The Independent, 22 October 2013

If anyone had asked you which Tesco product gets thrown away most often, I bet you would have guessed (correctly) that it is pre-bagged salad. So would I. Tesco’s revelation that over two-thirds of their bagged lettuce gets filed in the bin comes as no surprise. Lettuce, let us be honest, is a rubbish vegetable.

Firstly, it is fragile. 33% of the bagged lettuce is lost before it ever makes it into the bag. I’m pretty sure I can identify the likely suspects at this stage (Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter). Another 35% is binned by customers, conclusively proving that along with the delicious bakery aroma they pump into the air, Tesco has atomised some sort of hallucinogen which makes a third of lettuce-purchasers believe they like lettuce when they clearly don’t.

Lettuce needs to take a leaf out of the peas’ book: peas are an exemplary vegetable. I doubt if the average consumer throws more than five peas away each year (and those because they rolled onto the floor). Peas can be frozen and will still taste delicious when defrosted. You can chuck them in anything from a pasta sauce to a pie and they cook in two minutes. In short, they are practically trying to be eaten.

Meanwhile, lettuce can’t be cut with a metal knife or it goes brown. It sits accusingly in the salad crisper (or, as I like to call it, the diet coke dispenser), reminding you that you need to think of something to eat which goes with lettuce. It makes you pine for salad dressing, even though if you’re going to eat that much oil, you might just as well roast potatoes in it. It fails to comfort on cold wet days. It is either muddy or wet or, occasionally, both.

Tesco have promised to improve their food waste stats, by reducing buy-one-get-one-free offers on giant bags of salad, which is a start. These offers simply give you 1¾ bags more salad than a normal human being could eat. The only exception is spinach, which helpfully reduces itself to nano-spinach the second you throw it in a saucepan.

I would suggest that all supermarkets consider stocking lettuce in portions people actually want. Perhaps they could use same tiny bags they use to sell saffron. Or they could always put up a sign in the salad section, which reads: You don’t like lettuce — buy something differently green.

It’s a rare actor who retires. Most actors don’t make the kind of money that means they never need to work again once they turn 65: if an actor can speak, they can earn. Go and see Richard II in Stratford and you’ll see actors in their 70s (Oliver Ford Davies and Michael Pennington) coming close to stealing the show.

But Peter O’Toole has never been like other actors. Although he played Hamlet at the National Theatre 50 years ago, he won’t be at the NT’s anniversary bash next month. Why? Because he retired last year. It’s so unusual to see an actor reject a chance for acclaim that people are astonished: how could he resist being part of the whole spectacle?

As so often in his career, O’Toole is giving the perfect performance. In this case, of someone who’s retired from the public eye, and means it.