Where once I had Tesco Prussia Street, I now have Carrefour Auderghem. The junkies have been replaced by winos, the fresh figs are cheap and the cheese takes up three aisles. There’s a fresh sushi counter and zebra on offer in the meat section. You would think I would be delighted to be surrounded by such diversity and range of produce but I’m not. I miss Tesco Prussia Street - the 2-for-1 deals on Muller Fruit Corners, the three litre bottles of milk and the self scan that let me smuggle (steal?) an unlimited number of red peppers for 97c. Okay, I admit that’s ridiculous - Tesco was awful. It was a warehouse of tasteless vegetables, ready-meals and saturated fat…but at least it was manageable. Carrefour is enormous, it’s always jammers and, quite frankly, there is too much cheese. *Gasp*. Who knew such a thing was possible? The truth saddens me greatly but there you have it - there is too much cheese in Carrefour. Let’s not linger on this point for too long…
There are other things that make me not like Carrefour. It’s hard to find a parking space. They have special spaces reserved for ‘bébé et sa famille’. These are always occupied by nefarious people who I suspect do not have bébés and it frustrates me that I am too cowardly to shout at them and insist that they vacate their space to allow for legitimate bébé-having people to park. The issue is probably less one of guts and more one of capacity to shout at people in French. “Est-ce que vous avez un bébé avec vous?”, I growl internally while acting out my triumphant confrontation in my head. “Non? Je ne peut pas voir un bébé…Allez toute suite! Le parking est mine! Vamoose! Vous-etes l’interloper…je suis outragé!”. I have restrained myself from actually confronting anyone in real life…wisely I think. Baby A may be young, but he’s not too young to be totally mortified.
Also, because Carrefour is in Belgium it closes on a Sunday like everything else. This is why I was down there at 8.20am on Saturday morning. The fact that it didn’t open until 8.30am seems to have escaped me. In fact, I think it used to open at 8am but one day they just decided that the opening times would change and didn’t tell anyone. That would be a very Belgian thing to be at. My theory of whimsical time changing was supported by the fact that I was not alone standing outside the gates of Carrefour in the early morn. There were at least thirty other people hovering around the entrance, trolleys at the ready. It was like the start of a marathon…a nano-marathon run by geriatric Belgians toting small, yappy dogs. If I had better French and was more confrontational in real life (as opposed to in my head, where I’m very confrontational), I would object to dogs in the supermarket (and everywhere else where dogs should not be like sitting on their own seats on the tram). Fortunately for the dog-lovers of Belgium - of which there are many - my French does not stretch to public declarations of effrontery.
Early morning is about the only time one can go to Carrefour on a Saturday. By 10am, the queues are endless, the shih-tzus have turned on the toddlers and the place has degenerated into mass hysteria as people scramble frantically for the last carrot. I am there, that morning, for yoghurt, milk and pain au chocolat. My basket also appears to contain an unnecessary amount of plastic items that are a direct result of not having the baby with me. Shopping with Baby A is a race against time to grab the items on the list and get out before the screaming starts - I don’t have time to eye up the tupperware aisle.
Even though I’m baby free, I still don’t really want to hang out in the drafty aircraft hanger that is Carrefour Auderghem for longer than is absolutely necessary. I’m in the queue, there’s only one person ahead of me and he doesn’t have a whole lot of stuff. Some baguette, some meat, a small bag of oranges and a newspaper. The checkout lady is chatting away to the man. She has a long conversation with him about the weather (which is bad) before even picking up the first item to be scanned. She eventually starts scanning things although stops half way through to read the headlines in the newspaper which she declares to be ‘choquant’ (which is probably ‘shocking’ but I momentarily think might mean ‘chocolately’).
Now I love a queue as much as the next Belgian but this woman is taking the piss and if I knew how to say that in French, I would have told her that…and not just in my head either. Eventually, she finishes chatting to the elderly monsieur and begrudgingly serves me. I give her an icy stare. She looks blankly at me and painstakingly drags each of my items across the scanner. In my head I am Tesco Prussia Street, laden down with cheap yoghurt, bounding towards the self-checkout where I scan items at the speed of light. Ah, the good old days. Sigh.