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I am the very model of a modern hunter-gatherer.

Its 7 on a Monday evening. My head’s hanging over a supermarket skip. Behind me, unawares, a stream of shoppers head home. By the time they’ve heaved their carrier bags into their SUVs , I’ll have probably enough food for a week. It’s the ultimate special offer: everything you need, free, any time you want it. Running at all stores, including the one near you, all year round.

But they won’t be advertising this particular offer. Quite the opposite. Cameras, security, the occasional vicious dog, and sometimes fat, or tar, or petrol poured over what’s left at the end of the day. Nasty to dangle over in the dark, or thrust a hand into.

It might seem like Mission Impossible, but looks can be deceiving. Management don’t pay security enough for them to give a shit. At least in this part of London.

Actually I was caught here not long ago, clutching a bag of humus sandwiches — the luxury line, organic, with pine nuts and shredded lettuce hearts, plus six cartons of ‘freshly squeezed’ orange juice, two cream gateaux and a pair of smoked haddocks. One guard, and his Doberman.
‘That dog,’ I said, examining some slobber on the thing’s quivering lip.
‘You intend to set it on me?’
The guard looked in the other direction. The Doberman hung its tongue out to dry, tilted its head, and glowered at me.
‘Nah mate.. Don’t need the hassle. Mind the spikes on your way out. And don’t come back on my shift.’

There’s still a vestigial conscience, I think this time, as I leave with the loot, a human kindness still somehow present. On my latest trip, I’ve scored a bag of bread, litres of milk not even past the sell-by date, good yoghurt, and enough sandwiches to feed most of the homeless, soused and miserable I pass on the way to my warm home. The same brand as before, luxury humus, with pine nuts et cetera. You’d think they’d have discontinued them by now, or at least cut back on production, the amount they’re trashing every day. Perhaps it’s economies of scale — cheaper to chuck than to make only what’s needed, and then what if there was a run on humus sandwiches ? They wouldn’t want to be caught short, right? So tonight everyone in the house (shared squat) is getting one. Its savouries for the unsavouries; a little present from the skip fairy.

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One Response to “survival is war in this city”

  1. Michael

    It seems ludicrous, but there are reasons why they can’t give away these things. First, they’re liable if you get sick from their food. So it doesn’t make sense to give it away when they’re paying for the insurance to cover lawsuits. Yeah, like the street people won’t sue the store if they get sick. Second, if they give it away openly, the street people are going to congregate around the place. This will scare away regular customers. Third, if the workers in the store get too generous, they might purposely start ordering, preparing, and shelving too much food…since they know it will go to the street people at the end of the day. You can kill the goose that lays the golden egg if you aren’t careful about the bottom line of the stores where you are looting the throwaways.

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