There’s a big Sainsbury’s in Stockport and I go there all the time. I walk there from my house; it takes about twenty-five minutes. It’s not a giant superstore but it’s bigger than your average. It has some size on it. It’s sizeable.

Stockport Sainsbury’s is closing and I’m sad. 31st January 2021 is D-Day. There truly is no God. I’m not going to say Sainsbury’s is the only place in Stockport, because it’s not, but it is a rock. Not that the size on it has to be seen, nor that it casts a shadow over the rest of Stockport, but it is a big destination to me.  

Try as I might, I need a honey pot at the end of walks. I can’t do aimless – even if the aims once arriving at the destination are shadowy at best. Striving to achieve the recommended daily 10k steps without a carrot at the end of the tunnel is a slog. It sucks slugs. Stockport Sainsbury’s is my giant glistening roast chicken by an open window ready to be wolfed.

Let us paint a scene. Stockport Sainsbury’s is positioned as one of the last ports on Stockport’s main shopping thoroughfare – located directly before the street’s natural break into retail park territory. It’s big, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a super club. Directly opposite Sainsbury’s is a larger Asda, accessed from street level via a travelator. Mad Max shit. This Asda has always been chaotic. The aisles are narrower, snub-nosed and more populated. I’m not familiar with the floor plan and I find the rhythm of the shopping experience to be freeform at best. It’s not a shop to coast in, unfettered. In the old world you’d lead with your elbows. Pre-Covid reduced counter huddles were forged in stone, impenetrable. You just wouldn’t bother; you were best off elsewhere.

Further down the Stockport stretch – towards retail park territory where Frankie meets Benny – is Tesco Extra, which is mint but it’s more of a families-on-holiday supermarket than an idle drop-in. Nothing feels essential once you’re in there. The vibe has intensified since Covid too. Annoying family at the airport energy. Everybody is going for it. Big queues through the car park were common at the start of lockdown. It has it all, the produce is second to none, it’s dripping in sauce, but ultimately it’s not worth it…asides from if you go on a Friday night (when it’s less hectic) and make a real event out of it, which for my money, is the best night out you can have currently. First name Kettle, last name Chips. 

Stockport Sainsbury’s is a sea of Covid calm. It has been chill since the outset. It was chill in the old times, it was even chill when everybody was horny for toilet paper and pasta back in March. Imagine a generously sized (not massive) supermarket with a maximum of two or three people on each aisle. Can you taste it? Does the chill of the calmcumber cool thee? You rarely have to queue for the checkout, and I’ve only had to queue outside there once since the pandemic began. It’s a Covid capsule of calm! Nobody goes there, nobody ever went there. It’s great! Maybe that’s why it’s closing?

Shopping local and independent is great and everything…I do it, I totally do it! Check the receipts! But life is all about texture and I often hanker for the anonymity of wandering around a deserted air hanger and looking at everything, slowly. Sainsbury’s is a moon base and I’m the last astronaut in Stockport dragging my feet. Asides brief dalliances to working from work (as opposed to working from home) between Covid waves, Stockport Sainsbury’s might be the indoor space that I spent the most time in during 2020 outside of my own flat. Ahahahaha.

I had one of my best pandemic mornings there on New Year’s Eve. I’d woken up unfeasibly early and decided to walk down to Sainsbury’s when they opened at 8am. It was snowing and I was the first human to tag footprints on my street. My quest was to collect snack-forward fodder for the evening’s festivities. Sainsbury’s was sleepy and still, the morning dew glistening on the peppers and tomatoes in the veg patch, the Corn Flakes cockerel crowing from the cereal aisle. “Hey Ya” by OutKast was playing on the shop radio, I was on my ones, and it was a great time.

The produce is just fine but it’s the atmosphere that will be hard to replace. The worst thing is you know it’s just going to become a car park, or an empty Sainsbury’s. The world has become so small that this seems seismic. I’ve barely left the postcode since Covid started. Stockport Sainsbury’s was often the fulcrum of going outside. Going there was regularly the achievement of a typical pandemic day – an experience to be regaled on Zoom, or later in a blog post.

Go well, King. Go well.

David Bailey

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