10/11 Sugar Puffs

Living with my parents who are both now seventy naturally we’ve had no visitors in the house since March so when the boiler man phoned up to say he was coming around to do the annual service I expected a little more than an “OK” to be the reply. I withheld my presence during his visit – but there again that’s just normal behaviour for me; the person who haunts my parents’ back bedroom – although as soon as he was gone I was out there going around with a H1N1 spray trying to disinfect every surface I imagined he might’ve touched. Is that enough? Are we safe now? Does that disinfectant work against all viruses?


It feels like I’ve got a leftover medieval incantation from a priest, “protection against swine flu”, and just assumed it’d protect us from COVID-19 without paying the extra.

I think we’re all going to die.

The highlight of last Sunday was receiving a message on Plenty Of Fish regarding my “well defined” upper lip. I’ve been on that dating website for a number of years and so by now to get any sort of message is a rare occurrence. Logging on to read it I found they’d completely redesigned the whole website in my absence and found the whole thing now cumbersome to use like a 1980s’ parent trying to set a video recorder.

Anyway, as I said, she wanted to discuss my upper lip, which is exceptional, so at least I’ve got something going for me. The last time I contemplated meeting up with someone through that site was nearly eight years ago now but whilst some people say you should live each day like it’s your last, even with my new heightened sense of my own mortality, I decided that we should probably both see other people. She’d listed “yorkies” amongst her interests and I’d naturally assumed she meant the chocolate bars, so we probably weren’t well matched. Let’s not rush into anything I might regret and maybe hold out for a few more months yet, eh?

My walk to the supermarket is my weekly bellwether test of society and the general synopsis issued at 11.00 (BST) on Tuesday 9th June 2020 was: WEATHER: good, occasionally poor. WIND: south-westerly, 2 (light breeze) to 4 (moderate breeze), taking in 3 (gentle breeze). TRAFFIC: moderate. QUEUING: slight. I did find, though, they’d turned my usual car park shopping trolley hutch near the front door into a garden centre so clearly nothing is sacred these days.

Of the items I’ve been after for weeks to fulfil a cookie recipe, to use up some of my buckwheat flour, were two bags of chocolate chips and some light brown soft sugar. Regarding the latter this week there was an unusual smattering of caster but then in one small huddle on one particular empty-looking shelf I imagined I’d found what I was looking for when I found some Asda’s own Light Brown Sugar. It didn’t quite look like Tate and Lyle’s Light Brown Soft Sugar but then as this was the closest thing I’d found to it in weeks I took a gamble and picked one up. Plus as Henry Tate’s former association with slavery had been flaring up again I guess he has better things to worry about than ensuring supermarket shelves in the north were amply stocked.

It’s been sticking in my craw throughout Lockdown that the only decaffeinated Earl Grey I could get was Twinings, at £4.29 for a small box of fifty teabags, or eight and a half pence a cup, but then no-one else was selling any anymore. In the aisle I got creative and weighed up the box of fifty caffeinated Earl Grey teabags for 89 pence, and the box of eighty normal decaffeinated teabags for 84 pence, and with these alternatives my choice was only made much harder by the fact than neither of these brands listed on the box their stance on systemic racism. Unwilling to pay £4.29, despite the fact that one good cup of coffee might kill me, I’m now back on the sauce.

But still, I saved £3.40.

This week my neighbour had asked for her usual Kit Kats and jelly babies but also for a box of Sugar Puffs; the latter foreshadowing, like John the Baptist, the impending return of my diabetic neighbour after seventy-plus days fighting the Coronavirus in four different hospitals. Well what else could be the diabetic’s natural cereal of choice? After a struggle in the cereal aisle I eventually found what I think I was looking for except for the fact that they were called Honey Monster Wheat Puffs. It was like the Honey Monster had broken away from the Quakers, over creative or religious differences, and set out to market his own generic brand of puffed wheat. I had to get hold of a member of staff, asking if she was a “cereal expert” – she told me she wasn’t – and got her to promise me that they were indeed the Sugar Puffs I was looking for.

What have I become?

When did they change their name? Have I completely lost touch? I mean I only found out the other day that Coronation Street’s Dierdre Barlow died in 2015. What’s old Ken doing with his time now? He’s the last man standing in the Mike Baldwin love triangle so it must be like being the final WW1 soldier and it must all now seem something of a hollow victory.

For the first time I enquired at the bakery it they were stocking yeast. The woman told to look in the bottom shelf of the fridge where they kept the cream cakes, which I thought was odd, and when I got there all I found was apple crumble, jam roly-poly, and crème brûlée.

Egg availability hasn’t been a given throughout all this and I think I found out why because I kept noticing gondola hordes of eggs scattered around the place. Are they trying to hide them or trying to make them an impulse buy?

In the fruit and vegetable section, which is now my penultimate stop, thus perhaps giving me some immunity to their trickery, I detected the subliminal smell of bakery cupcakes being pumped in.

Queuing at the tills I saw a girl wearing a bullet bin lid as if it were an astronaut’s helmet.

The girl on the checkout was the third temporary member of staff who’d just started that I’ve found in the past month – thus making you wonder where all the rest of them are – and she agreed with me that it was quiet and she assumed this was because everyone had gone back to work. She asked me if I worked, then if I’d been furloughed, in this dead-end of a conversation to which no-one has any answers. When scanning some alcohol hand gel I’d picked up, I was preparing for the fabled second wave, she reported that it wasn’t on the system, asked if I knew how much it was, and when I said I didn’t she said she’d have a guess. Well that’s certainly one way of doing it.

When I got home with my Kit Kats and jelly babbies my elderly neighbour was actually out. The council had sent a taxi around for her to be taken away and tested. After being exposed to a hefty fever dream dose of COVID-19, and remained unscathed, it seemed reasonable for them to test her for antibodies but then that wasn’t what they were administrating. Instead after she’d lived through a household Coronavirus maelstrom, over ten weeks previously, someone had just got around to wondering if maybe she’d caught it as well. Still, there’s another 1 to bolster the government’s propaganda testing stats.

Sitting down to a two pence cup of Asda caffeinated Earl Grey tea I found it does not taste as nice as Twinings decaffeinated. I guess that’s capitalism for you.



  1. The best guess, if there’s no fairtrade logo, is to avoid cheap products because the growers can’t have been paid a fair wage if they’re selling them that cheap.

    1. The Asda box of 80 decaf tea bags (84p) are Rainforest Alliance Certified. So that sounds good…until you read underneath the logo and see that it says “Minimum 30%”. What kind of con are they running there?

      The Asda box of 50 Earl Grey tea bags (89p) – going off the website because I opened them immediately and chucked the box in the recycling for fear it could carry the virus – appears to offer no such social/environmental guarantee.

      You are right there is a whole lot more to consider. Like with the caged eggs they still sell this sort of thing should be regulated against because if they can get away with it they clearly will.

      1. Yes they will put things that sound good on the box but it’s all just words. We have to do the research and find companies we trust and stick with them 🙂

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