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Alexander is only in his thirties but, like his Greek namesake of thousands of years ago, he has already achieved greatness.

Albeit, not in the field of war and conquests, but in the humble domain of farmyard produce.

Alexander is an independent grocer! What has made him popular, in the short span of six years, is his unflinching loyalty to both customer and a promise to sell every one of his items at the cheapest price on offer anywhere.

He also has a very clever signboard at the front of his store that says, ‘Why go elsewhere to be cheated when you can come here?’

Can you let me out the front door, please? My son knows all the codes, but I just cannot remember the numbers


Naturally, of course, people at first read the sign, had a laugh and walked past. Funny, yes. But nobody wants to do business with a store that half-promises to do no better than the other stores around.


Needless to say, once the word started getting around that the grocery items at Alexander’s store could not be got cheaper elsewhere, and after months he was found to be consistent in his low pricing, he became a hit. Word of mouth, that master-of-advertising, kicked in and customers began driving from far and near, from distant suburbs.

About a kilometre away from Alexander’s store is a large 85-bed nursing home. The home is one of his biggest clients. It is in this very nursing home that, on a particular Sunday, a little old lady pushing a stroller, approaches a group of visitors in the home and says, “Can you let me out the front door, please? My son knows all the codes, but I just cannot remember the numbers.”

The front door, needless to say, is armed with a key-punch code.

So one of the visitors, who has just learnt the code himself, gets up, punches the buttons and lets the lady out into the open air and the sunshine.

Before she departs, she tells him her name.

“I am Anastasia.”

She doesn’t wait to hear his.

Quiet commotion

The visitors go back to their visiting (one of their elderly relatives. They have brought with them a small banquet of lunch consisting of roast beef, baked potatoes, carrots, peas and Yorkshire pudding with roast gravy.) A hearty meal is being had by one and all when the visitors discern a quiet commotion growing in the background.

Nurses, attendants and orderlies are moving around with a growing sense of alarm. Finally, one of the attendants comes up the visitors and asks, “Has any of you seen Anastasia?”

He describes her. And one of the visitors says, “She’s gone home.”

“Home?” asks the attendant, “This is her home.”

“Oh,” replies the visitor, “I thought she was a visitor like me!”

And so begins a hunt for an “escaped” nursing home resident with early stage dementia.

“How long ago?” asks another nurse. A whole hour, it transpires. A whole hour on the loose, with a stroller, in a not-so-stable condition. Some of the roads are busy.

“She is not always aware of her whereabouts,” is a statement that sends chills through the visitor that let her out.

A quick search is conducted of the streets in the immediate area. Then the police are called in.

A nurse tells the visiting group, and the visitor in particular, “Here’s the thing to remember in future. You let yourself in, you let yourself out. You let nobody else in or out.”

Ten minutes after the police are involved the head nurse gets a call.

Anastasia has been found! She’d made her way, totteringly, all the way to the front of Alexander’s grocery store and was halted there. When asked what she was doing so far from the nursing home she apparently replied, “I’m just visiting the most honest man you’ll find in Australia. And he’s my son!”

— Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia

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