It's 1969 and a six year-old girl stands next to her mother at the till of a supermarket in Northampton. Money is tight, but children need to be fed. A lady in an orange overall rings up the total, money is counted out, change given, bags are lifted... and two small slabs of fruit cake wrapped in cellophane are handed to the mother. On the plastic wrapping are printed birthday candles - this company is marking its centenary and giving its customers a slice of cake to mark the occasion. The kind lady at the till gives two cakes, because she knows this woman has many mouths to feed. Reaching home the cake is admired, opened and shared as a rare treat - bought cake doesn't happen often in this household!
It's 2019 and a fifty-six year-old woman stands at the checkout of a supermarket in Glasgow. She has enough money to indulge in a few treats as well as the essentials. A lady in a burgundy fleece scans the items, a card is put in a reader, a PIN tapped in and the shopping trolley zipped up... "don't forget to pick up your tea and biscuit on the way out" the lady says - this company is marking its 150th anniversary, and gives its customers a gift to mark the occasion. Reaching home the items are photographed and the images shared on social media. The woman smiles at the retro-packing, recalling when this was normal, and she was a child. She anticipates a mug of tea and a ginger biscuit - but not yet, there are memories to savour and stories to be told.
Some will say it's a waste, that the company should have given the money to projects serving those who live in poverty.
Some will make cynical snide remarks, pointing out any and every shortcoming of a major retailer
But somewhere there will be a six year-old child, for whom a packet of biscuits and a box of teabags will form a memory that lasts a lifetime. Somewhere there will be a mother who can sit down and drink a cup of tea and munch a biscuit that she might never have justified buying.
Once there was a woman criticised for lavish, wreckless extravangance, and a man who said that there would always be poor people (inference: because you'll never actually address poverty, will you) but this is a beautiful thing, a precious moment, and it will not be denied.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear, what the writer says to the readers.