A black bed sheet, I should add. Cotton, I expect (I don't think Tesco does satin, does it?) and double sized. And the carrots were in their own little bag with a neat knot, while the lemon was loose. Does that make a difference? I have no idea.
So where am I going with this? Well wherever you like, really. That's the point.
I was standing in the checkout queue in Tesco with my daughter at the time. Mid-afternoon, just after Christmas. I don't shop much in Tesco as our local branch is small with a limited range of goods (and no clothing), but I was up in Handforth Dean in East Cheshire, having just had a good scramble through the madness that is the Marks & Spencer's sale next door. And I can't help noticing what people buy - it fascinates me, especially when I look at the people, the way they dress and speak. And already I'm imagining their stories.
These two ladies were late middle-aged, well-dressed and nicely-spoken. Handforth Dean is probably considered quite posh, I expect. And one of them buys the above items - and only those items. Two carrots, one lemon and one black bed sheet. Why? What's the connection? Is there a connection? I'm ashamed to say my very first thought was that they were making a porn film, so I don't know what that says about me! My daughter was horrified when I whispered it to her.
I generally grocery-shop in Morrisons - it's big, has a good range of stuff and a large car park. It's out of town, yet on my way home from work. It serves a large area of West Cheshire and has an endlessly diverse customer base. Like the dad and his son, with their matching football shirts, loaves of own-brand white bread, half a dozen sausages and four tins of beans - they're off home to cook and watch the game all afternoon. There's stressed mum-of-two, with a whining toddler that demands sweets constantly and screams when she doesn't get her own way. Eventually mum gives in and brat is happy, while her quiet older brother who's about five and has been so well-behaved gets nothing apart from a telling-off because he's standing too close to the trolley. What did mum buy? I have no idea as I was too busy watching her kids...
What about the man with the shifty eyes who buys a toaster and a large carving knife. Is he undecided about the best way to murder his wife? Can you tell by the way he is standing? He looks slightly nervous and he pays in cash. He sees you watching him and his expression changes - is there a challenge in his eyes?
Or what about when you see somebody you know? Maybe it's out of context - a work colleague perhaps, with their wife/partner/whoever and you get a glimpse into a whole new dimension of this person who has an existence outside of the office. And it feels almost as if you are spying on them, catching them out, discovering their guilty secret (they've bought the latest Batman film on DVD). Things will never be the same again, will they?
There are stories everywhere. So may little details that tell you about a person - how they think, feel and behave. Who they are. Do they buy Heinz beans or own-brand? Do they dye their hair? Are they buying medicine, painkillers for an unsuspected illness? What's in a shopping trolley can tell you so much about a person - not just that they buy meals-for-one and therefore must be single...
But what do you do with two carrots, a lemon and a black bed sheet?