There I was, standing in the middle of the supermarket, gazing despairingly into oblivion. They didn’t have the right sort of toilet tissue. Being a creature of habit, unable to concentrate on everything I need to think about AND the shopping, I usually just reach for ‘the one I always have’. But it wasn’t there. The time a shopping trip takes can escalate dramatically if you are caught with the miserable predicament of having to pause to make an impromptu choice.
‘Just get a politically correct, unbleached, ergonomically satisfying, recycled job,’ I told the child in question, who was required to reach up and grab it. There were howls of protest.
‘We CAN’T use that … it’s been used before!’
‘Not as toilet roll,’ I told them firmly. There was further angst and distress later that night when we unwrapped the offending product. It was beige. There is something about beige – it doesn’t translate to toilet paper. It might be a perfectly acceptable shade if you can’t make up your mind whether to paint your walls puce or chartreuse. It’s a nice, safe option for knickers if you have fat thighs and a doctor’s appointment which necessitates the removal of clothing. But hanging there on that little wooden roller … well, wrong on just so many levels.
I reminded the complainers caustically their great-great-ancestors probably cut up bits of newspaper and stuck them on a rusty nail on the outhouse wall. Uncomplainingly, too. That the aforementioned ancestors, having suffered through the London Blitz and Great Quandialla Locust Plague respectively, would have been eternally grateful for beige.
‘We’d rather have newspaper, thanks,’ sniffed the Rt Honourables.
‘Fill yer boots,’ I told them wearily.
There’s the same problem with lunchwrap – beige is persona non grata. Or non gratin, if you’re not having cheese with that. There’s a definite stigma attached to having the wrong greaseproof. It has to be designer label, with a surf brand printed on it.
For the duration of the next fortnight, while we are in purgatory with embarrassing toilet tissue, nobody will bring their friends around. It’s too shameful, like having a corpse sitting up at the kitchen table singing, ‘Nobody Likes a Bogan’ – which we sometimes do, when I forget myself.
Admittedly, I have my own quirky little prejudices. Like orange. I won’t buy products with orange wrappers, or books with orange covers. I’d never consider orange clothes or furnishings, either. Being a child of the 60s and 70s, I lived through that when it was smokin’. Nubbly orange wool armchairs with just a hint of chocolate running through the weave. And yes, there’s more – pouffes to match!
Interestingly, we had rainbow lunchwrap in those days – and you were allowed to openly purchase soft pink toilet tissue without being banged over the noggin with a placard because you’d killed a forest. There were brown paper bags to carry groceries home in. Bread came in waxed paper, not plastic. Food even tasted something like food and hadn’t been cryonically preserved and banged up in a freezer container for 20 years.
The thing I miss is how sneakers only came in white canvas. Your standard Dunlop Volley. It saved an awful lot of time deciding whether to buy the ones with lumps, bumps, transparent soles or hologram laces. Or whether you wanted them for tennis, running, cross training, aerobics or merely for sitting nonchalantly around in the mall with a plate of cinnamon doughnuts and a cappuccino.
Then, just when you thought it was safe to go buy a t-shirt again, horrible acid colours made a comeback. It almost made you crave beige and nubbly orange wool.
Alarmingly, the most hideous thing of all can never be killed off. Like cockroaches after a holocaust, that most disgusting of biscuits, the Iced VoVo, is still with us – revoltingly pink and coconutted, with that awful little slab of stale pastry stuck on the bottom. I asked around to find out who actually ate them. Men do, that’s who. The tough ones, with sweaty armpits and tungsten-carbide tools in leather pouches slung around their hips – the same ones who proudly proclaim they don’t eat quiche. Go figure.
They probably use pink toilet tissue, too.