30 November 2017
It is said that wherever Aldi goes, Lidl follows, and that wherever Lidl goes, Aldi is sure to follow.
So often I find it difficult to figure out which is which that I cannot figure out whether I am Aldied or Lidled.
But I have watched them follow each other as they open one supermarket after the other in similar venues, in Ireland, in England, and in Greece. Now I see that they are taking their shared competitive streak to the US.
The difference between the two, and the experience many of us have shared when we go shopping in these two German-based supermarkets is told by my former Irish Times colleague Mickey McConnell in The Ballad of Lidl & Aldi, recorded recently in John B Keane’s Bar in Listowel, Co Kerry:
But there is one place Aldi is not following Lidl – in their depictions of Santorini, which is unrivalled as the most photographed island in Greece and is the face of Greece to the rest of the world.
The island’s cubist white buildings, its pastel coloured doors and windows and the blue domes of its churches are the basic ingredients of picture-postcard Greece. Those blue domes complement the blue skies and blue seas that decorate so many postcards, calendars, coasters, fridge magnets and CDs that tourists bring home with them.
They are sometimes the first images that captivate potential visitors when they are dreaming about and planning a package holiday in Greece. And when those tourists return home, these calendars and posters decorate their homes as a reminder to return again.
In the rectory in Askeaton, I have a number of prints of photographs by Georges Meis, whose work in Santorini is celebrated in so many of those calendars, posters and coffee table books.
In Dublin, I have prints of two paintings by the artist Manolis Sivridakis that continue to remind me of all the sounds, sights, tastes, smells and thoughts of a sunny Sunday afternoon in Santorini almost 30 years ago.
The other ways lingering memories of a summer holiday on a Greek island holiday are brought back to life for wistful tourists include listening to those CDs – and finding Greek food on the supermarket shelves.
I have a small block of Feta cheese from Greece in the fridge in the Rectory at the moment. I say at the moment, because now that I have found it it’s not going to stay there for very long.
This is not Greek-style Feta, as you get in many supermarkets, but real Greek Feta, produced in Greece, using sheep and goat’s milk, under the Emporium brand name.
The label shows a blue domed church in Santorini, with the crater of the volcano and the blue Greek sea and sky in the background.
But there is something that makes this label very different from the labels in the Lidl Eridanous range.
The Eridanous range in Lidl is also packaged and marketed with those white cubist buildings and blue domes that instantly transport you back from the grey days of winter in Ireland to the blue-and-white days of summer in Greece.
Prominent in all of those packaging images – on tins, bags and cardboard packages – is the dome of the Anastasis Church, the most photographed church and the most photographed building on the island of Santorini.
The problem, though, is that Lidl airbrushed the cross from the dome of the church. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Lidl had eliminated all crosses and transformed the landscape of Santorini on its packaging, claiming it wants to remain ‘religiously neutral.’ Greek history, culture and landscape had been airbrushed away by the very people who claim they are marketing a taste of authentic Greek living.
Unlike Lidl, however, Aldi has kept the cross on the dome of the church in Santorini in its packaging and labelling of Greek food in the Emporium range.
Despite an outcry a few months ago, the Eridanous range, including Greek olive oil, honey, moussaka, honey, yogurt, gyros, butter beans and pastry swirls, remains on shelves in Lidl outlets in Ireland in their photo-shopped packaging.
And so, I now know the difference between Aldi and Lidl and the differences between their branding of Greek foods.
In his poem ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester,’ the Cambridge war poet asked:
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? … oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
In these lines, Rupert Brooke celebrates a place that first became popular in 1897, when a group of Cambridge students persuaded the owner of Orchard House to serve them tea in its apple orchard.
The poet later moved next door to the Old Vicarage in Grantchester, and while he was in Berlin in 1912, he wrote of his homesickness in this poem. The church close to the Orchard is the Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Mary.
Today [30 November] is the Feast of Saint Andrew’s Day, and Saint Andrew is linked with both Advent, the beginning of the Church Year, and with the Mission of the Church, because Saint Andrew is the first-called of the Apostles and the patron saint of mission work.
Without mission there is no church, and without discipleship how can people live in the Advent hope, be prepared for the coming of Christ?
Last week, at my meetings in London and Birmingham with trustees, staff and volunteers from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and throughout my work with over the decades with mission agencies, I have constantly asked about the link between mission and the Church. Which came first, the chicken or the egg, church or mission?
Saint Andrew may not have realised that he was preparing for the coming of Christ. He was a fisherman, working the Lake of Galilee with his brother Simon Peter. But he was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist, and as we are reminded in the Advent readings, Saint John the Baptist was the forerunner, the one who prepared the way for the coming of Christ.
In hearing the call of Christ to follow him in the Fourth Gospel, Saint Andrew hesitated for a moment, not because he had any doubts about his call, but because he wanted to bring his brother with him. Recognising his duty to bring others to Christ, he went to Peter and told him: ‘We have found the Messiah … [and] he brought Simon to Jesus’ (John 1: 41, 42).
Saint Andrew left behind the nets of yesterday. Getting caught up in the minutiae of commercial life and shopping the other day, I see they are selling cinnamon-flavoured hot cross buns – not just before Lent, but even before Advent.
Hot cross buns! At this time of the year? Hot cross buns with a sell-by and best-before date of yesterday, 29 November.
And yet there is a direct connection. In the end, this first Apostle’s life reached its climax when he met his death through crucifixion. He may have left behind no Gospel or Epistles, but Saint Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles, literally took up his cross and followed Christ. And he called others to do the same.
Christmas is meaningless without looking forward to the Cross and the Resurrection. Mission and Church must always go together. And this morning Saint Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles, reminds us of this.
Twice during my strolls through London this year, in May [11 May 2017] and again last week [23 November 2017], between Liverpool Street Station and the USPG offices in Southwark, I have visited the Church of Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe on Queen Victoria Street, one of the Wren churches in London and just two blocks south of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
Watching the news reports last night of people who have died in the winter cold on the streets of Dublin this week, I was reminded of how the Church of Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe offers this prayer for people who have no shelter on the streets of London:
God of compassion,
your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus,
whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable
and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:
we hold before you those who are homeless and cold
especially in this bitter weather.
Draw near and comfort them in spirit
and bless those who work to provide them with shelter, food and friendship.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 19: 1-6; Romans 10: 12-18; Matthew 4: 18-22.