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Monday, 25 January 2010


The headache had driven him in off the street and into the Kings road branch of Smith & Green Apothecaries. Harry stumbled into the shop, blinking back the white dots which danced in front of his eyes and pulled himself upright. Rows of anaesthetically white aisles stretched before him, heaving under the accumulated mass of the remedies they carried. Harry grabbed a passing shop attendant and asked the direction of the aspirin.

“Sorry Sir,” smiled the attendant. “We don’t carry aspirin, we only sell homeopathic products our painkillers are over there,” the assistant replied waving towards a distant corner of the store. Harry began to walk towards the indicated aisles, browsing the products as he went. The shop seemed too big perhaps as he gazed down the long lanes of faux-marble linoleum. Four thousand years of civilization and this is what it had come to. This final transgression. The subtle induction of what little had remained natural into any easily consumable pill. No longer would there be a need for those camping weekends, the national trust or Ray Mears. Now nature was available on the high street and at a very modest price; Primrose oil, Rosehip, Aloe Vera, Milk Thistle, Cod Liver Oil, Zinc, Quercetin, Devils Claw, Ginseng, Tea Tree Oil. It was all here, all dehydrated and hermetically sealed, all it had needed was a couple of celebrity endorsements and the booming, Blair economy and the desperate middle classes had flocked to it, to this new possible cure for migraines and the institutionalised guilt rooted in generations of industrialisation, consumerism and three thousand years of unnatural evolution. Maybe the Echynachia would cleanse them if not then maybe the St Johns Wort, who cares when you can have it all, crushed down then boxed up for thirty quid a pop.

Harry was surprised to see the painkillers advertised towards the back of the shop. He’d have thought ‘painkiller’ a slightly brash term for this enterprise and had supposed on a more liberal label. ‘Negative Sensation Suppressant’ perhaps, but there they were lined up in their white, vacuum packed capsules. He picked up the one with the most clinical sounding title and hurried towards the register. He looked down at the pack it read ‘Guarana tablets 100mg’. Harry doubted their effectiveness, but it was the best thing available. The place had worsened his headache and he was becoming desperate to escape, the whole thing was just so terribly… metric. What was most unsettling about the store was the lack of smell. All those plants and herbs in one room and all you could smell was the plastic, mixed with a faint musk, Chanel number five maybe. The clerk ran Harry’s little box under the register then looked up, smiling, at harry.

“Were having a deal on Ginseng today, half price…” He had a waxy sheen and a hint, just a hint, of a Californian accent.

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