Flindt on Friday: Stockpiling is a proud family tradition

OK, I confess: I am guilty of bulk-buying loo paper. There is a veritable mountain of it stacked in the old cloakroom.

In my defence, I would like to point out that it is a well-known family trait. It is, as Jethro often says about irritable bowel syndrome, in the genes. I have inherited from my mother the habit of buying occasional stuff in huge quantities.

But back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, far from being a reactive bulk buyer, she was actually a one-woman shortage causer.

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She would set off into the shiny new Sainsbury’s supermarket in Winchester with an empty trolley, and arrive at the till half an hour later with God-knows-what piled high. And as she approached the payout, other eyes would spot her bulk buying, and follow suit.

Supermarket sweep

As Mum set off to stack her goodies in the back of the Cortina estate, fights would be breaking out in the supermarket aisles.

And, sure as eggs is eggs, the next day’s local BBC news (life was slower back then) would feature a solemn supermarket spokesman denying reports of shortages.

Charlie and his mother in the 1970s

Cortina, sweet schoolboy, Mrs F in full Onassis mode… © Charlie Flindt

She often had good reason to be stocking up: The Hampshire Sugar Shortage of 1973? She was planning a marmalade frenzy, and Dad was preparing a particularly large batch of sloe gin.

But occasionally there’d be no particular reason behind it. The Corned Beef Crisis of 1971 still baffles retail analysts. If only they knew that one or two tins can still be found lurking at the back of the farmhouse cupboards.

In the mid-1970s, she discovered something called the cash-and-carry, a magical shopping warehouse where no one batted an eyelid if she walked out with two gross (look it up, kids) of baked bean tins and, if I was with her, a year’s supply of Angel Delight – butterscotch, of course, and usually gone within a week.

This all explains my delivery of stuff the other day. Fired up by promises of some proper weather (although we’d heard that story a thousand times since the last equinox), I went through the enormous catalogue from our local farm supplies company for some sprayer bits and pieces.

I’ve been promising myself a second 2in filling pipe for ages (two tanks a mile apart means a lot of disconnecting and unwieldy rolling up), so got a 5m length and a couple of Camlok connectors.

Some new blue flat fans nozzles are in order, and you can never have enough nitrile gloves.

Bulk buying

And then, the fatal error: flicking through the rest of the pages. This inevitably results in an order for something you didn’t need five minutes previously, and will probably sit on the workshop shelf unused for years (own up – how many sets of Torx bits have you got?).

I happened to find a bulk pack of loo rolls, and added it to my order. This was not the mindless, herd-like, irrational and somewhat irresponsible behaviour of a panic buyer – it’s just something we do in this family. And I just can’t help being my mother’s son.

The next-day delivery man carefully stacked the sprayer spares in the barn next to the sprayer, and then came bouncing across the yard to the house, grinning ear-to-ear, carrying the huge box of loo rolls.

“You at it, too?” he laughed. I was going to explain the complicated genetic reasoning behind my purchase, and then hustle them unnoticed somewhere safely out of sight, but was interrupted by Hazel.

“Why on earth have you bought that lot?” she asked. “Completely unnecessary. I’ve been quietly stockpiling for weeks.” She truly is her mother-in-law’s daughter-in-law.