Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Ketchup Story

courtesy of

Shopping is not one of those skills I have mastered. As a woman I have come across the stereotype that I, by virtue of my gender, should thrive on it. And should particularly enjoy the throws of January sales shopping, a phenomenon that occurs but once a year.

As a student at Uni', I had heard many tales of the amazing bargains and incredible discounts that could be had. Voicing my concerns about being an inexperienced and intolerant shopper*, my friend assured me that this January we would exploit the sales- without the trauma. We were going to plan our attack with military precision like Retail Ninjas.

Plan we did.

We would get the train to arrive in Glasgow at 8.30am in time for the doors opening. We would then take a leisurely breakfast at starbucks before whipping out our student discount cards and hitting those shops with avengence. She would also provide me with the brutal honesty that I required when it came to the ultimate purchase questions: "what do you think? Do I look like Kylie in this?"

Carrying our bottles of water and student cards, we'd also agreed that after lunch we would re-assess the situation with respect to purchases, feet and credit cards and decide whether to call it quits or continue like some kind of shopping veterans.

It started well.

An early night on Friday meant that the Saturday morning train was caught easily with little fuss and lots of energy- excited at the prospect of picking up some smart and cheap clothes for interviews** and the like. The shops were quiet and tidy- what kind of hard core shoppers would be out in January at 8.30am? Extreme ones! - and many purchases were made.

At lunch time we made our way to a well known pub for some burgers & chips*** to re-assess.

Having sat our weary bodies down on some smart well upholstered couches, surrounded by our lovely bags of goodies we breathed a sigh of relief. My friend headed off to the bar to order a couple of burgers and chips while I guarded our bags. On her return we discussed heading home or continuing with more shopping- the decision was made to head home.

As she headed to the ladies our food arrived.

Next to being an intolerant shopper my second most irritating thing, an irrational one I admit, is the watery juice that you get from glass bottles of tomato ketchup.

Now, it had been a great morning shopping. I was feeling happy and confident at how well things had gone. I was not about to have this lovely plate of food ruined by tomato water! So I shook the bottle and I shook it hard. It was a full bottle so would require a good hard shake.

I wasn't in a rush to eat the food, my friend hadn't returned, so I kept shaking. Nice and hard. First left, then right, repeatedly.

. . .

. . .

. . .

until something wet hit the side of my face.

I stopped and looked around. . .

There were blobs of red across my legs, over a lovely skirt bought by my then boyfriend. There were blobs of red up the walls. The were blobs of red across the ceiling and over the carpet. The table next to me were sitting wide eyed and open jawed staring.

I put my hand to my head and realised that there was a lot of red in my hair that smelled suspiciously like tomato ketchup. I looked at the bottle. It had gone from full to half.

Standing up as I realised that I had just decanted half of bottle of ketchup across a bar restaurant. I decided the considerate thing to do would be to go to the ladies and try to tidy myself up. As I walked across the bar, with a lot of eyes on me, I saw my friend walk towards me. She smiled in recognition and as I got closer the smile stopped and froze on her face. As I passed her I heard "what happened to you?!" To which I could only respond- "Don't ask".

I got to the ladies head held high and looked in the mirror. I was covered in ketchup. With my hair down the sauce had pretty much soaked it. I had my head in the sink trying to rinse some of it out when the door opened and in walked my friend. She took one look at me and we started giggling and laughing to the point where I was concerned about her asthma.

"Is it bad?" I asked.

"You got it everywhere!"

"... but did I hit anyone?"

"No, but you've pretty much single handedly redecorated an entire pub!"

More laughing and trying to wash the ketchup out of clothes and hair happened for the next 15 minutes.

"Right, what do you want to do?!"

"Leave without being seen if we can!!"

No chance.

We got to our table to find one poor waitress with a basin of water and a cloth stretching as far as she could to wipe the ketchup off the walls. Presumably she had to start somewhere and the walls were going to be the quickest and easiest. . .

As we reached down to pick our bags up, preparing ourselves to make a run for it, the manager appeared. Squatting at my side and in a gentle, approaching-a-psychopath, tone he said:

" I hear we had a little accident. . ."

Now I am not sure what happened but the words were out my mouth before I could stop them.

"Yes, we did. And if you'll pay for the dry cleaning of my skirt we'll say no more about it"

The waitress froze and started shaking. I think more out of laughter than her muscles seizing as a result of the excessive stretching and wiping she was having to do. The manager looked at me slightly incredulously and raised an eye brow.

"Had the lid been properly secured on that bottle this (I gestured to my own devastation) would have never happened" I explained in a talking-to-a-small-child tone.

Two can play at the Patronising game.

His face twitched slightly and he smiled.

"Unfortunately (!) I can't authorise anything like that, as I am just the weekend manager and would need to get it approved by my boss. She'll be in on Monday- if you could come back then . . ."

Called my bluff, well two can play at that.

"I'll do that"

During this exchange my friends head was moving like she was watching Andy Murray play Nedal at Wimbledon. Her jaw opening slightly further at each come back. . .

We left.

That was over 6 years ago. I have never been back into said pub in all that time, and no I didn't go back that Monday. I have no intention of going back. Ever.

Since telling some near and dear friends of this incident I have been banned by them all by from shaking any ketchup. Plastic, sachet or glass bottle. My friend was offered counselling for her trauma. I am not sure she ever went January sales shopping again. Certainly not with me.

On the train on the way home that day she told me what her experience was.

On passing me she went to our table and saw the mess, looked around and approached the table with the stunned eaters.

"Sorry to disturb you, but can you tell me what happened to my friend?"

"I think she shook the bottle without the lid on"

At which point she went to the ladies to find me with my head in a sink.

Specifically when I am shopping for clothes for myself. A food shop is clinical and straight forward, no mucking around.

Clothes shopping is very different.

I have been known to walk out of messy and untidy shops. Not because I have a compulsion to clean them but the sight of all that chaos actually aggravates me. It should be easy to take my money in a shop - keep it tidy and I will spend. Similar to the "If you build it, they will come" Kevin Costner film.

If the shop is too hot I can't take it and leave as quickly as possible. If the sales assistants are too fussy and attentive I'll leave, if they ignore me I'll leave. I am a very fickle and picky shopper. I need a patient shopping assistant to get me through the process.

We had to justify spending potentially a lot of money (as a student anything more than £60 was a lot to me!) by saying we would be investing in our future post-uni-first-grown-up-job-success.

It's a well known fact that shopping burns a considerable amount of calories so junk food is well earned.


  1. This story doesn't get any less funny no matter how many times I hear it.