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Shopping local [Jun. 17th, 2014|08:11 pm]

I try to 'shop local' - it's better for the planet, and besides, who wouldn't rather buy interesting, individual things in small shops where you recognise the staff and they recognise you? If only it were that easy. Mostly I compromise: buy what I can in town, buy what I must at the big out-of-town supermarkets, and try to reduce the supermarket shop by buying essentials like fair trade coffee online. This works, more or less, but from time to time it all goes pear-shaped.

Last Saturday was such a time. On the one hand, I wanted to go to town - More fun, see above. Plus Broom House Farm (not to mention the Bread lady) are usually at the market on Saturday, and I could buy things to stock up my new freezer. On the other hand, running short of various groceries (running out, indeed, of grapefruit juice for breakfast, and had to eke out the last of the pack by squeezing half an orange into it - there was half an orange in the fridge, because the other half had been squeezed over the strawberries, and I thought it might come in handy: housewifely virtues R Us) and trying to think ahead to our week on Holy Island, not to mention a peripatetic D.

durham_rambler tempted me, and we split the difference: shop in town and go to Lidl in Langley Moor for anything we were still missing. This was not entirely successful: Broom House Farm were mysteriously absent (I hope they will turn up for the monthly Farmers' Market on Thursday*), but we bought some lamp from Pipers - the butcher at the back of the market - which turned to be a more than adequate substitute. I took some jeans to have a zip replaced, and we had a conversation with Stephen at Teesdale Game and Poultry (better known as The Cheese Stall) about shops, and how they would rather have a shop, but rents in Durham are very high**, and then he sold us the last two of the chicken-stuffed-with-haggis at a fiver, this being the price we would have paid if we'd seen the online promotion about shopping locally. And he gave us a copy of the leaflet, and durham_rambler noticed that there was an offer on computer memory from his favourite computer shop, so he went to buy some while I went round the greengrocer's (I don't have to be bribed to shop there, because they are a very fine greengrocer). So that was all good. Lidl is always fun (it's the TK Maxx of the supermarkets, says durham_rambler , but TK Maxx isn't the treasure hunt it used to be), and we bought several things, and were sensible and resisted several others, but they had neither grapefruit juice nor the soya milk durham_rambler likes on his breakfast cereal. We had to cross the road to Tesco's and buy, not exactly what we were looking for, but near misses.

There was a bonus retail opportunity on Sunday, at the local church's annual Eco Fair. This usually falls while we are on Lindisfarne, but this year we were able to go and look round, and mutter about Oxfam who apparently think that balloons are sustainable (and seemed quite mystified when I gave them back the handfull of string and purle rubber I had picked up as we wandered around the fair), and chat to people we knew - and I bought a pack of sausages and a bead necklace, and continued to think about my failure as a local shopper.

And yesterday I succumbed, and placed an online order with Waitrose.

This post composed on my notebook in the interests of discovering whether the fault which was causing it not to recognise the internet, and which mysteriously fixed itself overnight, has stayed fixed, or whether there would have to be more non-local shopping to replace it before Friday. So far the signs are good, but I haven't pressed 'post' yet...

*This is more and more thinly attended. Stallholders tell us that they just don't sell enough in Durham to cover their costs.

**There is this paradox, that rents are high, and the businesses that can afford them are mostly chain stores, often of the cheap and cheerful variety; yet the people who shop in Durham are predominantly not wealthy, and this too drives the shops downmarket. Tesco in the marketplace ought to be the answer to my dilemma, but often doesn't stock what I want. Also, Durham is rich in both charity shops and vacant shop premises***.

***There is a post to be written of which this post is only a fragment, about Durham as a shopping centre, what is the problem and can it be fixed? But not today.

[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2014-06-17 10:02 pm (UTC)
I would be very interested to know what you think about Durham as a shopping centre, after the food fair people said to me that there isn't a decent deli there. I mean, they have all the posh coffee places and Monsoon and fairly nice clothes shops, but the Waitrose in Durham closed down, and even with all the tourists and students, it doesn't seem to need high-end food shops.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2014-06-19 01:07 pm (UTC)
The short version is pretty much as above: we have some excellent individual 'shops' (mostly in fact stalls at the market) but aren't well served for more general groceries - not so much 'don't need' as can't sustain'. Quite a lot of cafés selling to students and tourists, shops selling clothes and trinkets to students, but the city is too small and the hinterland too impoverished (not to mention the high rents) for shops to survive on year-round trade.

Since you refer specifically to the absence of a deli, there is the Claypath Deli</a., but I admit I've never been there: it's just slightly off my territory.
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[User Picture]From: asakiyume
2014-06-19 11:58 am (UTC)
My in-laws live in Bridport, and they have remarked similarly about the presence of charity shops, though I think their town market is still thriving--I think because lots of wealthy weekenders and retirees are there. It *is* harder for local people to afford things. (My in-laws are neither wealthy weekenders, retirees, or actual locals; they settled in the area some …. forty years ago? So, *like* local, but not actually local.)

The fact that food is a fundamental human need, and so must be sold at prices even the poorest can afford, and yet the ways we produce it to make it affordable are long-term unsustainable and environmentally disastrous, is a huge and terrible paradox. Not counting argribusinesses, farmers worldwide are among the most poor people--another paradox.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2014-06-19 01:16 pm (UTC)
The consensus in the UK seems to be that it's OK for housing to be expensive, as long as food is cheap. We think it's OK to spend our money on mortgages we can't afford, but we demand cheap food - we have to, because all our money is going on servicing the housing bubble. In addition to the disadvantages you list, this means that the 'food' we buy often isn't food at all, if by 'food' you mean something that nourishes.

Yet by cutting out the whole supply chain, the meat I buy at the farmers' market is not only fantastic quality, it's very reasonably priced.
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