Photo: Iona David
A good visit to the corner shop can change your entire outlook on life. If you’ve forgotten to get anything in for your tea, its bright lights are there.“Come in!” it says. “I have tins of chopped tomatoes – you could use them to make a pasta sauce, couldn’t you? What about a nice little tomato-based pasta dish - or, more realistically, there are some £1.50 deep dish pizzas at the bottom of the freezer. Do not worry, little one. Everything will be OK.”
The shop caters to our forgetful, everyday needs, but it really comes into its own when it caters to our wants. It does treats like no-one else. Being in the middle of the confectionery aisle at the corner shop elicits almost an exact replica of the freedom felt when you were a little kid, except now you have the grown-up threats like “paying your dentist bill” and “filing your tax return” hanging over your head.With the aim of capturing this feeling of unbridled joy, we asked people what their go-to corner shop purchase is. We then rated their purchase out of ten. It is hard-hitting journalism at its absolute finest. Savour it.
Medhi, 26 - ‘Rubicon Guava, Orange Twirl, Rizla’
The pandemic ramped up the already-vital role of corner shops to new levels. With supermarket queues sometimes stretching for miles, Medhi, 26, made the most of his local by experimenting with unknown drink flavours. This twisted, sugary road led him to the Rubicon Guava, which is “not weird,” he says, “so much as me not just picking Mango immediately.”Lockdown brought hobbies to the nation. Bread-making, knitting, gardening; these are all fine, but you can’t help but wonder what the actual point of any of them is when you could have instead followed in the footsteps of Medhi’s chosen hobby by steering your tastebuds in a strange new direction every time you went to the shop - by reaching, say, for the dusty, months-old can of Cream Soda or Rubicon Guava instead of your usual drink.
It’s an understated hobby, sure, but it’s also an incredibly brave one.Purchase Rating: 7/10
Izzy, 29 - ‘Gin in a Tin and Haribo Tangfastics’
If you close your eyes, you can just imagine the stringy, acidic mass of sugar forming at the back of your tongue after eating this combo. “They jolly up a commute and/or meeting,” says Izzy, “but also if you forget about them and find them later, it’s joyous.”This is a stunning go-to corner shop purchase. I tried for a long time to find fault with it, but after some introspection, I realised that this flaw-searching was rooted in nothing more than ugly jealousy (read: I have successfully ruined both sweets and gin for myself forever by massively over-consuming both of them as an adolescent).Truthfully, this is a regal meal, fit for a king. If you are in the position to do so, please go to your local corner shop and buy it for yourself right now.Purchase Rating: 10/10
Ruth, 20 - ‘10 of those fat fuck-off Jelly Snake things, and a fruity drink of some kind’
Firstly, let’s take some time out to appreciate how there’s always at least one Tupperware box full of sweets (whether they’re fat fuck-off Jelly Snakes or not) at the counter of every corner shop, for anyone with a 10p coin to spare.Secondly: Ruth’s reasoning for her choice of items is, put simply, a modern fairytale. “They remind me of pilgrimages to the shop in first year [of university],” she says, “with my ex-boyfriend, who would buy me the snakes because it was the only thing he could afford with the 57p left in his overdraft.”
Once again, the theory that corner shops are home to some of humanity’s most beautiful memories is proven true.Purchase rating: 9/10
Billie, 22 - ‘Hula Hoops, Kinder Bueno, premium sausage roll and a Diet Coke’
All of these purchases have been rated pretty highly so far. We need balance, though. We need to experience the darkness in order to appreciate the light. This purchase is that darkness.This is what happens if you go into a corner shop and make the worst possible decision at every single turn. Yes, everyone is allowed their “personal tastes”, whatever - I respect that, but Diet Coke? Really? Diet Coke and Hula Hoops? It’s Gary Barlow in snack form. Sort it out.
George, 24 - ‘Vegetable samosa, Lion Bar and a Rio’
We already know that the corner shop thrives when it caters for snacks. When you’re looking for something more filling, though, things can start to get a little bit sinister. Picture it: You’re in the shop, and you are really, properly hungry. On one shelf there is a small selection of plastic triangular sandwich containers, sweating gently from the tissue-like bread and the “cheese ‘n’ onion mix” that lies within; on another, there are some tins of Nurishment, which, yes, are high in protein, but will also probably (definitely) make you throw up. Things seem bleak.But then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot it: the samosa.These pastry-wrapped lifesavers are not available everywhere, but if you find one, you’re set for the day. George, 24, didn’t discover them until he moved to London. “I grew up in the countryside, so samosas in the corner shop in London – and presumably other metropolitan areas – was a big old novelty,” he says. Blessings to every shop owner who makes the conscious decision to stock these and save us from the cursed, ambiguously-filled sandwich fate.Purchase Rating: 8/10@ionaeee