Rhodri Marsden: If only couples could hear themselves shopping for dinner

Life on Marsden

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Frequently I don't know what I want for dinner, and I'm not the only one. I've seen us wandering around supermarkets, carrying empty baskets, staring at gammon and sighing. But last Tuesday I knew what I wanted. Octopus.

So I went to Waitrose, because they sell packets of basil with the word "Majestic Basil" on the side and that obviously signifies a quality retailer. No dice, however. They had "Squid Pieces In Olive Oil Octopus Style" – but if they think they can dress up a squid as an octopus and expect me to swallow it they're wrong. As I forlornly roamed the shop, cursing my misfortune, I encountered a similarly wandering couple and realised that things could be worse.

Couples shopping for dinner make for great entertainment. Their mundane, snippy conversations are just glorious. "We should have some steamed broccoli with that," said the woman. "No," ventured the man. "OK then, what do you suggest?" she replied, exasperated, as I stood nearby, tapping out their conversation into my phone for future reference. I collect this stuff. Phrases like "Well, I don't know – liver?" or "No, Simon, not dried oregano" or "If you remember, we had fish on Thursday." It's even better when there's just one of them, phone clamped to their ear, being directed around the supermarket by their partner. "But I can't find any parsley," they wail, or "Well, I certainly didn't use the last of the ginger" – or, as a friend of mine once overheard, "but we don't NEED a persimmon".

After they've negotiated their way towards an escabeche of halibut, they'll sit down together and eat well, and that's lovely. But if they could hear themselves shopping, they'd surely suffer acute embarrassment. And mumble, "Ah, forget it, let's just have some soup." And then start arguing about whether it would benefit from a swirl of creme fraiche.

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