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Free Ranger

I angsted over sunflower seeds in Holland and Barrett today. Do I get the Normal ones or the Organic? Can there really be a difference in such a tiny little seed? And the organic ones were £1.20 more expensive than the Normal ones. That’s like $3 Australian! Does it really matter when I’m going to drown them with yogurt and blueberries anyway? What do I do? What do I do?

My mate had the same dilemma this week when buying some eggs. These two little old ladies were cluttering up the aisle and debating.

“You cannae get those eggs, hen! You’ve got tae get the organic!

“The organic! They’re so expensive!”

“Aye but you’ve got tae think of the poor wee chickens! No one buys those other eggs anymore.”

My friend likes to save a penny and he normally grabs the budget ones, but now he stood there in a bind. How could he get Morrisons Extra Val-U eggs after that? And think of the poor wee chickens. Fine then, little old ladies; you win! He plucked a free range box from the shelf.

“See!” hissed the old lady, “I told you!”

There’s a great article in the Observer today about how we’ve all become neurotic and fearful about food. We’re freaking out about fair trade, organics, trans fats and additives, but on the other hand we’re slaves to the supermarket and eat more fast and processed food than ever. These days not even a wee wrinkly lady in Scotland can boil an egg without being tortured with guilt.

I finally grabbed the non-organic seeds and tried to ignore the niggling guilt for buying them at this faceless national conglomerate instead of the local independent health food store. And I really hate Holland and Barrett; they seem to have formed some sort of alliance with that withered crackpot, “Doctor” Gillian McKeith. For those outside of the UK, McKeith is the star of You Are What You Eat, a series in which she visits some of Britain’s unhealthiest folks. She rifles through their cupboards, examines their stool samples, yells at them, then leaves them with a juice extractor and whole lot of wholegrains. Four weeks later she returns and they’re wearing smaller pants and the glowing smiles of the converted. She has educated the nation and made a killing with her cookbooks and Living Food Love Bars.

Now every shelf in Holland & Barrett is plastered with signs with her gaunt little face endorsing various items. Gillian Sayz, Eat brazil nuts! They’re full of selenium! Gillian Sayz, Buy These Aduki Beans! They’ll make you regular or horny or something. Gillian Sayz, Eat Quinoa! If it’s good enough for the Incas it’s good enough for you, fatty!

I really resent that she endorses my sunflower seeds. I don’t want people thinking I’m only buying them because I saw them on Channel 4, or because some woman whose personality was clearly flushed out in her last colonic told me so. I’ve been eating sunflower seeds for years, dammit! I feel like one of those righteous Radiohead fans who curse lowly losers like me who only got into them after OK Computer when they’ve liked Radiohead since Pablo Honey, AND NOT JUST THE ‘CREEP’ SINGLE, YOU LATECOMING SCUMBAG.

So, and this bit has nothing to do with the above, I lined up to buy my non-organic chain store trendy sunflower seeds behind a young mum with a blue-eyed baby in a pram. It gurgled and smiled at me and I smiled back in that uneasy way I smile at babies because I know they can sense my fear.

A little old lady lined up behind me with a carton of rice milk and some organic ginger biscuits. There will never be a shortage of little old ladies in Scotland. “He’s a nice wee bairn,” she said, “Isn’t he?”

“Oh yes, he’s quite cute.”

“You see a wee face like that and you wonder how people can be so cruel to ’em.” She clucked her tongue and shook her permed head.

“To who?”

“To bairns!”

“Umm… yes.”

“And they ARE you know,” she glared. “Cruel! Some people are very cruel to bairns. It’s a real shame.”

“Oh… aye.”

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


23 thoughts on “Free Ranger

  1. Pah, I wouldn’t bother with either. This is Scotland, woman! H&B do chilli or BBQ flavoured battered sunflower seeds (or at least the Edinburgh branch does) Lovely, lovely, they are too.

  2. Perhaps people are taking more to free-range bairns these days, possibly explaining the rise in cruelty to the rest. Or perhaps this Gillian has taken to promoting bairn-cruelty… You just never know! (Especially if you’re from Canada and the word “bairn” is completely lost on me… er… you.)

  3. Yes! It did!

    I agree that Scotland is well-supplied with wee wifies, although I’m surprised they buy rice milk. I’m not awfully sure what that’s used for.

    “I smiled back in that uneasy way I smile at babies because I know they can sense my fear.” Me too. Although my mum has started dropping heavy hints that time is ticking and where are her grandchildren? (I’m 25.) She’s ordered nine… three from each child.

    Is the mothership clamouring for grandchildren yet? And how would she cope with their being on the wrong side of the world?

  4. The Life section of the The Guardian on Thursdays has a regular column called Bad Science, which takes frequent delight in challenging Gillian McKeith’s pronouncements on nutrition, qualifications and science generally. It makes some of her statements sound laughably bizarre and baseless.

  5. I have often wondered at the luck of the draw of Scotland – how can we be blessed with the fine, natural resource of wee Scottish wimmin while others go without?
    I wonder if we could farm them out to poorer, crabbit-auld-wifie starved regions? Parachute them in, perhaps?
    I am quite certain that things like the Middle East could be sorted out if a battalion of Scottish Baggage went in there, screaming at both sides to go and get their messages, make them tea, take a duster to the place, give them a bit of respect and agree with them that potatoes were better before the war.
    I am quite certain both sides would be running round with dusters, tea and poly bags desperately trying to sign peace accords, in order to get the evil old trout out.
    Ahh, that’s probably the problem. Wee Scottish wifies are probably banned under international weapons conventions. Along with scones, I shouldn’t wonder.

  6. The secret to organic is knowing how the stuff is grown in the first place (seems like a lot of info, I know). Sunflower seeds, at least around here, are pretty much organically grown anyway, so I wouldn’t bother.

  7. just quick one Shauny,

    If you can knock out lines such as

    “wee wrinkly lady in Scotland ”

    with such apparent ease, you should be writing for the Observer not reading the feotid rag.

    Alsolots of words in english/scottish are swedish, I just found out that the swedish for child is
    BARN, from where we Scots get bairn.

    Up there for thinking, down there for dancin’

  8. Heehee. Bairns. I bought a 3-pack of trifle from Sainsburys yesterday as a little welcome treat, and have already schlorked the lot.

    I’m back, Shauny, as the URL shows, on a cheap n’ nasty blogspot. And the promotion isn’t just gratuitous, I cannae find yer email. xoxoxox

  9. Shauna,

    See I knew we were meant to be friends! I have seen radiohead twice now…I figure that is pretty good for living in Columbus, Ohio! I have to say that I am not at all righteous!

    So we are shoe twins, and radiohead fans (so much in common)…oh and we married engineers!…what kind of engineer is your man? Mine is an electrical engineer 😉

    About organics…I would have to agree with “Carolyn J.” unless you can find out the difference in how things are grown then it is really hard to say if the organic is any better then the store brand…now when it comes to meat…free range and no hormones…and the poor wee chickens… it does become a very difficult choice! And it takes me back to the point that this is why poor people can not eat well! All foods deemed “healthy” cost so much more!

    I am about to go on my honeymoon (finally) and have hardly any money to do it…when we get there we have decided to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mac and cheese, and cool-aid or some other powdered drink that you just add water to…all very cheap processed food….hardly any protein and forget about fiber! But when you are poor that is what you are fasted with….do I take a vacation and eat cheap crap, or do I work myself into the ground and eat whole grains, and organic everything?

    but, I rant…

    See ya!

  10. Ah – I wondered what it was that the bairns were sensing – it’s my fear! They’re kind of like dogs then, aren’t they? Maybe I’ll buy a whistle.

  11. Heh. The poor wee chickens! “I gotta go to Scotland,” she slurs drunkenly…

    I have to say that FAIR TRADE is a totally different kettle of fish–that’s not neuroses, that’s a concern for justice. Really–you don’t pay any more but someone gets a fair price. It’s not the same as worrying about how many grams of fat you are eating. That’s just self-absorption. But it’s OK to worry about other people and whether they can feed their families. That’s ethics!

  12. Gillian McKeith is the devil incarnate and this is reason enough to never darken the door of H & B.

    To Donalda and Miss Shauney herself, very soon and sooner than we expect, we will all be turning into wee grannies. I myself am looking forward to it and have already started deliberately poking people who get in my way on the tube and glaring at young ones.

  13. Don’t try and pretend you were a fan from Pablo Honey, you ain’t foolin’ me!!! (Me? Loved them for years, saw them once before they were signed.. well I think it was them, I’m pretty sure they were busking a couple of tracks that later made it onto Kid A…)

    Anyway, scottish grannies are an institution, I’m surprised they don’t make it into the guide books: “And if you want the real low down about the area you are visiting, find a “wee old lady”, tempt her into a cafe with the promise of a scone and ask her to tell you what the place used to be like. It’ll be informative, or at the very least will fill 3 days of your time.”

    Donalda – dear – still no blog? You’d be a hit you know.

  14. I’m all for organic foods, but I’m beginning to think the concept is getting a little gimmicky, like low-fat and low-carb. I mean I understand organic eggs, but do I really need organic fruit-flavored pop-tarts? And wouldn’t it be nice if someone would give subsidies to poorer people who could need organic foods the most … and can’t afford it?

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