Hasn't the weather been gorgeous? Been in the garden? Had a barbecue? It's been fabulous, hasn't it? Or not, if you happen to be in charge of the ordering department for Waitrose stores. For you, last weekend was a washout. You must have been the one person in Britain who opened the curtains last Saturday morning and thought, "Oh shit, it's sunny."
Determined to make the most of the summer now it's actually arrived, midway through last week we decided to invite a few friends round for a bit of a get together in the garden, as you do. With British weather being a touch on the taciturn side, I thought it would be a good idea to plan a weather-proof menu - a barbecue if it turned out nice again, a couple of lasagnes and a vat of chicken curry available should the weather decide to rain on our parade, and a massive strawberry Pavlova (or Eton Mess if it all went horribly wrong) for pud. Simple. I knew that whatever wasn't used could be frozen and eaten at some later date, apart from the Eton Mess of course which we would have to eat until we made ourselves sick. But either way there'd be no problem. I'm adaptable, me. And a little bit greedy.
So last Saturday morning off I went to Waitrose. At the risk of being labelled rich/old/posh (I am definitely none of those things, especially not the middle one), I have to say that I've always loved the store, their food and the staff so I make no apology for using the W word so gratuitously. I know it would be much cheaper to go to Aldi or Asda but frankly I just can't be arsed fighting my way round those megastores - and besides, they don't do Waitrose Gourmet Sausage which, frankly, are worth every penny. So there am I with my list, my recycled jute tote, my Bag for Life carriers, expectantly pushing my trolley round when, whoah, what's all this then? Or, more accurately, what isn't all this then? Hardly any Gourmet Sausage? No burgers (and these aren't just any old burgers, these are lamb and redcurrant or pork and apple burgers) and no strawberries? No fresh rolls or crusty bread? But why? What's gone wrong? Am I in so early I've got here before the delivery truck?
Apparently not. They have none. Bugger all. All gone. Maybe try tomorrow. Or Monday. I go to another Waitrose store (there's loyality for you) and when I speak to the manager, the story is the same. He says he is sorry, madam, but they've been caught out by the weather. At this moment I want to ask him if he's related to Michael Fish, but resist the temptation. By the look on his face I don't think he'll find it at all funny. He says that they didn't realise it was going to be so nice this weekend and had been told it was going to be wet, so they didn't order enough. It being summer and all.
My ghast had never been so flabbered. A store like Waitrose falling to order enough strawberries because someone told them it was going to be wet? How silly. Surely I can't be the only person who eats strawberries when it's raining, or cold, or even just a little bit nippy? I'd eat them with my raincoat on and thigh-length waders if necessary. Any why so low on sausages? Don't try and tell me that they're seasonal too. Surely sausages transcend season, you can eat them any time of year, any time of day or night. You don't need a weather forecast to tell you how many sausages to order, do you? Apparently, you do.
Ironically, despite the distinct lack of seasonal foods, Waitrose could have supplied me with everything I needed had I wanted to cook a Christmas dinner, a stew or roast pork. But nothing for my summer party. Drat.
So I did the only sensible thing, I left my half full trolley, took my list, my jute tote, my bags for life and my debit card and buggered off in a huff to summery Sainsbury's where they had loads of English Organic strawberries, and plenty of everything else too. Obviously they must have a better weather forecasting system or a more accurate piece of seaweed*. Or perhaps someone on their staff has bunions which play up when it's going to rain, and as she was tripping the light-fantastic throughout the previous week, totally pain-free, they knew we were going to have great weather at the weekend and ordered a shed-load of barbecue food. Or maybe they are simply more worried about keeping their customers happy than they are about having a couple of punnets of strawberries left over at the end of the day, should the heavens open. Who can say?
On the up side, on Tuesday, having forgiven Waitrose enough to pop in for some low fat yoghourt (back on the diet again), I was able to fill my freezer with all the unsold and reduced priced roasting pork, braising steak and as many Gourmet Sausages as I wanted.....
.... which goes to prove that every cloud has a silver-lining, or even that it's an ill wind which blows nobody some good, or any number of other weather-related proverbs.
Braised beef and carrots, anyone?
* For those of you too young to understand this obscure seaweed reference, in the olden days pre weather satellite, we used to be able to tell what the weather was going to be like by looking at a piece of seaweed which you'd hang up outside the back door. If it was shrivelled, it was going to be dry. If it was not, we were in for a rainy spell.
Or alternatively we'd just stick our heads out of the door, and if we got wet we knew it was raining.