I used to do my basic shopping in Sainsbury's in the 1970s...that era when the sight of a woman staggering out of the store under a load of loo rolls would have you dashing inside before they all disappeared from the shelves, only to return weeks later at double the price.
Bread and sugar were also susceptible to this 'now you see it now you don't' process, but as I had once lost a tooth in a slice of what was laughingly titled 'Mothers' Pride' and didn't have a sweet tooth among those remaining to me these shortages did not affect me to the same degree of urgency.
Even in that era, 'The News of The World' was only fit for bum fodder but having as a child experienced an aunt's economy measures I preferred the stuff on rolls to the stuff cut into squares.
And let no one mention Bronco.
Not having had savings at that time I look back on it fondly as a time when inflation made my mortgage repayments look silly.
Any spare money not applied to the purchase of loo rolls was applied to paying off the mortgage in double quick time, which, years later, leaves me without a credit rating as I have never borrowed money since and banks now regard me as an client not susceptible to being fleeced and thus unwelcome.
When not employing jumble sale elbows in stacking my trolley with loo rolls against stiff opposition I would take a cast round the store.....picking up the basics, the own brands and looking at some of the novelties in the freezer cabinets before heading off to the cold meat counter to buy German breakfast sausage...liver with attitude.
Queueing as bacon was sliced...none of your packets then...I would be standing by the butchery counter, which did have items packed ready for sale, where something in particular always intrigued me.
They were always packed in twos and one was always larger than the other.
It so intrigued me that eventually I asked the woman slicing breakfast sausage (without cleaning the blade after slicing bacon) why these chops were always of differing sizes.
It's for families. The big chop is for the husband and the smaller one for the wife.
What about the kids?
They eat fish fingers.
Thus the typical English family in the opinion of the decision makers at Sainsburys.
Moving to France many years later, a supermarket was an easy way to skirt any language problems...a 'Bonjour' to the cashier and that was it.
Some of the Britpack have managed to spend more than ten years in France using this tactic.....
Supermarkets were pretty primitive in that period - some of them more like souks - and freezer cabinets were only just being introduced to the ones in my area, but, just as with Sainsburys, while cold meats were being cut to order, butcher meat and poultry was already being packed ready for sale.
Not for France a mere pair of pork chops...they came in packs of five, the top two loin chops neatly masking the three shoulder chops beneath.
Chicken breast fillets likewise.
Nor was this the whim of a sole supermarket butcher.
From Intermarche to Super U, from Auchan to Atac, from Champion to Carrefour and even Leclerc....five pork chops was the norm.
As always, I asked Madeleine.
Not that she bought meat or poultry in supermarkets: she had her own basse cour for ducks and chickens and a butcher well under the thumb, but in my early years in France she was one of the people I could turn to for information and advice.
She died years ago now, but I can still see her, looking up from her newspaper as I arrived at the back door and hear her deep voice exclaiming
Pardi! You'll never guess what's happened!
Without her, without Alice and Edith and Monsieur Untel, my life in France would have been much the poorer - and much less informed!
She, of course, had the answer.
Which was that the tax efficient French family is that which has two parents and three kids.
Thus the packs of five.
French children, it appears, do not eat fish fingers.
Originating in policies meant to increase the birth rate after the disasters of the First World War - women are still being awarded medals for having eight kids, would you believe - general tax revenues support the families which reflect the norm of producing one extra child per generation, while generous exemptions exclude the majority of such families from the privilege of paying for the services they consume.
A whole tranche of potential taxpayers escape the net.
I talked about it years later with my neighbours' daughter in law, a nurse.
She and her husband had two gorgeous little girls...but no third child.
So did this mean that the advantage of the third child was illusory?
No. Her husband's family were farmers and their tax regime already exempted them from a great deal of tax, so why go through another birth for an additional child they did not want.
A lot of her friends had had the third child under pressure from their husbands....to get the tax relief.
The farm had spared her that choice.
I have never objected to paying tax for education or for health services...vital supports for a civilised society.... but to incentivise people to produce more children than may necessarily be wanted in a world where it is finally being recognised that resources are scarce makes no sense at all.
When last shopping for my mother....though not in Sainsburys...I noticed that pork chops came as singletons...or as two of equal size....or as big packs destined for the freezer.
The British system of family support knows no norms.....