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Tell me a Story teaser

Tell me a Story is available on Amazon Kindle and in print format.


I know all the codes. 4087 – bananas; 4165 – green beans; 4040 – full cucumbers; 4048 – half cucumbers. They’re the easy ones. They’re easy because there’s only one type of banana and one type of green bean. Even the full cucumber/half cucumber twist should be fairly easy to grasp. If it’s got two pointy ends, it’s a full cucumber, if it’s got one pointy end and one flat end, then it’s a half cucumber. Easy enough, right? You’d be surprised. I still remember when old Mrs Boon approached one young girl’s till armed with a bunch of bananas, only to leave having apparently purchased a 1.4kg bunch of extra sweet, red, seedless Spanish grapes costing £22.48. That young girl is now a store supervisor. The challenge for me comes with the larger families of fruit and veg. Take the potato for example. Twelve different varieties which we could stock at any one time, each with its own distinct code. 4192 – King Edwards; 4261 – Scotch; 4012 – Jersey Royals; 4274 – Pre-packed Bakers (5kg); the list goes on. Not only do you have to learn each individual code, you also have to know what makes, for example, a King Edward different from a Scotch – it’s the little red marks on the outer skin, by the way. Yes, potatoes are probably the hardest, and apples aren’t far behind. There’s loads of them, and they all look the same – well, to the untrained eye, at least. And life isn’t made any easier when Braeburn’s code (4024) is dangerously similar to that of Royal Gala (4042) - it’s a brave man who types that in without looking at the screen. Tomatoes aren’t exactly a walk in the park, and there are a few different types of mushroom flying around that could easily trip up the unsuspecting novice. And on top of all this, you have the lesser purchased fruit and veg whose codes must still be remembered, despite their relative rarity. 4172 – Shallots; 4055 – Ginger; 4194 – Thyme; and my personal favourite, 4413 – Kumquats. Other members of staff need little pictures next to their list of codes so they know exactly what item of fruit and veg they are checking through the till, and even then mistakes creep in whenever plum tomatoes are put through as cherry tomatoes or, heaven forbid, an apricot is passed through as a peach. But I don’t need any list, or any pictures. I know all 183 codes off by heart, and the precise features and qualities of each piece of fruit and veg that accompany them, including the 21 now-discontinued lines. I can also estimate, with only a few grams of error either side, how much each item of fruit or veg will weigh, and as a result how much each item will cost, before the produce has graced the electronic scales, or the till’s inbuilt calculator has sprung to life. My name is Tom Larkham, and I’ve been here too long.

The “here” in question is SuperSave Supermarket. It’s a chain of supermarkets that operates in the North West of England; predominantly Lancashire, and predominantly Preston. The monthly SuperSave Newsletter often talks about plans for expansion, as far north as Kendal and right down to the depths of Warrington, but plans are always seemingly scuppered by Village Action Groups armed with protected trees and nothing better to do. And so, for the time being, anyway, it’s just the six Preston stores, selling “top quality products, at very affordable prices”. I’m sure they nicked that bit from Tescos, or something.

Anyway, I’ve been working at my local SuperSave branch since I was fourteen years of age, earning back then the princely sum of £1.94 an hour; and that was at a time when £1.94 could buy you pretty much the same as it can buy you today – not a lot. I used to work Thursday evenings and all day Sunday, and then fill in whenever I was needed on school holidays. Four years later, the school holidays have gone, and I’m still here, working 39 hours a week for the sort of salary that makes me think twice every time I’m tempted to treat myself to a MarsBar.

During those four years I’ve worked on pretty much every department SuperSave has to offer. I started off on the fruit and veg department, which basically involved topping up the fruit and veg on display throughout the day, and shoving a few Granny Smith apples in the place of anything we had run out of. As a treat I was then trained up on the tills so I could fill in for the girls when they went on their lunch-break, and likewise I was trained on the wines and spirits section so I could cover for Strange Dave whilst he had his hip operation. Since then I’ve worked on the pet food aisle, on the bread section, in the warehouse, in the dairy, on the freezers, I’ve worked with tampons, bon bons and poppadoms. I’ve even passed my Module 2 Flower Arranging Assessment, despite having sneezed my way through the exam. I’ve given all that I can give to this supermarket, and now it’s time to take something back. And that’s why I’m going to rob it.

Tell me a Story is available on Amazon Kindle and in print format.