Granny chic: Wheely shoppers are making a comeback


Last updated at 11:14 20 March 2008

Bag lady: Claudia Connell with her beloved trolley

Like a good citizen I try to do my bit to save the planet. I always switch the lights off when I leave a room, I don't use my car for short journeys and have even converted back to tap water.

But now, thanks to my stylish new purchase, I have the opportunity not only to preserve our planet but to reduce my carbon emissions, tone my body and potentially lose weight.

Yes, that's right, I am the proud new owner of a shopping bag on wheels.

It's goodbye to plastic carrier bags for me, and unfortunately it's also hello to stares, laughter and pointing and a rather large dose of good-natured ridicule.

The last time I pulled a shopping trolley behind me was approximately 35 years ago.

It was green and red tartan and was the pride and joy of my grandmother Molly.

I clearly remember how my sister and I used to fight over who got to pull the noisy and cumbersome contraption along the street.

I also clearly remember my gran maiming a few innocent bystanders and leaving many a black smudged mark on a disgruntled shopkeeper's floor.

But to me it was an object of wonder - a bottomless pit from which she seemed to be able to pull all manner of treats and surprises.

You only have to look at what happened to leggings, boiler suits and pencil skirts to know that any decent fashion will always come full circle.

And OK, it's fair to say the shopping trolley hasn't quite been fully embraced by the fashionistas, but it can only be a matter of time before it is.

And, in the meantime, doesn't that make me a trendsetter?

I was astonished at the array of shopping trolleys available and eventually settled on a funky animal print one by Kipling.

At £49.99 it was cheaper than I normally pay for a handbag and offered ten times the amount of space.

It's made of thick canvas and is sturdy and well made, with a pocket inside to hold keys and money.

Unlike my grandmother's death trap, the wheels are small and collapsible and, when not in use, the bag folds flat.

Thrilled with my new purchase, I set about taking it for its maiden voyage into London's West End ...

As I walk from my home to the Tube station, my new bag draws many an admiring glance - from the over-75s.

From the younger generation I receive a mixture of looks, ranging from mild amusement to downright pity.

I hit my first problem within ten minutes of leaving home.

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London Underground ticket barriers clearly weren't designed with wheelie shoppers in mind.

No sooner had I pushed myself through the gates they closed shut, leaving me on one side and my shopping trolley on the other.

There wasn't a big enough gap to pull it through underneath and I had to shout to a member of staff for help as a dozen stressed and harassed Londoners tutted behind me in the queue.

Suddenly I had a flash back to my grandmother blocking aisles and snapping at people to "wait your turn" as they tried to squeeze by.

I alight at Oxford Street and pull my bag behind me through the busiest shopping street in Europe.

I am aware that I'm tripping up and running over the toes of a few of my fellow pedestrians, but I decide to adopt a "look forward, make no eye contact" approach as one of my first victims tells me "watch it grandma".

I make several purchases along the way and love being able to fill my trolley and pull my goodies behind me, rather than being weighed down with bags.

Next I turn into Bond Street, London's most exclusive and, some might say, snootiest shopping street.

It's home to the likes of Chanel, Versace, Gucci and Valentino - shops that I'm too scared to even press my nose up against the window of, let alone enter.

I strut confidently pulling my trolley behind me, trying to perfect my catwalk swagger and dare people to look at me like I don't belong.

I spot a few bitchy smirks from some glamorous shoppers but, thankfully, there are no more "grandma" comments.

Ahead of me in the crowd I spy the silhouette of a tall, beautiful woman coming towards me.

She could easily have stepped off the cover of Vogue and behind her she is pulling - wait for it - a wheelie trolley.

Hers is, no doubt, a designer one and cost ten times what mine did, but she is still a shopping trolley sister.

I want to throw my arms around her and kiss her but instead we simply nod to one another in an unspoken mark of respect. I bet nobody shouts pensioner-related insults at her in the street.

Satisfied that I have made my point, I decide that I won't risk getting the Tube home and instead opt for the rather less dangerous bus.

When I flash the driver my ticket, he quips "most people with those things have a free pass". Frankly, all the grandmother comments are becoming rather tiresome.

I'm able to stand my trolley upright and I'm impressed when it stays that way without toppling over as the bus rides over every pothole and speed bump in west London.

On the way home I stop off at the supermarket to see if I can fit an entire week's shop into my bag.

This usually costs me about £60 and fills anything up to eight flimsy plastic bags - many of which have split by the time I get home.

My trolley easily holds all my shopping and I can't help but feel a smug sense of pride when I tell the checkout girl that I won't be using carrier bags from now on.

I would normally load my shopping into my car and drive home but now, thanks to my trolley, I can cut out one more polluting journey and burn a few extra calories as I walk for 15 minutes pulling a bag full of tins and packages behind me.

On the journey home I bump into a neighbour who spots the trolley and asks: "Shopping for your gran?"

I confidently tell her that the wheelie shopper is all mine and is the latest in accessory chic.

I then remind her that ten years ago we would have dismissed the Ugg as "an old granny boot" - and now every woman under 45 owns a pair.

It's fair to say that the rest of the world may need some convincing about the merits, convenience and all round brilliance of the shopping trolley, but I am hooked, and if the people on London's fashionable shopping streets are too blinkered to see it then I know a place where I will fit right in - the post office on pension day.

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