Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Backstreet Nutritionists

You can tell a lot about a place by looking at its retail topography. The centre of any town or city is a combination of the usual high street homogeneity (Boots, Body Shop, Argos…) blended with local shops. Sunderland shows its true colours by the nature of the local shops wedged in with the big names: ‘the pie shop’, Greggs (6 at least), ‘Poundland’, ‘Supercigs’.

There is a branch of Holland & Barrett, but it is hidden away down an obscure backstreet – the kind of location usually reserved for sex shops. Healthy eaters tend to walk past a couple of times (raincoated) waiting for a moment when the street is almost deserted before dashing in. The local gossips tend to be merciless if someone is seen frequenting the shop and life can become very difficult at ‘the club’.

Local bodybuilders do use the shop to buy protein powder and this seems to be accepted. These shoppers usually decline the offer of a bag, so that the nature of their purchase is clear to see on the street. The more insecure among them are inclined to emphasise their contempt for the seedy world of health food by growling at passers-by and flexing their biceps as they leave.

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