright blue pants cuts in front of me. She knows she pushed in. We held eye contact for a split second.

‘Ehaah,’ I say to her, but the sound gets stuck in my throat before it can form a word. She is probably a retired managing director.