If ever a girl needed a flaming dustbin, it was this morning at seven o'clock on the picket line. (I'm on strike, and for the benefit of non-British readers, this is no big deal; here in local government we do it every couple of years). Not only am I a union member, I am actually a steward, so I'd probably better not say too much about it all (my views not always coinciding with those of my union, you see, which is why I decided to get more involved rather than less).
And this is the week I started to believe in inflation. I've been cushioned for a few months by changing to a better paid job. Then I'd noticed that my shopping bills were always towards the top end of my weekly budget, if not a little over, but I could always find some extravagance to blame it on. But this week the new monthly figures were published. Ouch. Particularly when it comes to food.
I don't particularly think of myself as young these days. I'm nearly 30, I'm just averagely grown-up. But through all the years I've been looking after myself, the price of food has been fairly static, or rising in step with my spending power. Now I'm having to shop slower, to always pick the cheaper option, just to keep the bill the same every week. This afternoon I made my usual pasta sauce. Last time I made it I used chestnut mushrooms instead of white closed-cap, and sweet ramiro peppers instead of ordinary red. I also cheated by getting the ready-chopped tinned tomatoes. This time I reversed all those decisions. All the pseudo-artisanal breads I like from the supermarket are now just a bit too expensive for comfort, and I think it's time I started baking my own again. If I'm having to make these decisions, in a household with two incomes and no children yet (albeit very extravagant tastes), how much harder is it for a single mother who can only work part-time because if she doesn't pick the children up from school no-one else will? Or a pensioner, who can't go on strike for extra pay?
In fact, baking my own bread sounds like a good idea right now. It would at least warm the kitchen up a little. Then I'll go and deal with the Sainsbury's Basics (ie Economy) strawberries, which consist of all the berries too small for the exacting standards applied to the normal punnets. The thing is, when it comes to strawberries, small tends to equal bursting with flavour. For half the price. It isn't all doom and gloom, you see.