The Grey Army – Beware The Nanja!

As regular readers may know, Australia is an island just off the coast of Bribie, where I currently live.

Bribie Island’s population is predominantly made up of retired folk, therefore there is proportionally little crime and a general feeling of tranquility (translated by my teenagers as ‘boredom’).

When insuring our first home here, the question was asked by the young insurance agent, ‘Do you want to be covered for riot and civil commotion?’

After he had finished laughing, my husband replied: ‘I live on Bribie, mate, there’s very little chance of a riot here!’ To which the young man imaginatively responded, ‘Perhaps the old folk might have a big argument outside your house and throw a walking frame through the window!’

Now, both my husband and the insurance chap had a point here.

Bribie is renowned for its sleepiness and its tendency to be all tucked up in bed by 9pm. We have been eyeballed by the local bar staff who then look pointedly at their watches should you be found outside your home after this time.

However, the insurance agent’s apparently wild suggestion of impending riot may well have been fuelled by knowledge of the behaviour of some elderly locals in a ‘shopping-type scenario’. And in this regard, I now agree completely that a riot may well unfold.

The reason for this? Aldi’s ‘Special Offer Days’ on Saturdays (and Wednesdays, if you’re passing through).

Any Bribie resident intending to set foot in the island’s Aldi store on these days of the week must first equip themselves with a riot shield and nerves of steel. They may want to leave a note for loved ones stating where their scattered body parts may be located in the event that they get fatally caught up in the ensuing mêlée.

Aldi is a unique place where such a random selection of items is available that you never knew you needed an angle grinder, a blowtorch and a tile cutter until you find them at home in the shopping bag with the solitary onion that you went in there for.

My own traumatic experience resulted in the identification of a hitherto unknown species of being: people, I bring you … the ‘Nanja’.

The Nanja can generally fool the public with her white hair and benign expression. She is polite, considerate and an upstanding citizen. A nanna to be proud of.

Except on Bargain Day at Aldi. Then she morphs into a smooth-operating killing machine, using well-versed tactics and commando techniques in the shopping aisles.

The Nanja is a silent, deadly, bargain-seeking missile. And this is how I discovered her existence.

One particular Saturday, we noticed that Havaianas were on a very low price offer at Aldi. Being the most comfortable and practical footwear for living on an island made of sand, we innocently took it upon ourselves to queue outside with the elderly ladies of Bribie until it opened, in the hope of gaining a bargain.

We chatted with them. They chatted with us. It was pleasant. Until the doors opened.

Then, with all the blood-curdling force of Mel Gibson portraying William Wallace in the film Braveheart, this collection of cheery senior citizens surged forward as one. They burst through the entrance and with single-minded determination and tactical stealth, they filled the aisles in an attempt to beat everyone else to their prize.

To our horror, we realised that the store manager had seen fit to place the Havaianas right next to the other special offer of the week – orthopaedic gardening shoes!

We found ourselves carried along on a throng of suddenly vicious and grim-faced Nanjas, intent on securing themselves some comfortable gardening shoes at any cost.

Orthopaedic shoes were passed seamlessly from Nanja to Nanja in a display of sheer mastery, as they tried them on for size. ‘A six here, Marjorie!’ ‘An eight here, Doris!’

Swarms of locusts have moved in a less devastating manner, I swear. A pregnant lady was jostled in the crowd. Roars of approval went up as the correct sizes were identified.

And then, they were gone. Along with every single pair of orthopaedic gardening shoes in the bargain basket.

Just like true ninjas, they had completed their mission with ease and without mercy.

Despite our disconcerting experience, we got our cheap Havaianas.

When we looked in the bag when we got home, we were nonetheless surprised to find an angle grinder, a tile cutter…and a solitary onion.

That’s Aldi!

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