Take Yesterday

I take my dog back home (somehow I can’t stretch to saying ‘we go back home’) and get my Unicorn Grocery recycling bags – a brown one that says OLD BAG on it and a pink one that says SQUASH – and walk to Unicorn. Whatever mood I’m in when I enter Unicorn, I always leave the shop altered. It fills me with optimism. There’s a feeling of goodness in the Unicorn that is ultimately uplifting; yes, you think, as you shop here, all still might be right with the world. People come from all over to shop in the Unicorn, York, Leeds, Sheffield, and at the weekend you see people with massively loaded trolleys stocking up on the beans and lentils and special stews and oats and muesli, and organic veg and baby food. You’ll see more of a range of nationalities shopping in the Unicorn than at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Black people, Asian people, Chinese people, old people, young people, hippie looking people and chic looking people all fill their trolleys and their pink, green and brown bags there. There’s an atmosphere of camaraderie and community, so that even if all you need is a lift of spirit, it’s a good idea to go. When you enter the shop you are greeted by bright, fresh, welcoming organic veg: happy long red peppers, youthful spring greens, giant spring onions, sophisticated pak choi, loose salad leaves, cheerful cherry tomatoes, potatoes with the mud still on, huge bunches of carrots with the green shooting out the root. Everything looks like it has just been plucked from the earth.

I buy much less than usual since I don’t have my big eating son around anymore, so no burritos, no extra juice, no lentil stews and curries. I shop frugally – not least because I’ve just spent a small fortune settling Matthew into his new digs. (Another, sad old-fashioned word.) Also, I’m in debt. But, I’m rather enjoying the recession; at least one has company. I buy some French green beans, some cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander, fresh fenugreek, dry whole chillies, loose rocket, a fennel, and some Sleepytime tea – I don’t know if it works because of the teddy bear on its packaging or because of the mixture of herbs! – and a bottle of Palestinian olive oil. Everything in Unicorn is fair and sustainable trade. Everything is thought out. There’s a kids’ area and a free apple for kids shopping with their mums. They are totally in earnest. I once made the mistake of asking for honey in Unicorn, and a young man told me, without any humour at all. ‘We don’t stock it. We think the bees make it for their own pleasure.’ Still, it’s lucky that there’s a lot of pleasure to be had shopping there!

More people seem to stop and buy the BIG ISSUE from the Indian woman outside. She’s always there, always smiling even in the freezing cold. Last year she was pregnant and stood in the cold with her big pregnant belly; she was off for a little bit and now she’s back. Yesterday, she told me her little boy has chicken pox. I can’t imagine what it’s like, living in a hostel with a kid with chicken pox, standing around in the cold and the rain, selling the BIG ISSSUE. But if ever there was a spot to have, I imagine right outside the Unicorn would be the best place. I always give her a fiver and she gives me a big smile and says ‘bless you.’

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7 Responses to “Take Yesterday”

  1. October 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm, smith3000 said:

    Nice piece Jackie. Great to see Chorlton getting a little praise for once – it seems very fashionable to slate the place. That goes for Cafe Cilantro too, come to think of it ..

  2. October 13, 2008 at 4:24 pm, nicholas royle said:

    Lovely story, Jackie. Bitter-sweet, poignant. I love the detail of the ‘odd statuesque heron’. I’ve seen them there too. Wish I felt as passionate about Unicorn. I think it’s a great idea, but the only stuff I’ve had from there I’ve either struggled to finish (seaweed salad) or had to give to the birds (muesli). But, as you say, it beats the ‘ghastly hell’ of Morrisons. I visted Diamond Dogs a couple of times with Chorlton-based short story maestro HP Tinker, and have yet to try Cilantro. But I will now.

  3. November 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm, Sile said:

    It’s all in the detail and you observe it and trancribe it refershingly well, You could be PR person for Chorlton! I think Chorlton Ees and Chorlton Water Park and all the little byways around and between and ongoing are the best thing about the area. That and the whole mishmash of users, canine and human and the occasional dusk-fleeted hunting cat. Can you hear the owls where you live? My dog stands at the foot of a big old beech tree and barks up the owl disturbing his beauty sleep. The owl just ‘whoos ‘…
    The Unicorn does attract all sorts of shoppers, but note the cars. They come from miles around with two cucial provisoa) a car b) the wherwithal to spend at a relatively expensive shop, one where very many locals simply cannot afford to shop . I see you fell for the famous honey trap too! By that logic they shouldn’t sell apples either…

    Can’t comment on the eruption of cafés except to say they displaced such useful local shops. Wait till you need a new pair of shoes, or a fuse- such a little thing- or a small tin of paint. All those shops now are cafés…

    But the ambience hasn’t changed, nor the chatter of the dogwalkers. Have you still got your gorgeous Tibetan Terrier?…

  4. January 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm, Natalie Basnett said:

    I really enjoyed reading this Jackie. It made me imagine what it would have been like if my Mum and I hadn’t moved from Chorlton and I had gone to university in London after all.

  5. August 15, 2009 at 11:30 am, Scott Devon said:

    This is wonderful, Contains all the subtleties of a great writer but never overstates it’s point. Captivating and powerful. Thank you for this.

  6. October 25, 2009 at 2:33 pm, Julie said:

    Love your story Jackie. Makes me want to read more of your work.

  7. February 13, 2010 at 8:43 pm, Belinda said:

    I really enjoyed reading this story. It’s inspired me to finish writing my short stroy about a hill that I used to go walking with my Nan and her fat dog. It’s very simple, but the detail is what makes your story so authentic. I used to live on Ransfield Road in Chorlton, just across the road from Unicorn. I could only afford to buy little extra’s from there, like, lentils and some fruit. My housemates used to say I was a ‘mug’ for shopping there, and they used to go to Asda in Hulme. I also love Chorlton Park, is has quiet spots and I especially like the ‘jackson’s boat’ near Sale, which has a lovely beer garden.

    Thank you for this stroy Jackie



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