Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Scourge Of The Self Checkoutt (a re-run and and update)

THINGS happen to me!

Now, I'm not convinced (however many people tell me otherwise) that THINGS don't happen to other people too.

You know what?

I'm RIGHT!!!

I saw this today on Facebook:

And it reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago:

This new craze for self checkout in supermarkets.

Never yet has it given me the 'seamless shopping experience' it promises. Why does it talk to me if it doesn't want me to answer back? 'Unexpected item in bagging area' is the favourite! Why wasn't it expecting it? I just bloody scanned it didn't I? 'Please remove item from bagging area', which one? I have 12!!! ' Please wait for assistance', flashing lights, loud beeping, everyone's looking at me like I'm trying to make off with 3 bananas, a twin pack of loo roll and a packet of custard creams!

My children now prefer not to shop with me, it always ends in (my) tears but, unsuspecting friends still insist I use the self checkout despite my protestations, telling me its so quick, so easy, what can I say MORE FOOL THEM, they learn the hard way.

Sainsburys last week, 'friend' use the self checkout, 'me' no, 'friend' use the self checkout, 'me' noooo, 'friend' use the damn self check out will you, 'me' ok. Five items required three visits from the assistant with their magic swipe card and then, just when you would think nothing else could go wrong, I emptied the contents of my purse into the little change compartment (don't you love it when you do that and the total cost of your shopping is four pounds ninety eight, your change that you've poured in comes to four pounds eleven and you only have a ten pound note to pay the balance, you end up with more change than you were trying to get rid of!).

Anyway, I digress, this time, the machine happily swallowed my money but the screen still flashed, 'please insert coins or notes to the value of your shopping' It had EATEN my money! No flashing light, no beeping, no bloody call for assistance. I stood there jumping up and down waving my arms (my 'friend' long gone) until eventually I attracted the notice of an assistant. Followed lots of head scratching and 'are you sure you put the money in', Yeees. 'I'll just call someone else' and 'I think we need a supervisor' by which time I was hanging my head in shame.

Have you ever seen the inside workings of one of those machines? Fascinating! Ten minutes unlocking various bits, tracing the path my money should have taken, 'are you sure you put the money in', YEEES before finally, they located it. A further five minutes to put the machine back together and then, THEY EXPECTED ME TO DO IT ALL AGAIN!

Since writing this post they have introduced a 5p charge for bags which in theory is a GREAT - unless ...

Well, UNLESS you are at a self checkout.

If you are at a self checkout THIS is what happens:

1. It asks you before you start if you want to purchase any bags and you say no because you've brought your own

 2. but then it wont let you pack directly into them because 'unexpected item' and it thinks you are trying to STEAL a bag

3. So you have to scan everything first and put it on the postage stamp sized bagging area

 4. But stuff falls off because you've piled it so high

 5. So it announces that you have 'removed' an item from the bagging area.

 6. THEN you have to try and pack everything (and all the soft stuff is now on the top)

 7. while you are trying to pack everything without crushing your eggs and bread it repeatedly shouts at you 'Thank you for shopping in (wherever) - please take your items while the huge queue that has formed behind you tuts at how long you're taking!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Where Are You From? (A Rewind From Waaay Back)

Something go me thinking about the place where I grew up earlier.  I'm not sure what it was, maybe another blog post I was reading, I'm not sure.

I remembered this post that I wrote many years ago, probably in the first year I started blogging and I thought I'd share it here again ... 

Where Are You From?

When I’m asked this question I pause, where am I from? I've lived in many places but only really felt I belonged in one.

 My formative years were spent in a variety of places from Scotland to Australia but if home really is where the heart is, then I’m from South Devon.

I spent much of my childhood on and off in a small seaside village in South Devon. This is the village where my Grandparents lived, the village in which my Mother grew up.

It was our base, our security. When everything else fell apart around us (as it frequently did) this is where we would run.  Sometimes it was in between moves (My Father was in the Navy), sometimes for holidays and when I was 9 and my parents marriage broke up we moved back there to live.

The village  is split into 3 parts.  The start of the village is called St Anns Chapel, I'm not sure why.  Maybe there was a chapel there at some point but if so, it's long gone. There is a Pub, the Pickwick Inn although I believe the name has been changed in recent years, a  shop where you could buy just about everything and a small group of houses.  There used to be a small gift shop selling little ornaments with 'A Gift from Devon' stamped on them and sticks of Rock with Devon right through the center.

 A little further down the road, before you get to the village proper was the small group of mismatched houses where we lived.

My Grandparents had  built a long low bungalow on a large plot of land  they bought when they first married.

The bungalow was split into two  parts. The main house from which my Grandmother ran their Bed and Breakfast business during the Summer months and a small annex with one bedroom.  This annex they used to rent out to a gentleman, Mr Price, I never did know his story.  He was always smartly dressed and very proper. He used to buy us liquorice stick sometimess, not the black sticky commercial kind but real twigs that when you chewed them had a strong liquorice taste.

There were 4 houses on our side of the road.  Next door lived an elderly lady, Mrs Warren who used to be the village midwife. Her son reputedly lived with her but in all the years I lived there I never saw him.  She was very much a loaner but sometimes she used to stop and talk to me  and once she gave me a painted wooden train that had belonged to her son.  In return I picked her a bunch of Sweet William from my Grandmothers garden and left them on her doorstep.

Across the road  in the old police house lived Uncle Max and Auntie Mary. The police house was a large imposing building with a beautiful garden.  They weren’t really our Aunt and Uncle but as in the familiar way of country life we had many ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncles’ in the village.

Not actually Auntie Mary but very reminiscent of her
They were an extremely dashing pair. The epitome of 1940’s chic, an era they had obviously decided so suited them that they chose not to leave it.  Auntie Mary wore beautifully tailored linen slacks and crisp blouses and a scarf tied around her head and wrapped around her slender throat Grace Kelly style.  Uncle Max smoothed his abundant jet black hair back with Bay Rum Pomade and belted around the country lanes in his little red sports car with his golf clubs in the back.  they always seemed so happy, so in love, so full of fun and life.

Also not the actual kissing gates but similar
A little further down the road was the church.  You could get  to get to it, either by road, or take the shortcut through the kissing gates and across the cornfield.  The corn of my youth was so much taller than today.  I may have been a lot smaller then but the corn reached my shoulders, waving its golden ears gently in the breeze alive with butterflies and ladybirds.

St Lawrence's Church Bigbury
I spent a lot of time at and around the church as a child.  Granddad was a bell ringer and sometimes used to take me up to the bell tower, this was reached by a narrow staircase up the side of the building, he would let me pull on the ropes and laugh when I couldn't elicit a sound from them.

Every Sunday after Church he would go to the other pub in the village, The Royal Oak, for two halves of mild and a game of domino's. .  I don’t know why he never drank pints but it was always two halves

My Grandmother  the driving force in their marriage as so many women of her era were was a stickler for tradition.  Sunday lunch was served at one pm, never mind that Granddad was never home on a Sunday until 1:15.  One o’clock was lunchtime every other day of the week and so it was on a Sunday too. We would sit there waiting while our food cooled until Granddad, on the dot of the quarter hour made his appearance.

Granddad  also sometimes filled in for the local gravedigger (excuse the pun).  I would sit on a nearby grave and watch him first carefully remove the layer of grass exposing the rich soil underneath and then digging down, the earth in a neat pile beside him. I was fascinated by the way he seeming disappeared into the earth, almost as though he were being absorbed until only his flat cap was visible.

This could be the same window
My Grandmother was in the privileged position of having a church window of her own.  This was a much coveted honour.  Every Harvest Festival, Christmas and Easter the church was decorated.  There was an unspoken rivalry between the ladies of the village to have the most spectacular window display.  Great boughs of holly and Ivy would be gathered at Christmas, offerings of  giant pumpkins, russet apples and sheaves of corn at harvest time.  Delicate bunches of primroses and daffodils filled the deep stone sills at Easter filling the dusty air with their perfume.

Next to the church was a house that always stood empty.  It was a three stories high, made of dark grey brick and stood in its own grounds.  At one time it had been a very grand manor  house but now it was neglected, empty and rather run down.  It had its own little stone stairway up to the church.  At the top of the stairway tucked under the hedge grew Violets, purple and white, tiny delicate flowers with a delicate scent.  But the best thing of all was hidden from view.  There was secret garden!  At one time it must have been magnificent but now it was overgrown and had fallen into decay. But to us it was a wonderland of small stone walls and bushes to play hide and seek.

Behind the garden was an orchard where, despite not having been tended for many years the small gnarled trees still bore an abundance of sweet rosy apples in the Autumn and we used to fill our pockets with them as fuel when we went exploring.

The second part of the village boasted the another pub, this was where Granddad would sup his ale on a Sunday after church.  There was also the local village shop and Post Office where they weighed out sweets by the ounce and broke up toffee with a hammer.  There was a garage attached to the shop where self service had never been heard of and Mr Bardons clad in his oily overalls would fill up your tank for you while discussing the weather or the price of fish or just about anything else you wanted to chat about.

The prettiest houses were in this part of the village. Proper chocolate box houses with thatched roofs and roses around the door.

Here, down a small winding lane lived Miss Pierce and Miss Burrows, the founders of the BCC, Bigbury Cheery Christians.  This was in the days before computers, games consoles or even morning television. When children were encouraged to be out all day everyday. They were well travelled ladies and their house was crammed with memorabilia from all over the world.  At Christmas the postman was laden with cards with exotic stamps from every corner of the globe.
Theirs was like this but in a dark green

These ladies drove around in a Morris Minor Woodie. This set them apart from the bread baking, flower arranging WI women of the village as most ladies of their age didn't drive.

The BCC was designed to encourage children to think of others. They told us tales of their travels, about the hunger and difficulties faces by many children in other countries.  They showed us how to be grateful for the things we took for granted. We used to go Primrose picking in the Spring and then deliver the bunches of flowers around the village.  To the elderly, the ill, new mothers, whoever these lovely ladies felt could do with a bit of cheering up or joy in their lives.

They used to provide our little mixed band of half a dozen children with squash and biscuits and devise treasure hunts in their garden which was full of little streams and waterfalls with winding pebble paths.

Our parents trusted us with these ladies and were no doubt, in part, grateful for the free babysitting service.  The ladies had an air of peace and contentment, a happiness that comes of a life well lived and no regrets.  They didn’t participate in the mainstream of village life, they were ‘different’ maybe slightly exotic although they were English to the core.  They had been to places and seen things which set them aside from the average villager but they were well liked and very much respected.

The third part of the village was about two miles further on down a long road with a very steep hill.

This part of the village has a story of its very own which I will share in its own post another time.

But here's a sneak preview ...

And, if you have a few minutes to spare and you would like to hear about Edward and Mrs Simpson - Agatha Christie - Lord Mountbatten - Noel Coward and many more who visited this place - check out the video below.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

I Blame It On The Elmers (or lack thereof!)

I was really excited about joining up with Di and the others over at the playground with my fantastic crafting idea.

A couple of weeks ago it was so grey and dreary here I thought I should do something to cheer the place up and I decided to make some suncatchers!

I've always got loads of sparkly stuff lying around.  I'm DRAWN to it and somehow it makes it's way into my basket because you never know, ONE day I might just have a use for it!

So I had a rummage around my drawers (no sniggering Parsnip!) and found some pretty glass gems, some table decoration thingies for when you get married (because, well, you NEVER know do you??) and some sequins.

Then I googled 'How to make suncatchers' because I like to do these things properly don'tcha know ...

They all talked about Elmers glue ...

Elmers glue is apparently the like the holy grail to suncatcher - it's like the new Mod Podge of crafting.

Like Mod Podge unfortunately it also seems to be unavailable in the UK!  I wanted some Mod Podge when I decided I was going to make my own coloured glass which you do by mixing a little ink stolen from your daughters art supplies and swirl it around the inside of a glass vase or jam jar or something.

Well, I couldn't get any (although I've since found it in The Range - I LOVE The Range!!! I's my new favourite place!) But before that I read that Mod Podge was only normal PVA glue mixed with water so I made my own.

They LIED!!!  It didn't stick to the glass AT ALL.  I left it for several days, emptied the jar and it all poured out staining my enamel sink and leaving the jar completely clear!

I don't want to make coloured glass any more ...

So, Elmers Glue, well, I READ that it's just like normal PVA glue ... You see where I'm going with this?

So I bought some clear PVA - stole the lid from SD's family sized pot of natural yogurt, tipped a load in.  Got my sparkly stuff and made a pretty pattern in the glue with them.  Shoved a bit more glue on top and left it on he window sill to dry.

Two days later when they said it would be dry I suck my finger into still tacky glue - those things took more than a week to kind of dry!!!

On day eight I'd had enough, I was peeling those sucker out of those lids and sticking them in my window!

I completely trashed two trying to get them out and the two that I DID get out in one piece were really rubbery and kind of ...  FLACCID.  The gems had floated around in the glue too and my pretty sequins that I'd arranged like flowers had sunk and also moved around but I was UNDETERRED!!

After all, only I knew they were supposed to look like flowers right?

The flaccidity (which may or may not be a real word) bothered me a little so I left them for another couple of days on the window sill.  They stayed flaccid ...

And half the gems fell out so it they ended up looking like a bit of flaccid, lacy glue ...

I took loads of photos to add to my post though because you can't SEE flaccidity can you?  Then my phone DIED - I mean PROPER died and I had to get a new one (which actually I was pretty happy about because it meant that I could upgrade to one with a 13 mega pixel camera and laser focus).  But anyway, not all of my photos were on the SD card, I must have somehow saved some to the phone so they are LOST forever!

All of which means I can't give you a proper snippets post although, to be honest, it's not like it was a great success anyway was it?

I did take one photo after sticking this one to every window in the house trying to find some sun to shine through it just to prove that I did actually make the bloody thing.

Anyway, I don't really want to make suncatchers any more ...

But I DID take a lovely photo of a cow feeding her calf at the farm at the weekend with my new phone so all is not lost.

Hopefully my next snippet will be slightly more successful and slightly less stressful!

Monday, 16 January 2017

I Am Officially GREAT!!!

And it's all thanks to this little bundle of joy:

Well, with a little help from her Mum (my niece) and her husband.

Little Maia my great niece was born at 39 weeks on the 13 January 2017 at  10.08 weighing in at 8lb 1oz.

Now all I have to do is wait until March when they all come back to the UK from New Zeland so I can have my first cuddle.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Established 1832

County Stores in Taunton:

That could be me sitting on the bench outside couldn't it?

This was going to be a post about the history of one of the oldest established shops in Taunton, certainly one of the longest still running shops that, until recent times, was entirely family owned.

County stores was due for closure this month.  Then It was given a reprieve until the end of March and yesterday it was announced that 'due to overwhelming local support it will remain open for the foreseeable future'.

Just what that foreseeable future will be remains to be seen.  I suspect it will only be until they find a new owner for the premises but hopefully that will take a while.

So I thought I'd write  post about this iconic shop, a place where, if you can't find it anywhere else, you will almost certainly find it at County Stores.

A place where you can buy handmade chocolates, handmade ON the premises.  A place where they not only have their own bakery making bespoke cakes for all occasions but they've also had the same baker making them for over 30 years!  A place where you can take afternoon tea, buy exclusive and often locally sourced gifts in the gift shop, chocolate olivers, little paper packets of herbs and spices, dried fruit for your Christmas cake sold by the lb and so much more.

But that's a post for another time because this morning I read this post by my bloggy friend K about a trip to the Birmingham Christmas markets with her daughter.

K and I have daughters of a similar age and every time she write about her it touches my heart because we share so many of the same fears and joys as we watch our girls grow up and form their own lives.

I'm going to be honest (because I always TRY to be honest here), there are times as a parent when it's been HARD.  Only fleeting moments and usually because of silly things like not being able to go to the loo on my own for several years.  There have been times where I've longed for just a few minutes to myself.  Times where I haven't wanted to have to think of them first before making any plans.  Times when I've just wanted to be ME.

But they were very fleeting moments and the more time I have these days to do just that the more I miss being the centre of their lives so I cherish each and every second they choose to spend with me.

Last week, believing that County Stores was due to close in the next few days I asked Miss Mac if she would like to have afternoon tea with me.

Being truly my daughter she jumped at the chance!

We ate cake:

Both of us had our eye on the last piece of cherry cheesecake so of course I let her have it and I settled for a slice of chocolate and ginger torte which was delicious.

I took her photo so we would always remember this special moment.

Got her to behave long enough to take a 'proper' photo.

Caught her unawares with this one in the gift shop.

And proved without question that she is indeed my daughter!

And found this - jelly with GLITTER which made us both so happy.

I'm going to miss County Stores SO much when it finally closes it doors and I will write a proper post so I can share the wonder that it is before that happens.

But right now, well, right now I'm just revelling in the wonder that is my beautiful, funny, lovable Miss Mac.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

It's That Time of Year Again

A time for reflection.  A time for introspection. A time to take stock, to make plans, set goals, turn the page and open a new book etc.

And a time to ponder ...


I confess, I was flummoxed (I have taken on board your lament for lost words BP and have resolved to incorporate the odd one here and there over the next year starting with flummoxed)

Flummoxed verb: To confuse someone so much that they do not know what to do.

What the hell ARE these things I hear you ask.


I confess, I had no idea either.  I'd been ripping open packages and parcels with gay abandon (yes, BP, I AM old enough to say that) and these floppy rubbery things fell into my hot, sticky, chocolate smeared hands at 8:07am on Christmas morning stopping me in my tracks.

I flapped them at Miss Mac.

'Oi, whatisit' I mumbled through a mouthful of Malteasers.

'Dunno' she muttered back attacking a particularly well wrapped present with her teeth. 'Things you stick on the window?'

I licked the middle bit and attempted to slap them on to the laptop screen but they just fell off.

'Bloody useless window stickers' I grumbled and put them to one side until my eyes could focus enough to actually read the label.

There's always that ONE gift isn't there.  You know the one.  For men it's usually a car cleaning kit picked up at the petrol station or a miniature multi-tool that snaps as soon as you try to pry out the teeny, tiny screwdriver.

For women it's a box set of floral bubble bath with matching talc or an oven glove (although I actually NEED a new oven glove because mine got shut in the oven door the other day and it's got a big burnt patch on it now).

Don't get me wrong, I am not UNGRATEFUL, I'm always happy that someone has thought of me and to be honest, I've bought my share of car cleaning kits and smelly box sets over the years too but sometimes I just can't get my head around how someone links me to a particular item.

Take THESE for example:

Yes, these were last years perplexing present, the FOUR wise monkeys ...

I confess to a little hysterical laughter when I opened them.

They actually sat on the shelf in my front room all year because SD said I was incredibly ungrateful when I suggested offering them to his Dad to light the log burner.

I have TRIED to love them, I really have but I was so pleased when Christmas rolled around again and I could legitimately hide them in the drawer to make room for the Christmas cards.

I asked SD if he had any idea what my floppy rubber flowers were for so he actually read the label.

They are NOT window stickers!!

Apparently they are drink covers. SD says the present giver obviously got wind of my middle classed pretensions and thought I might like them for placing over my glass of wine or Pimms when I'm sitting in the garden on a summers evening.

Well, I'm not really much of a wine drinker to be honest (although I DO like a glass of red every now and then) and I find a thumb over the top of my bottle of beer keeps the bugs out pretty well and I tend not to drink Pimms since that time I spent the afternoon quaffing the stuff with Nicolette in HER garden not realising that she's laced it with Vodka and when I left I walked out of her house and fell straight over her garden wall onto the pavement.

So I've decided that rather than ungratefully hide these in the drawer I'm going to sew them to a bikini top and wear them at the annual Beach Buggy get together in Swanage!

There was ONE other odd gift I (or rather Gus) received this year.

I had just got back from the annual Christmas Eve pub crawl and was eyeing up the mountain of veg waiting to be prepared when there was a loud banging on the door.

I opened it to find nobody there until ...

Looking down I saw Sue (she who declared she was a demented woodpecker at the Macmillan coffee morning.  She who hunts for snails under the table at our committee meeting.  She who insists that our Noble Secretary must return the eye of toad stolen from Ladram Bay and she who gave her goldfish mouth to mouth through a drinking straw killing 5 of them with her nicotine laden breath ...) on all fours rummaging through one of those large zip up laundry bags with multi coloured stripes.

She glanced up, fag in mouth.

'Sorry about the cigarette she croaked as I watched in horror while a trail of smoke drifted down my hallway.

'It's in here somewhere she muttered pulling out an empty butter container, a copy of the Independent and four large plastic roses.


'Ah HA' she said triumphantly handing me a foil packet.  'Half before the walk, half after - you have to dangle the carrot you know!'

I looked at the packet with it's odd orange coloured stick like things depicted on the front and what I am assuming was Polish writing.

'Ummm, thank you' I said (having no bloody idea what it was I was thanking her for).

'They aren't ALL for you!  She shouted. 'Open it up, go on, OPEN it!!!'

I pulled at the foil packet, nothing.  I tried to tear it length ways, I looked to see if there was a tear strip.  Nothing.

'USE YOUR TEETH' she bellowed, I haven't got all day!

I ripped it open with my teeth and immediately wished I hadn't as I fought the urge not to throw up in her still open laundry bag as the disgusting smell hit me.

'Tripe sausages' she announced with some satisfaction - 'For Gus, half before his walk and half after!.

So yes, I am reflecting, pondering and attempting to be less ungrateful for the gifts these (genuinely) kind and thoughtful people bestow on me and my dog.

Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas Past

This is a re-run from a previous year but time is getting away with me and reading this post again gives me a warm glow inside.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope it is filled with happiness for you all.

Sarah x

The dynamic of my Christmas has changed over the years.  This year different to last and last year different to the previous year ...

But there was a time where I remember the familiar fabric of this time of year, so well worn that it could have been the same comforter brought out time and time again wrapping me in a blanket of contentment and happiness.

My childhood wasn't perfect but there were times it was perfection and Christmas was always such a time.

Christmas began at the end of October when, in a steamy fug my Grandmother gathered together the ingredients for the Christmas cake, homemade mincemeat and the Christmas pudding.

Great bowlfuls of shiny dates, plump raisins and currents, oranges and lemons ready for zesting and squeezing.  Huge heavy based pans and long wooden spoons, walnuts to crack and glace cherries sticky and sweet ....

We each took a turn in stirring the pudding mix and making a wish, usually a hint whispered out loud as to what we would most like to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

Once cooked the cake was wrapped in greaseproof paper ready for feeding drip by drip from the large bottle of brandy.  The pudding swaddled in a muslin cloth and circles of waxed paper sealed the jars of mincemeat before their lids were given a jaunty bonnet of red and white checked cloth secured with an elastic band.

Everything carefully labelled with the date was then stored in the huge wardrobe built into the alcove next to the fireplace in the large bedroom at the front of the house where it sat glowing richly one the dark wooden shelves amongst the fruits of the summer which had been made into pickles and chutneys and jam.

I used to open the door occasionally just to wonder at the array of goodies lined up and breath in the scent of cinnamon and spices.  Sometimes it would seem like Christmas would never come ...