Martin from number 27 picked up a 230g tub of Waitrose-branded tzatziki and stared at it blankly.
Was one enough? He glanced down at the shopping list that Verity had written for him, looking for a clue. An entire side of A5 that just said ‘tzatziki’ in his wife’s irritatingly clear and consistent handwriting. Five lines below that, in his own childish scrawl he’d scribbled ‘big brown bottles of fancy Peroni’.
He looked back up at the shelf. “It’s a dip, isn’t it?” he muttered to himself. “How much do you need just for just prodding bits of cut-up carrot and cucumber into? And maybe some flatbread cut up into little triangles.”
“Sorry, dear?” asked a kind-faced old woman next to him browsing coleslaw.
“Oh, nothing. I was just talking to myself. About tzatziki. I’m trying to work out if one pot will be enou-”
“Ooooh… lovely! Me and my George had that in Crete once. It’s a dip, isn’t it…?”
“Anyway, I’ll let you get on.”
Martin smiled thinly.
This was silly, he’d been standing there holding a pot of tzatziki for minutes now, feeling his hands getting colder and colder from the small blasts of chilled air coming from the powerful refrigerators. “It’s just bloody tzatziki, put some in the basket and go to the drinks bit,” he murmured under his breath.
Martin put the tub in his basket and turned around. The old woman was now staring at the pâté opposite. He looked at the selection himself. There was an awful lot of choice. Too much choice, surely. “How many options do you need for pâté?” he wondered.
There was Brussels, Ardenne, salmon, tuna, mackerel, crab, trout, chicken liver, duck and orange, mushroom, aubergine and red pepper… There were even weird ones like ‘forestier’ and ‘pâté de Campagne’, neither of which he’d heard of. What was that second one, anyway? Champagne flavoured pâté? Verity would know. Which is probably why she’d written ‘pâté’ in perfect calligraphy on her own shopping list – with the acute accent and circumflex.
Now slightly concerned that there might be more than one type of tzatziki available and that he’d perhaps picked the wrong one, Martin turned back to where he was just stood. Thankfully it looked as though tzatziki was just tzatziki, there were no subcategories of the stuff like with the pâté. It was a relief. He’d spent so long worrying about the size of the tub he hadn’t thought about if there were different options.
Then he noticed it. Set back a little on the shelf above: ‘Holy Moly vegan tzatziki’.
Martin was now torn. Normal tzatziki or vegan tzatziki? The normal stuff was cheaper, of course. And you got more of it (230g vs. just 155g).
Forlornly, he picked up the tub from his basket and put it back on the shelf. He didn’t know how many – if any – vegans even lived on his street. But it only took one, didn’t it? Perhaps he should buy one of each. Or two of each. He could ask Verity, but she was busy getting everything else. ‘I think I can handle picking some sodding dip,’ Martin tried to assert himself before taking a long, deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth as the muscles around his left eye spasmed.
It seemed to Martin that even if they bought the vegan tzatziki, any vegans at the party would probably steer clear of it anyway. After all, why would a vegan eat what they thought was a yoghurt-based dip? The only way round it was to leave the packaging on to make it clear which was the vegan one and which was the normal one. But then the cardboard would probably fly off in a gust after it was opened and make it look like they’d littered the street or something.
“Should you call the non-vegan tzatziki ‘normal’?” he wondered. Or is that offensive to vegans? Him and Verity had discussed becoming vegetarians before. Usually immediately after eating veal on holiday. In the end, they always decided against it. ‘It’s not really fair on the kids,’ they usually decided.
It was decision time. Martin had pondered the tzatziki question long enough. He knew his sister would say this was yet another example of his ‘anxiety’, but he knew he was just being a bit indecisive. It wasn’t really a problem. The quicker he tackled this, the sooner he could get to the beer aisle and see what they had. Hopefully, some of those big brown bottles of fancy Peroni.
He wasn’t particularly looking forward to the party. A whole street of people sat nervously at pasting tables eating nibbles, drinking from plastic glasses and discussing the council tax rise. The bunting was already up in the street, there was no turning back for any of them now.
The bunting. Was it ironic? It was difficult to tell. Apart from the odd retired couple, it was quite a young bunch on their road. Even in Caversham it was difficult to imagine that many people being staunch royalists. Still, it’s like Verity says, “it’s just a nice excuse for a party. Especially after the last two years we’ve all had. And it’s for the kids more than anything.”
He might not have been overly excited about the event, but if he could get sat next to Marcus from number 33, they could have a bit of a laugh. Marcus was a good bloke. It was Marcus that turned Martin on to the big brown bottles of fancy Peroni. ‘Gran Riserva’, they’re called.
That reminded him… Beers. Martin sauntered over the drinks aisle, straight to the premium European lagers. They had the ones he wanted. Result. He greedily grabbed the last eight 500ml bottles of Gran Riserva and filled his basket up with them.
“Ready?” asked Verity, her trolley full to the brim. “Yep.” Martin gestured to his basket and smiled that thin, weak smile of his again as Verity craned her neck to look at which queue to join.
They got into the second line, behind the old lady. She’d gone for the ‘pâté de Campagne’ in the end. Martin made a mental note to Google it when he got back. Whatever it was, it looked like it had all bits of something or other in.
The two of them began unloading their shopping onto the small conveyor belt. Verity arranged it all, gathering cupboard items together, fridge items together, and so on. Meanwhile Martin looked for carrier bags. “There are never any bloody carrier bags here anymo-”
“Martin…?” Verity peered over her shoulder at her bagless husband who had left the Bags for Life in the car.
Meanwhile, in the bread aisle, Marcus from number 33 picked up a packet of six Crosta & Mollica organic wholeblend Emiliana Piadina flatbreads and stared at them blankly.