Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Pathetic Trolley Fallacy

I'm in McDonalds in an insalubrious corner of Brussels. Interesting French RnB soundtrack, and by 'interesting' I mean 'pierce my eardrums and end this misery now'. It's half nine at night and I ache all over from exploits I may describe later. McDonalds smells of tramp and I've just had to fend off the attentions of "Terry from Miami", who after bellowing "CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE" at the girl on the till, has turned his attentions to asking me why I have no husband. I can only assume Belgacom has some vested interest in making me morbidly obese and miserable. How much longer, Belgacom? Also, it is at times like this that I wonder quite how well reasoned my daily blogging compulsion is. Enfin, bon. I am not here to reflect on my skewed priorities, not tonight anyway. I want to tell you about Colruyt.

Let me tell you about Colruyt. This is a special treat for Jeremy who is missing Brussels. Missing the smell of crazy person, dark, gloomy bars full of beer and motheaten small dogs, the omnipresent waffle vans, the sandwich filling called "cannibal".

I went to Colruyt today. Colruyt - I am too tired and pathetic to link to its website, though I imagine it has one, powered by a hamster on a wheel and a tape recorder - is a discount supermarket. First you have to say discount right. After me: "deezcoont". Thank you.

Colruyt is not merely a deezcoonteur, however. It is also a Belgian Institution. It is a technical, physical impossibility to live in Belgium for more than a week without someone telling you that Colruyt has the best meat in Belgium. Certainly, the meat is treated with a bizarre reverence there. It is displayed, lovingly, behind a glass window and in order to buy any you have to - get this - fill in a paper order form and hand it to the unsmiling phlegmish assistant. They may also ask you for a copy of your residence permit and six months bank statements. Perfectly normal. Then you have to go away. Sometime later, they call for you over the tannoy. Probably in phlegmish. If you answer a set of security questions correctly, you may have your meat.

Back me up Belgian residents - true, no?

Ok. Next! The Colruyt trolleys are rightly famous throughout Belgium for their tricksy approach to, well, movement. They are way worse than the most wilful hoover for bolting with you. You need to finesse the trolley. Brute force does nothing. Basically, if you try to impose your will on a Colruyt trolley it will aim directly for the most vulnerable, young or elderly, or merely furious, person and CRUSH THEM. You will be powerless to stop it. Today, I was inducted into the inner circle of Colruyt users however, when a shelf stacker kindly took me aside as my trolley tried to eat his shins and flay him alive with its Boudicea chariot wheel style action.

"Ne regardez pas les rayons madame!"

Don't look at the food displays.

Er. Ok?



"C'est bien connu, il faut regarder tout droit et le caddie suit. Si vous regardez les étalages, le caddie FONCE DEDANS. Il y a eu des études là-dessus".

(It's well known that you have to look straight ahead, then the trolley follows. If you look at the displays, the trolley heads right for them. There have been studies on the topic).

"Euh, merci?"

He was right though. I feel oddly privileged. I am one of the Colruyt illuminati. Now you are too. Lucky, no?

The rest of the shop, which is easyjet orange, and made of concrete and tramps, works on the basis that you must buy in bulk, so I did. I took a photo of my siege mentality Colruyt shopping, with weepette for scale. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. I took a picture of the Ektorp too. You can compensate for having to buy 10kg of rice by eating your entire dinner from the trays of samples laid out. Colruyt on a Saturday is like an ambassador's reception, except with more beer. There are trays of nibbly things everywhere.

Last Colruyt fact for today: The absolute, very first thing on the shelves as you walk into my Colruyt (yes, I feel a sense of ownership now that I have been upgraded to trolley whisperer status) is GORDONS GIN.

Tomorrow is move day. I have boxed up everything I could remember. I found all sorts of peculiar artefacts - my sister's hospital bracelet from her birth, a shark's tooth, several child's teeth in peculiar places. I will be very glad when it's done, and I can collapse on the Söfa with my gay adoptive son, who is visiting, in an amazing act of filial devotion, and drinking Colruyt gin. We might even go and have steak and chips at Johnny Halliday's favourite café. If we do, I will bring my camera as it is a most blogworthy sight indeed. Hurrah!

(Oh, whoever sent me the book of Wendy Cope poetry, thank you so much. There was nothing to indicate who it was from, but it was hugely welcome. )


H said...

Yay, that was from me. I tried to gift send it but it was from an independent via amazon so I didn't get the option.
That book has helped me through many a crisis. Good luck tomorrow!

monk said...

I know nothing about this Colruyt. Nothing. I'm dubious to say the least. Can we go tomorrow?

April Red said...

I want to come to Belgium just to visit this Colruyt. I imagine it to be like Lidl, except European and therefore much, much more stylish.

@eloh said...

I can't wait to try out your advice. Trolley, buggy, cart, whatever they are called, I always end up with a wonky wheel.

When you get old, those near misses become direct hits.

Anonymous said...

You must have a posh Colruyt ... the one near me (in Ixelles near the ULB) is the absolute pits. I'm sure the floor is still earth. There are no trollies. Two crappy check outs where you stuff is zapped as in a Cash and Carry and desperately sad people in there. I hate it so I send my children to shop there. They come back with Martini for some reason. And 10kg bags of rice that goes soggy after two minutes of boiling.

I hate the supermarkets in Belgium - they are totally crap. The Husband is off to England tomorrow in the car so I have made him a list of real food.

WV soske - some sort of food sold in Colruyt

Jeremy said...

Nononono. I didn't read this I didn't read this Brussels is lovely Place du Chatelain Sablon Marcolini cool little Japanese restaurant near l'Ultime Atome accents on all these names I can't do on my Swedish keyboard moules frites cobblestones funky art-house cinemas Marcolini Sablon Place du Chatelain...

Margaret said...

I apologize for Terry from Miami. Although I'm sure Miami does not miss him.

Is there nowhere unMcDonald's-like that you can steal wifi from? Maybe sit on a bench outside a highrise? All kinds of stupid people have unsecured lines around here.

johnny88 said...

ever tried war-walking pet?! i would suggest war-driving to save time and face, but then i've been reading your blog for a while and i get the impression driving AND mac-ing would be a bit of a stretch...
good luck anyway x

the polish chick said...

you sound better. this is good.
do stay away from mcdonald's, though. terry from miami sounds like precisely the sort of sod who would cross the atlantic and then do everything possible to not experience anything even vaguely unamerican and you don't need that around you. he'll totally fuck up your chi.
gin, on the other hand, much like red wine, is a perfect chi realigner. this has been scientifically proven.
WV - menti - wise atlanteans steeped in the ancient knowledge of chi-alignment using alcoholic beverages.

The Spicers said...

Colruyt sounds like the Belgian version of Costco. Do they also sell TVs, remaindered books and cheap plastic toys?

Anonymous said...

Colruyt ressemble à un supermarché ici, en Angleterre, Aldi, même vendre des vacances! Chaque fois que je vais là-dedans, je suis témoin d'une bataille entre un client et l'agent de sécurité! Je ne voudrais pas passer mes vacances avec les clients de ce supermarché!

Tooooooo-shy said...

Firstly - give this a try ... Because good grief, McD's is enough to drive the happiest of campers who are not going through traumatic move etc demented! Secondly, you have me in absolute hoots here! Loved "trolley whisperer." Am hiding in bedroom (& in desperation) from my 2 currently warring yelling teens here & you have me in fits. As always, thank you for - God, am about to sound like a relation of Miami's missing idiot! But thanks for sharing. Am looking forward to pics & next episode. And you CAN do that copy & paste malarky - if you can master a Colruyt trolley, the world is your mollusk!

tooooooo-shy said...

p.s. Just been trying to look up wifi bits in Belgium - Good grief, you are living in the veritable "wifi sticks/boonies" over there! Just beastly beyond comprehension.

Juci said...

Oh, no. I have not been able to get up the courage in the THREE YEARS we have been living here to order meat at Colruyt. We actually go there for one reason only: nowhere else can you buy the only brand of pickled gherkins that are palatable. Does your Colruyt also have the freeze chamber for the fresh goods? That place is like Tibetan hell.

Waffle said...

I can't believe I forgot to mention that you have to walk into a FRIDGE to buy fresh stuff. It's like an endurance test; you can only buy as much as you can carry in the time it takes for you to get frostbite. The reason I forgot is that I still don't have a fridge, so can't buy fresh stuff. I should totally move into Colruyt.

(Thanks Helena! xx)

pinolona said...

That's it, I'm going to Colruyt for dinner. Free food samples!!
When I was waiting for the internet I spent a lot of time in Foodmaker: the coffee is really bad and possibly comes from powder but at least you can skulk relatively undisturbed for as long as you like. It was actually full of ex-pats waiting for Belgacom.

(WV 'coadsero' - spy emergency signal with heavy unidentifiable accent, c.f. 'emerzensee, wee eff coadsero!')

Laura said...

Colruyt looks amazing! I've never heard of it before but it looks utterly Belgian. Sadly, there is no Colruyt near me :(.

Hilde said...

What you said about Colruyt is correct (See? I'm backing you up), but did you know that until halfway the eighties, you had to take a punch card for every product you bought? The cashier would then match the cards to your items, put all the cards in this big honking computer, and a ticket would be generated. True story.

Anonymous said...

Where is this colruyt of which people speak? Why have I never ever noticed it?

Top Bird @ Wee Birdy said...

Am curiously intrigued by this here Colruyt. Sounds just like Argos, only with meat and Phlegmatic accents. xx

Metropolitan Mum said...

HA! Fortuna is once again sending me all the way through Belgium on Saturday. I haven't seen the deezcoonteur on the motorway though. Are there any?

Madame DeFarge said...

You see these are the things that Lonely Planet never tell you. Why be distracted by the gaudy brightness of the tourist trail and instead head for the mysterious delights of Colruyt. I shall ensure that my next trip to Belgium takes in this palace of pleasantry.

Krazy Kitty said...

So they want you to shop without looking at the shelves.


Just saying.

Anonymous said...


Lidl IS european though...

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