Reasons to Love Skye – Our Co-Op

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The great big hand is pointing at our Co-Op. This is Skye, we like everything to be part of a lovely view

When I was a wee boy every Friday a car would arrive outside our house with a cardboard box full of groceries. I was very keen to see the car  as the box usually contained a lucky bag full of sweets for me. It came from a tiny and very busy shop on a side street in the nearby Glasgow suburb of Shawlands run by a little old lady called Mrs Hutcheson. On a Tuesday a lorry came down our street. It was from a company in Lochwinnoch called Struthers. They produced Krystal Klear soft drinks and the lorry would take away our empties and replenish our stocks of lemonade, limeade, red cola, American cream soda, ginger beer and, for the grown-ups, tonic water.

All this is a distant memory. When I was young the supermarkets started to appear and people like Mrs Hutcheson and Struthers disappeared. A Co-op supermarket opened near my dad’s business and we would go there on a Saturday before going out to the golf club for lunch (how brazenly middle class we were )  I have an image of Margo and Jerry from the good Life flitting through my mind. Anyway that was the end for Mrs Hutcheson’s little grocery shop and Struthers weren’t far behind as they didn’t sell their soft drinks in the supermarkets.

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Our Co-Op and its car park. Scene of exciting destruction derbies when the tourist season starts. It is down a light pole at the moment due to some exuberant parking. 

I’m reminded of this because Asda have started home deliveries from their Inverness store to Skye and Lochalsh and it is proving very popular. Their vans seem to be constantly driving past our house as yet another internet order is delivered. There is a great deal of excitement about being able to get a wide range of items delivered to your door and prices being better than in the local Co-Op. There is also a great deal of concern about the ability of the local Co-Op to withstand the competition. It is an important local employer and also has a 24 hour petrol station. The only one on the island.

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If you stand where |I took the previous image this is what you see. I think I am right in saying the view from the Asda in Inverness isn’t quite as good

Our Broadford Co-Op is an institution and also the best Co-Op around. I’m sure the people of Portree and Kyle will disagree but they’re wrong. Ours’ is the best. saying that I am pretty sure the people of Kyle and Portree have a similar story to tell of their Co-Ops. though it is highly probable Portree is going become another Tesco town soon.

We know the staff as friends and neighbours. the Co-Op is the social hub of South Skye. If you want to see someone the odds of bumping into them in the Co-Op are high. Many a transaction or communication has taken place there as everybody has to be there at some point.

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And here we are round the other side of the Co-Op. Not quite as picturesque I grant you.

A visit to the Co-Op, if you arrive at the right time, can be really brief or enormously lengthy. If you arrive just before school starts or finishes we are all in a hurry to get the shopping done before picking up children. It is a quick charge round with some like minded parents, no time to chat. The alternative is… Going after school with children… This can be a nightmare. Half the school is careering around including your own kids. As one of ours has decibel difficulties she cuts a sonic wave through the shop endangering not only the hearing of customers and staff but also anything contained in glass. This can spoil what can be a pleasant social gathering where the good people of Skye come to mingle, catch up and keep up to date with island life. And maybe buy some potatoes while they’re at it or perhaps some pak choi. It’s that metropolitan in our Co-Op.  Except for the Stalanist days when the lorry is late; then the shelves quickly empty and it resembles a Soviet supermarket as people fight over the last packet of bagels.

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However this is what is behind you. Sometimes there are otters too.

This is usually a more frequent occurrence in holiday season when visitors descend en masse at the weekend and strip the place of the vacation essentials of crisps, alcohol and toilet roll.

It feels like I spend a large proportion of my life in the Broadford Co-Op as Mrs L365 doesn’t like shopping.  We go almost every day. Not for us the carefully planned weekly shop with its attendant meal plans and strictly controlled snack rations. We live life on the edge. We shop as and when we need stuff/ fancy having stuff. This is why I am keen to keep our Co-Op and not go online and shop with Asda.

Our Co-Op isn’t cheap, its petrol, for instance is ridiculously expensive. It has only just occurred to me while writing that it has a Gulf petrol station attached to it, run by the Co-Op so there has to be a profit margin for both the Co-Op and Gulf in the price we pay. That’ll be part of why it is 12 pence a litre higher than Inverness – and that’s with a 5p tax deduction for living on the edge of the world. As a shop it may have a limited stock and be a bit pricey but it opens it doors at 7am every morning and they stay open and welcoming for another 15 hours.  We should treasure what we have and not just value everything by how low the price is. It isn’t because it is a Co-operative supermarket that the shop is valuable. It is because of who works there and who shops there.  I bet we would miss it a lot more than the Asda delivery van.

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