MATALAN BOXERS LARGE. MAIL. MKT SYNCONOGEL. CAR WASH MON? RENT ON-LINE. NEW HEMAROID CREAM. GRAHAM 2PM. P.O. CREDIT CARD. CHECK BUG ZAPPER.
This rather specific inventory was found about five years ago on the pavement outside Matalan in Stockport. Written entirely in upper case on neat lined paper, this intriguing multi-tasking shopping-cum-to-do list is responsible for kick-starting my now bulging discarded shopping list collection. I’ve always wondered what Graham at 2pm would make of being itemised immediately after “new hemaroid [sic] cream” and why checking the bug zapper was of such paramount importance.
61/2 SKINLESS BEEF. FLYSPRAY. 3 TINS HEINZ BEANS. 4 CANS SMOOTH.
This succinct list appears on the back of a William Hill betting slip, supplied to me by my friend Ben, who works in a bookies. I’m pleased to see the person is brand aware, though I’d love to know what the blazes skinless beef is and why flyspray appears between foodstuffs. Minds work in mysterious ways, I suppose. The bets, incidentally, were on A Stone’s Throw, 2pm, Market Rasen, Enjoy Your Life, 2.30pm, Market Rasen, and Mustafed, 2.45pm, Newbury. 50p win patent and 50p each way treble. I have no idea what that means. This whole list is an enigma to me.
SLICED BREAD. SKITTLES. LURPAK. BAGUETTE. NEWSPAPER.
Looking at these items, I’d say this is a last-minute local-shop shopping list. It’s scrawled on a piece of paper which bears the URL of Sainsbury’s To You, so I’m also guessing Sainsbury’s were out of Lurpak that week. I have the same trouble procuring President. The paper itself is rather expensive: heavy-grade with a vertical stripe watermark. The list is written in smudgy slanted writing, in what looks to be 2B pencil. Using my Marplesque powers of deduction, I’m thinking “artist”. At the end of the list is a hand-drawn heart in the style of a teenager from the 80s and the words “love ya”. I’m not thinking artist any more.
ALMOND ESSENCE. VANILLA ESSENCE. MARMALADE. APPLES. WHITE SHEET – FLAT. MARMALADE. CHICKEN BREAST (4). ONIONS. 61/2OZ CAN FROZEN ORANGE JUICE. DRIED TARRAGON. 5OZ SOURED CREAM.
My friend Jo, who lives in St Albans, picked this up in M&S and sent it to me in the old-fashioned postal system with a proper letter written in purple spangly ink. It’s a very detailed list, with a choice of bizarre provisioning items, and an obvious marmalade compulsion. Judging by the use of imperial and the spidery handwriting, I imagine it was scribbled by a lady of a certain age. Turn it over and the lady appears to be called Rosemary: a note to her, in a completely different hand, describes how a cat got trapped in her garage while she was away and caused all kinds of chaos. Crivens!
6. Barrie & Steve
WATER BUTT 100 LTR. STAND. ATTACHMENTS. DOOR BELL. DRAUGHT EXCLUDER. BLINDS. VANILLA & ALMOND ESSENCE. WHITE SINGLE SHEET.
Written on a piece of paper with an unexplained gummed edge, this is a companion piece to Rosemary, found at the same time and bearing the same script. Vanilla and almond essences and white sheets are also common factors. As well as the provisions, there is a rundown of meals for Friday and Saturday (cake and tea at 4pm on Friday, no less), and also the details of Barrie, who is going to cost £750ish and has a digi camera, and Steve, who is a digger and will be calling at the end of next week to say which day he’s coming round. For some reason, the words “low-budget porn movie” spring to mind.
BREAD. SUGAR PUFF. BACON. DOG FOOD. SPAGEHITTI. POP. PASTA SAUCE. NOODLES. TOMATES. STEW PACKETS. BARMCAKES. HAM. BEEF. PORK PIES. BURGER. COOKIES. DOUGHUNT. STEAK PIES. CHIPS. MIX VEG. FISH FINGERS. VEG. 2 CHICKENS.
Julie-Anne’s mum left her a note about library books, and on the back Julie-Anne wrote her shopping list for Asda in Fulwood, squeezed between the north Preston sprawl and the M6. Looking at her huge blobby handwriting and the various purchases she intended to get, I imagine that J-A is probably one of those people described as being larger than life. Mommy dearest signs off with “love you x”, although if she knew the crap that Jules eats and how bad her spelling is, perhaps she’d wish she’d gotten round to reading Caring For Children: A Foundation Course by Penny Tassoni (ISBN: 0435401653) a little sooner.
CURTAINS FOR CHRISTINE. TROLLEY FROM GARAGE. MUM – SWEETS. CARD FOR J BAKER. RING HARRISON ETC. WINE – BARB. RING AUDREY RE THURSDAY. SODAS. POT POURRI, PIMMS. COMPOTE. BOOK RAIL. MOVE BARBIE. SWEEEP FRONT. BOOK BOUCHON. HANG WASHING. REFUNDS IN HEXHAM. TUES IN N/C: DUVET COVER – FENWICKS. LOOK AT BARBIE HANDLE (DRAW DIAGRAMME).
With dedicated list notepaper embellished by a picture of Rupert the Bear talking to a black cat wearing a red ribbon round its neck, this is another fantastic shopping/to-do composite, discovered in the Northumbrian market town of Hexham. This is an example of top-level list-writing with special codes and abbreviations, specific lists for specific days, some great spelling mistakes and a particular obsession with barbeques. My favourite entry, however, is “curtains for Christine”. Poor Christine, she didn’t deserve that.
600ML DRY CIDRE. GLACE CHERRIES. SULTANAS 500G. MIXED PEEL. DRIED PRUNES. 2 LEMONS. 2 ORANGES. BUTTER. BLANCHED ALMONDS. PLAIN FLOUR. EGGS.
Proper pre-produced list paper is quite the rage, and this one is split into four columns: things to do; telephone; letter/email/web; out and about. The list-writer here, however, has ignored all those conventions and written their list of boozy cake-baking ingredients on the other side, along with a note to whoever has been sent to the shops in their absence. The note reads: “Please transfer washing to dry as you may need knickers. xxxx.” You can make up your own sign-off for that.
FLOUR. TOOTHPASTE. SOAP. DISHWASHER. CLOTHES WASH. BBQ. WATER BOTTLES. MUSTARD/MAYO. MILKSHAKE. BEER. WINE. AJ. COKE. TEA. PASTA. RICE. PIZZAS. CHIPS. BUTTER. CHEESE. HAM. CHICKEN. MINCE. CREAM. ONIONS. POTS.
I came across Richard Gere in the street in the aforementioned St Albans while staying with the aforementioned Jo. Either St Albans is a magnet for gifted list-writers, or Jo is my special charm. The list itself is incredibly ordinary, but the paper upon which it appears is nothing if not extraordinary, being a fragment of a magazine feature about the Hollywood actor-stroke-hamster charmer. Never failing to make me laugh is a shot of Richard with a group of Tibetan men seemingly wearing chintzy lampshades on their heads. Verso, a caption explains that Rich is dancing with his mom, Doris, at the premiere of Yanks in 1979. The caption is in Serbian.
SUNFLOWER SEEDS. RYE FLAKES. PUMPKIN SEEDS 3K. BUCKWHEAT. CHICKPEA NOODLES. W-UP LIQUID. WASHING TABLETS (£3/12 PACK).
What I like about this list is that it totally sums up the suburb where I live. If you are at all familiar with Chorlton in Manchester, you will know that the inhabitants exist purely on a diet of houmous and mung beans and that our favourite pastimes are upcycling and justifying the environmental impact of going to India to realign our chakras. If you are au fait with Chorlton, you will probably have guessed that this list was lifted in the workers’ co-operative organic grocery Unicorn. What you wouldn’t have guessed is that it is written on a leaflet about genital warts. Sexy.
Sarah-Clare Conlon is a writer and editor based in Manchester. She is addicted to red lipstick and white wine, and is often found picking stuff up off the floor. Sometimes herself. She is dead highbrow and her award-winning blog Words & Fixtures is about art and that.