Writer Frances Chorley shares her love for Big Tesco.
Although there are many things I don’t miss about living in halls, Murano Street Student Village certainly had its upsides. Situated at a happy proximity to the Greggs outlet, and equidistant between two competing Lidls, it was a pretty good location for a first year student. Thinking back to that year, however, what I mourn the most from is not the local pub, renowned for its Trainspotting cameo, nor the neighbouring fire station, prone to dispatching engines at the first scent of burnt toast, but rather that hub of retail opportunity situated at 297 Maryhill Road.
Multi-storied, monolithic, and conveniently facing a McDonald’s, Tesco Extra Maryhill is all that you could ever really ask for in a shopping experience. Offering not one, but two charity shops, a post-office, a Clinton’s Cards, and a nail salon (all before the shopper has ascended to the main store-floor), it evades the restrictive delineations of a typical supermarket. The first floor is no less impressive, selling hot tubs, pick and mix, and everything in between. To leave the shop with just what you went in for would be to do the experience a disservice – whether you’re looking to furnish a home, or simply after bread, milk and the paper, Big Tesco is the place to start. One could spend a full day trawling the frozen section alone, fuelled by fish-finger wraps purchased for a very reasonable price from the in-store café.
Whilst it might be hyperbolic to champion Tesco Extra as the highlight of my halls experience, it certainly makes the cut. Although this sounds distinctly tragic, it’s important to note that the lockdown restrictions of the COVID pandemic were still lingering during that first year. Classes and clubbing were quite often not on the cards. In a period of uncertainty and finite social engagement, Tesco Extra offered retail therapy in its most productive form – at the end of the day, the food shop has to be done (though my bi-weekly excursions may have erred on the side of excess).
These trips often operated as low-profile networking opportunities, a laid-back way of getting to know the stranger that one picked up at a recent fresher’s event. Wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles provided bottomless material for small talk, and as judgemental as it sounds, one can really gauge a lot about a person through studying their shopping habits. Oat milk in the trolley? Green flag. A jar of pickled eggs? Maybe give it some time before you see them next. Did they forget their Bag-for-Life? An eco-criminal.
Throughout the year, each and every celebratory event was heralded by a group outing to the shop, which, as is often the case with festive occasions, was frequently more entertaining than the party itself. Birthday potlucks and flat Christmas dinners were invariably preceded by a full flat excursion to Big Tesco, during which we’d raid the reduced section, revel in the choice of tinned cocktails, and stagger back from armed with biscuit trays, that month’s Tesco magazine, and £3 mulled wine (perhaps Clubcard’s greatest hit).
Whilst it’s admittedly daft to address a love letter to a supermarket, I’m not embarrassed by my attachment to Big Tesco. It feels somewhat symbolic of the early freedoms of moving away from home, the novel responsibilities that accompanied independent living. Following months of lockdown confinement and social restrictions, those group expeditions to Big Tesco signalled the return of mundanity. Long may it supply the first-year’s cupboard.