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Trolley life

I like to think that I have an open mind. Perhaps Elvis really is alive. Perhaps Michael Jackson really is black and Geoffrey Boycott's former girlfriend is just a bit clumsy. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and last week I drew it at the survey that claimed that one in four men are now doing the supermarket shop as opposed to one in five a year ago. "They actually ENJOY roaming the aisles looking for bargains and best buys," exclaimed one report. Divorced dads and single men are responsible for the increase but more family men - as in 11 per cent - are also taking over the responsibility.

I know the figures are pathetic but I still do not believe them. This is because I go to supermarkets and I know what men do there. They push the trolley. They go on errands set by their wives. They "help" decide what size ketchup bottle is required. The whole things seems totally emasculating and I don't believe I've ever seen a man actually enjoying himself in a supermarket.

But, I thought, I must keep an open mind. Perhaps things have changed since a week ago. As I entered the supermarket my mind was so open that it was catching flies. And glimpses of men. The first one was a youngish guy standing in front of the cat food. He was nervous. He couldn't decide. Salmon and tuna? Chicken and vegetable? He kept looking up the aisle at his wife who stood, toes tapping, with the trolley. His hand snatched at one box, only to put it back. He looked at his wife, she looked away and tapped her toe. He grabbed another box and ran (literally) up the aisle. The toes quit tapping and the trolley moved. What a nightmare! God knows what happens when he has to pick food for humans.

Then there was the man in the cardigan standing beside his wife as she unloaded the trolley. He stood, silently watching. It soon became clear that he was not a heartless bastard who was letting his wife do everything. He simply was not allowed to help. He was sent off to find a box. He returned, box in hand, and she began packing at breakneck speed. He stood and watched. Silently. I felt like slipping him the name of a good assertiveness class.

The last man I saw was the one in back of me at the check-out. I assumed he was single because he looked a bit weird. I mean this guy is only ever going to appear on one kind of "most wanted" list. He was clutching a motorcycle helmet and a basket filled with red wine and three cans of processed peas. As I left he was frantically stuffing them into a nylon back-pack. Perhaps we should just give men their own supermarkets. That way we wouldn't have to watch.