Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 22 July 2012
Part of the set-up for H.I.'s annual Summer Schools involves a trip to Lidl, for basics like sweet biscuits (her students consume more biscuits than you would possibly imagine) and this is the fine day we have chosen for the trip.
Anyone who lives in any part of Europe will know about Lidl, but for those of you who don't, then I think the best way of describing it would be like a food-based version of 'K-Mart', or the like.
I visit Lidl on a regular basis anyway, because it sells extremely good, 100% Arabica coffee at one third of the price of Waitrose - our corner-shop - and we drink a lot of coffee. All the biscuits are, I suspect, supplied by big, good-quality manufacturers like Bahlsen of Hannover, but under a different label at half the retail price.
There are also bins of randomly selected items such as hardware and clothing in the centre isles, and I have an extremely hard time trying to stop myself from buying sets of spanners or underwear that I don't need, simply because they are so cheap. I have a few friends that have never set foot in a branch of Lidl, purely for reasons of snobbery - they would rather buy the same stuff at three times the price than be seen dead in Lidl, but that's the English for you. Conversely, I have seen expensive super-cars in Lidl car-parks. Almost everyone likes a bargain.
I sort of know what they mean though - dysfunctional families and village idiots are usually over-represented in the average checkout queue of a Lidl store, but what the heck, the staff are all very polite and helpful as well, and what it costs in petrol to get to our nearest one is more than outweighed by the savings in other areas.
The World Heritage site of Bath has long resisted the advances of Lidl, partly for reasons of snobbery, but mainly due to pressure from outlets like Waitrose, Sainsbury and the dreaded Tesco. Finally, they have been forced to cave in, and I think we are due to get our own branch in the near future, albeit in a far-flung outpost on a derelict construction site. I don't care though, you have to drive to them in any case, and their mere presence should be enough to keep the other bastards on their toes when it comes to price-fixing - or 'price comparison', as Waitrose misleadingly calls it.
Having visited a Lidl in the north of Germany one day after I had done the same in England, I know that - at any given time - their stock is identical on shelves all over Europe, with the one exception that the British ones do not sell cut-price tobacco as everywhere else does. The last time I checked how much a can of baked beans cost in Lidl, it was 8 pence.
I went to the Melksham branch only last week when it had been - and still was - pouring with rain for 3 months, and the sight of the unsold stacks of barbecue equipment (massive bags of charcoal, tongs, lighting fluid, grills, etc.) sitting there in the isle, only added to the melancholy of the situation.
The fine weather has finally arrived here now, so maybe some of that stuff is being sold again - especially on the Canary Isles, where the above photograph was taken.