In early September, news broke that Greggs was finally making its way to central Oxford after observers spotted job advertisements in OX1. As someone whose local high street boasts not one, but two Greggs, it’s been a long time coming. Back at school, there was no better place to stop and get a quick coffee on your walk there, or a doughnut on the walk back from half an hour spent half-heartedly playing Badminton at the local leisure centre for PE. Its sausage rolls, glazed doughnuts and chicken subs brought me joy and comfort for years. Yet it also harbours dark memories.
Yes, in sixth form I was briefly employed at Greggs, and having to wear a hairnet under a red cap and pretend I didn’t hate my life every time someone I knew from school walked in soon took its toll. The burns I got from forgetting not to touch hot trays full of pasties served as a painful reminder of the tragedy of now working at a place I had once loved so much.
After handing in my notice, I’ve been reluctant to go back out of shame for abandoning my disaffected coworkers. Yet even after a taste of suffering, when I arrived in Oxford last year, the new-found emptiness in my life soon became apparent.
So often have I entered Tesco to find no sausage rolls in their hot food cabinet. And what student even goes to Pret? Surely that’s somewhere people are forced to go to when stranded in central London in the middle of a day out. Greggs is somewhere you look forward to visiting, not somewhere that makes you feel guilty for buying a £6 baguette. Not only do they provide delicious pasties, they now sell the famous vegan sausage roll, along with sandwiches, salads, soups, and sweet pastries. It’s a range of variously unhealthy snacks and lunch offerings that is simply unmatched. Greggs is worthy of being the nation’s largest bakery chain, with 1,953 locations. So, where has it been?
Oxford seems to be behind the times when it comes to providing for students. The next-biggest scandal after there not being a Greggs in central Oxford has to be there not being a Wilko. While students everywhere else across the country have a cheap and easily accessible option for buying stationery supplies, kitchen utensils and homewares, we’re left with… Ryman? Or that shop in Westgate with clearance adverts plastered over every surface? It may be the cynic in me, but this seems like a class issue. When am I ever going to shop at Jack Wills? Why is it there?
This Michaelmas, I will be eagerly awaiting the opening of Greggs. As an ex-employee, and part of a friend group at home in which 3/5 of us either used to work at Greggs or work there now, I know from experience the effort that goes in to provide the wholesome, unhealthy comfort food Oxford’s students not only need, but truly deserve.