WALKING past Boots in the Kirkgate, Leith, I decided to replenish my kitchen sink handwash. As chemists go, it can be bracing, combining the people seeking to get bouncier, shinier hair or smoother, less shiny complexions with people getting their dose of methadone. This latter customer waits at a hatch in the corner of the shop in a ticcing, jumpy queue.
As I wandered the soap aisle looking for a hand soap that wasn’t claiming to be tougher than your average bazooka, a man careered in through the door next to me. With the pallor of a honeydew melon and a wild look in his eyes, it was clear he wasn’t about to wait to be served.
“Have you got Champix?” he boomed. It wasn’t exactly clear who he was asking about the anti-smoking formula, but we all deferred to the woman behind the counter.
“No. You need a prescription for that,” she said, looking nonplussed.
“Well, have you got shampoo?” he demanded, in a non sequitur worthy of Beckett.
I didn’t hear the answer she gave. I buried my head back in the hand-cleaning products because it seemed like a scene was imminent.
I studied each label with undue care and attention. And with my new-found knowledge I am forced to ask: what is it with us and germs? I don’t want to say I’m in favour of them, that would be disgusting and no-one would ever again come round to my house for tea. But I’m no hater. I wash my hands when I should, but I don’t go all Terminator with the anti-bacterial products. I operate under the assumption that bacteria itself is not the devil’s work, it just isn’t welcome everywhere. Like local election canvassers.
However, I realise I’m pretty much on my lonesome. The UK is not recognised as the most “germophobic” country in Europe for no reason. A survey released last week suggested that more than 7 million of us are more concerned by germs than we used to be. In the last two years we’ve spent £74 million on anti-bacterial cleaners.
I plumped for the least chemically boosted soap I could find and made my way to the counter. Melon man swept past entirely unaware of my anti-bacterial angst.
“Ah’m just tryin’ tae gie up the fags,” he wailed.
FASHION: one enormous, multi-million-pound Lazy Suzy. The same things just swing back round again and again and again. The latest? Pyjamas. As outerwear. Stella McCartney wore PJ bottoms to the launch of her Olympics kit, while Tilda Swinton wore the full suit on the red carpet. Frankly, I was doing this in the early 1990s when my local charity shop got a job lot of jammie tops and I liked the patterns. And now that I often work from home? Just call me fashion-forward.
OH AMAZON. Trumpeted as a business coup for Scotland, it now transpires that despite raking in £3.2 billion from UK customers last year and £10 million in Scottish Government handouts, the company paid less than £2m in tax.
Suddenly I hear the legions of independent booksellers, whose pleas for support have so often been met with “but ordering online is just so convenient”, getting ready to be rewarded for the brilliant non-tax-evading service that they offer. About time too.