Saturday, 10 May 2014

When a shopping list becomes an embarrassment

A small local shop
I thought I was being quite revolutionary carrying a shopping list with me whenever I did my weekly shopping here in Algeria, but little did I realise that this would, one day, jump up and bite me on my derriere.   My husband has become accustomed to me and my infernal lists, but it’s only in recent months that my eldest son, at 21, has been introduced to their wonders.  After a couple of shopping trips after which we’ve had the following type of conversation ‘What on earth is ‘Tam?’ (Jam)  and ‘That IS NOT an ‘S!!!!!’, he started to become familiar with my own inimitable style of writing (the results of a hen walking across a piece of paper after scratching in the dirt kind of describes it fairly accurately), and so I could confidently send him off into the wide world of….local shops and markets in the certain confidence that he would return with everything I requested. 

If you know anything at all about Algerian men then it’s that they do very little on their own…..they always have to have someone with them whether it’s to fix something, go somewhere, or perform any kind of task at all.  So it didn’t surprise me when my son roped in his friend to go shopping with him.  Then the other day he casually mentioned that his friend asked him what ‘ris’ was, and he told him it was ‘rice’.  When I asked him why his friend asked this peculiar question, he casually said ‘oh because he was reading your shopping list when we did the shopping’.  And then he added ‘he was at one end of the shop and I was at the other and he had to shout it to me’.  Then he went on to explain their shopping strategy:  His friend looks at the list and says ‘what’s sweetcorn?  ah, ok, ‘Maizena!‘ Next he sees ‘tuna’ no problem, ‘thon’ but when he gets to ‘chicken pate’ he’s wondering what’s this new kind of pastry (it isn’t, it should read ‘pâté’….it’s chicken type salami). ‘Toilet paper?  Ah, of course, Papier de Toilette’ but then he was flummoxed by ‘ Kitchen Paper’.  My son explained with his hands….toilet paper is this size and then Kitchen paper is twice the size.  All this in full view and earshot of the shopkeeper and other customers.  In the market it’s no problem as so many vegetables such as potatoes, onions, carrots are all similar to the French, until they get towards the end.  ‘What is this?’ and my son replies ‘Peppers’.  ‘That’s not a ‘P!’  Great.  So now, the whole world and his mother knows that my writing is appalling…..in addition to his friend actually reading it.  When my face had faded slightly from puce to pink, I asked him why his friend was reading the shopping list in the first place, he told me that he wanted to, that he actually enjoyed reading it and it made shopping fun!   This is what happens when you let two Algerian 21 year old young men loose with a shopping list.

Now my disclaimer…..I did learn to write…..properly…..honest.  But years of typing away on a keyboard has made my writing deteriorate to a woeful level.  And that’s my excuse….and I’m sticking to it.  I would type out the shopping list except I know I would then take all the fun out of shopping for my son and his friend, and when that happens….I’d end up having to do the shopping myself.  So I’m off to do something I thought I had left behind a long time ago in primary school…..practise my writing.
A small local shop

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