It’s weird how, when there’s a famous person who lives near you, you always know which their house is, but you never see them. Until last week, when I saw Joanna Lumley in Sainsbury’s. “That shopper has beautiful, Joanna Lumley hair,” I said to myself on my first pass, in the vegetable aisle. “I wonder if it is Lumley?” I thought, detouring past the bananas. “Yes, it definitely is. Wait, I wonder what she’s got in her trolley?” A quick mosey along the prepared pineapple could solve this, and bingo: a bottle of champagne and a bag of coriander. It was just too perfect. I shared it with the world, using every platform imaginable (not TikTok – that would have been a gross invasion of privacy).
Responses poured in. Overwhelmingly, they were from people saying: “This is exactly what I would have wanted Joanna Lumley to buy – she is a legend and this has made my life complete.” Many, many people had seen celebrities on their way out of supermarkets and been unable – tantalisingly – to see what they had bought. But someone had seen Graham Chapman from Monty Python in the Safeway in Maidstone: champagne, hummus. Johnny Vegas, four-pack of Foster’s. Moira Stuart in the big Sainsbury’s in Chiswick, buying one huge bag of roasted peanuts and about 20 individual bags. (Taste test?) Young people won’t remember this, but at the very start of the internet, there was a gossip site called Popbitch where people would report on celebrities they had stood next to at a urinal, and most of the time they never saw anything, but OH. MY. GOD when they did. This was like the cleaner, nicer version of that. The celebrities-in-apt-transaction genre.
It actually gets better. Someone had seen Kevin Keegan in Primark, buying a single pair of black socks. “Such a frugal man,” they remarked, in wonder. Is it even possible to buy pairs of socks in units of one these days? And how do you recognise Keegan without the ringlets, how do you know it isn’t John Bercow? Crucially, is this even true, or a marvellous confection to keep aloft the balloon of national pride let fly by Lumley’s Bolly trolley? I don’t know, and I don’t care.
PS. I’m making it sound as if I live in Mayfair. It’s actually Vauxhall, where anyone is allowed to live.
• Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist