I’m an avid supermarket shopper, and patronise three different food stores in my neighbourhood each week.
Actually, there hasn’t been much else that I’ve been allowed to do over the last twelve months. Shopping for ‘necessities’, however the Italian state chooses to define them, is always permitted.
One of the three shops is my ‘go to’ destination for when I need to get out of the house so as to avoid going completely bananas. It’s also the closest, so I’ll visit once for a ‘big shop’, as with the others, but also drop in regularly for bits and pieces – a packet of icecreams for the kids, a bottle of wine for dad, that sort of thing. Buying booze doubles up as exercise, so that’s two birds felled with just the one shot!
Unfortunately, this local mart is also both the priciest and the most unreliable when it comes to things I’ve purchased going off before we get to eat them (not the wine, obviously). The store is particularly bad with fruit and vegetables, especially anything priced so as to represent supposed ‘good value’.
Whenever I buy oranges there, for example, I choose the cheapest brand out of habit (Italy has lots of different types of oranges, and they can be pricey), better still if it’s a larger pack for less money. And yet, when I get them home and arrange them prettily in the fruit bowl on the kitchen table, they’ll immediately turn blue-green and so end up weighing down the biodegradable organic refuse bag instead of our stomachs.
For which reason, I have learnt to double check expiry dates on everything: meats, cheeses, milk, anything that risks spoiling. Often there are bargains to be had that way, too! Before and after Easter weekend (the shop in question is closed on Sunday and Monday), they’ll put out anything that’s close to its best-by date a few hours before they close, at a fifty percent discount! Lockdown shopping doesn’t get any more fun than that!
Fruit and vegetables don’t have expiry dates, presumably because the staff of the greengrocery department know that it would alert bargain hunters like me to the risk of wasting their cash on compost. But the packaged products do have batch numbers. If you scan the labels of all the red plastic nets of cheap oranges, you might notice that some were packed several days, or even a week or so, earlier than others. And so are primed to explode in rainbow hues as soon as you get them home.
So there. That’s why you should always check the expiry dates, or batch numbers.
“What’s that got to do with language-learning?” the few of you who’ve patiently read this far are enquiring.
Well it’s more a matter of the relevance to ‘not language-learning’.
I’m guessing that a lot of us, and I include myself in this, have or have had grand plans to study each day, to build our knowledge and skills, to approach ever closer to linguistic black-belt status, due to a diligent combination of regular application and the right materials.
But then life gets in the way.
Mostly, I’m pretty good at sticking to commitments I’ve made to others, and to myself. Mostly, I said, not always, I’m not any sort of saint or guru. Inevitably, now and again, life takes an unexpected turn.
Suddenly we find ourselves, for example, with much less time than usual. The pressure’s on. We struggle even to get basic work done and deadlines met. And while we do so, dirty dishes pile up in the kitchen, the kids eat salami-filled piadina for lunch ten days in a row, and the gains we’ve made in our foreign language reading/listening comprehension level begin to fade away though lack of use.
Having good excuses may not be much comfort, faced with the loss of months or years of dedicated work, but there are limits to how much can be fitted in between trawling supermarkets for bargains and writing articles like this one.
I haven’t read through the notes that my online teachers kindly provide for nearly a month now. My foreign-language radio listening time is down to about twenty percent of the usual. And the news apps I pay good money for have begun featuring in my smartphone’s list of unused programs I might want to consider deleting.
I have managed to keep up with the weekly lessons, but exhaustion and stress have taken their toll, to the extent that the primary topic of conversation has been, and continues to be, me not having time to do what I usually do.
So sometimes we should give ourselves a break, shrug sadly, and knuckle down to the stuff that really has to take priority.
Just like the supermarket’s shrink-wrapped meats, good excuses for not learning Italian (Spanish, French, Turkish, Swedish in my case) come with expiry dates. Or at least with batch numbers.
And checking mine this morning, I see that one of them expired last week, and that today is the use-by date for another!
From tomorrow, I’ll have just one good excuse left for not maintaining my comittments to my own language-learning. Sure, it’s a biggie (sorry, can’t go into details) but it’s just the one left, out of the three things that were eating my time until last week, and two this current week.
Buying mouldy organges is a bad idea.
But so is putting off useful, fun, language-learning activities, when there’s no longer a pressing reason to do so.
Been in the habit of NOT working on improving your Italian, lately?
Check the expiry dates on your excuses.
Talking of which, Thursday’s free bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news is ready for you to read and listen to.
Last week I missed three in a row, a historic first, as I always try to read/listen to them, if only to scan for anything my team might have written that’ll get me sued for libel.
But this week I started to catch up, and did three, all in a row! And apart from the fact that the editor chose to link to a certain D.Trump’s new website in the very first article, I was pleased with my creation.
The mostly-female team does a great job, the website is free to access, and you can subscribe (get on the mailing list) and so receive each thrice-weekly bulletin directly in your email inbox, at ZERO COST.
What’s not to like?