There is a Facebook joke going about the now about how you go in to Aldi for a loaf and come out with, the loaf, a saw, and a trumpet. I am an Aldi addict. The thrill of the unknown sees me there faithfully every week. You THINK you are popping in for a pint of milk, but you know there is a good chance you may exit with unicorn steaks and a garden gnome. It is anyone’s guess. Exotic vegetables, Wagu beef, beautiful kids jumpers, wasabi coated almonds? The list goes on. Even better, when someone asks you where you got said treasure, and you comment aloofly “Oh that old thing? I picked it up in Aldi.”
Better still if the enquirer is a Waitrose enthusiast.
Purchasing a cracking wine and drinking it all that very evening (because you bought six given the cheap price tag, and whilst you are pickling your liver, you ARE sticking to a budget), the cheese, oh the cheese. All wonderful points, but not my favourite thing about Aldi. That accolade goes to my companion, my chauffeur, and on this little pocket of time in my week, my confidante. My father.
Big John, Taxi John, or “that big eejit” as my beloved Nana used to call him, is like many of our Glasgow fellas, a quiet man. Selective in what he says and who he says it, he is truly at his happiest doing nothing sat beside my mum. They sit beside one and other and do the same thing, every single night. Whiskey and confessions, pakora and a slagging match. Healthy? Maybe not, best friends, definitely. He is a man of routine. A man of habit. A man of filthy humour at inappropriate moments. Yet he is not without emotion. His wee face carrying Nana’s coffin is something I will never forget. He is a tough nut to crack I guess. The advent of grandchildren have softened his edges. He would never voice his affection to them, but they know the sound of his car engine and bound like puppies to play with the biggest kid of the family. Laden with treats from the butchers for the cubs, he never stays long, his absence already a trail of anticipation for the next visit.
Aldi has become our twilight zone. We have an unspoken eternal weekly date, and I know that we both look forward to it. We puzzle over bags of spirulina powder, and what exactly is a persimmon? We faithfully genuflect at our shared alter to our God, purple sprouting broccoli, and we always “pick up something for the weans”. Being a shopaholic my dad is the price index of all the local competitors and we marvel in unison at the utter bargains to be had in our Aldi. Amongst all this traffic are our chats. Morsels we throw each other from our week, episodes downloaded, my driving lessons (I’ve been learning to drive since the last century), and my favourite titbit; stories from his childhood and growing up. They pop out of his mouth on our Aldi jaunts with ease that I have never witnessed. I am careful not to make too much fuss at these golden moments and casually yawn or stare down Kevin the carrot.
For me becoming a mother made me even closer to my own parents. That wee notch up the generation tree suddenly made me all the more aware of their life before me. My mother had always peppered my upbringing with stories of her family, long dead family pets, and being Ziggy Stardust. My dad is much more of a closed book. Except in Aldi. Here I listen intently whilst absent mindly humming the Paw Patrol theme tune. When he says, “I’ll get you upstairs at the car”, I nod. Really, I want to wedge a bag of frozen peas in his mouth as a bookmark, so as not to lose my page.
As my Nana would have said, “none of us are getting any younger”.
I have watched a dear friend lose her father in recent years, and I have many friends at the moment who are coping with the reality of a sick parent. It makes Aldi with my father all the more poignant to me.
Maybe you aren’t a super market goer I here you say? Fine. Do something else, together. Find your Aldi, and tell your old man; I love you.
Happy Wednesday xxx