Shop local, be happier.

Terry's grocers

Terry’s Greengrocers, Upchurch. Gone but not forgotten

I was bought low a few weeks ago when I found out my beloved greengrocer, Terry’s of Upchurch, were closing. I can honestly say that my cycle through the lanes to the neighbouring village to shop there had been a highlight of every week. Not only was the cycle healthy and I felt I was ticking many green boxes by not taking the car and shopping local but I got to know the shopkeepers.

Each week we had a chat and a laugh and, for someone who works for themselves, such contact can be a highly useful support system. The food was excellent too. Local fruit and veg, sometimes so local that Terry went and pulled it out of his garden and I received it sprinkled in dirt with snails still chomping on it. I loved this, far rather a few snails than something sprayed in chemicals, clinically wrapped in cellophane and imported from a far flung outpost.

I was so so sad to see this shop, which had existed in the village for 40 years, close. Tina told me how the mums used to come to collect their kids from school and queue for their veg, now they jumped into 4×4’s and headed for the supermarket. Terry’s health was bad, it was hard work to get the food back from the market, long hours, no holiday, little financial reward. There son didn’t want to take over and so they were retiring and shutting up.

For weeks I have had a hole where this shop had been. The greengrocer in my own town had long since closed and the local farm shop, where I had once gone, had given over it’s shelf space to luxury jam and biscuits with actual real ingredients reduced to a small and highly expensive selection.

Then today I saw a sign. I must have passed it many times but it pointed an arrow to local veg and free range eggs. I followed the arrow, down a country lane and there it was. Grange Farm Shop. Inside was a great selection of local, free range veg, loose and not tied in annoying bundles of ten or sealed in yet more plastic. The greengrocer took my order. He had a chat, he threw in a free comice pair which he said I should try. I can cycle along the river to get there. Goodbye ASDA, TESCO and all other supermarket plastic wrapped veggies, my life is a little brighter once more.

Support your local veggie shop. You wont regret it.

Things the Northern Irish do better – Local food.

geograph-3559119-by-Rossographer

Hopefully never to become a Tesco’s express

Walking around the shop with my partner Pete I am confused. The usual products I grab from the supermarket shelves are rejected by him and in their place he loads the trolley with brands I have never heard of. Dale Farm yoghurts, Tayto crisps, a whole world of wheaten bread and tray bakes, allĀ of which appear to beĀ produced by local farms and business’s.

We are in Northern Ireland, a country effectively isolated from the ravages of big business by the ‘troubles.’ A country at war with itself presumably does not attract investment but neither, it seems, does it attract Tesco.

This latter absence can only be positive. Instead of Tesco and it’s brethren dominating every high street and out pricing the local butchers, bakers and greengrocers, Northern Irish High Streets are full of the local. Shops where the food is created by the neighbours, livestock is slaughtered close to farms, not shipped around the country in viscous, freight trucks, people have time to stop and talk.

The food Pete picks is delicious, full of flavour and character and people relish their local produce but I fear for it. Fear that as things settle down a little in this country the march of homogeneity will begin.

Outside, on the edges of larger towns, big business circles ready to pounce, Harry Ramsdens, KFC and of course Tesco. Outside town it is 2017, in town it is still 1960. Unless the Northern Irish learn from England’s mistakes their quirky and healthy and local will go the way of our own, only available to those who can afford high prices and ‘gourmet’ food halls. Their farmers, like ours, will be made slaves to the supermarket giants and their price controls.

I want to shake the people with their trolleys of soda farls and say ‘please keep valuing it. Resist the twinkle and free parking of out of town malls. See what the troubles have bought you. Sanctuary. A chance to do right what we got so wrong.’