But one thing that really got to me in those days was the grocery shopping situation. Thankfully that has improved out of sight, but these are some of the things that brought me undone all those years ago:
- The shopping trolleys from hell: it was a constant struggle to steer them in the general desired direction, the only consolation being the hilarious sight of seeing other people, sometimes two per trolley, trying to navigate them around the aisles and to their cars. Australia must have bought up the world's supply of dysfunctional trolleys - the wheels just did not want to work.
- Shopping hours for the leisured class: those days a full time job was 9 - 5 and there was no such thing as flexitime and very little part time work. Shopping was a nightmare; opening hours were 9 - 6 Monday to Friday, and all shops closed at midday on Saturday, and remained firmly shut until Monday morning. Eventually, supermarkets stayed open until 8 or 9 p.m., but get this:
- Meat could not be bought after 6 p.m.! So there you'd be, after a day's work, trying to do the week's grocery shopping in less than an hour. After that, the meat would be covered up with a green cloth, off limits until the next morning.
- Saturday morning, welcome to shopping hell. That was the time when most working people had to shop, and we were all funnelled into the woefully inadequate carparks, forced to do battle with the reluctant trolleys in small supermarkets, all before everything closed at midday. I would sometimes be in tears beforehand, just imagining what lay before me, and exhausted afterwards. That has now all changed, mostly for the better. ( Things were quiet and relaxed for 1 ½ days of the week though)
- The last straw: the strange grouping of items. Flour and sugar, for example, would be aisles apart, and you'd find the same types of products in different places. But the best example of this strange shelving order was in 1976 when a friend came over from California to visit. I had been writing to him about the whole shopping catastrophe, and one day he experienced it for himself. First up was the usual trolley non-function. But what caused us to dissolve into laughter afterwards was this: needing to buy some paper plates for a picnic we were planning, we (naturally) looked carefully in the papergoods section. But no, not there. Upon asking a shop assistant where they might be kept, he said, and in a tone that implied of course they'd be there "in the frozen food compartment". And there they indeed were.