The time between Christmas and New Year has always felt like a waiting room, indeed this year, feeling as ropey and sleep-deprived (yes, it is 2 something in the morning as I start to write – my earliest blog posting!) as I currently do, like a doctor’s waiting room.  I have spent this week, or at least parts of it, ill for so many years and I have usually squandered the time off, working only four years that I can think of over this week. Nothing is normal for there are new “toys” to play with and find homes for, the shops are in a state of confusion, getting rid of Christmassy things and putting the previous season’s stock on sale, everyone is hanging out for the next big day, which is New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day, and everyone always seems exhausted and/or ill.

A friend asked me yesterday if I had got to the stage of a kind of boredom associated with this particular week.  I realised that for the first time in years I hadn’t.  On Boxing Day I was largely ill (I have one of the heaviest colds I have ever had and it must be bad because I have been craving chocolates and treat food in a way I rarely do – kind of how you’d expect to be if you had worms!) and enjoyed being tucked up in a blanket watching TV/films.  Yesterday, I had a bit of holiday shopping to do and at home I largely sat around, ate mince pies, Christmas pudding and chocolates (yes, I really went  for it!), did a bit of holiday sorting/cleaning/packing and tried every remedy I could think of to try and alleviate the earache I have (getting better now, fortunately) ahead of tonight’s three-hour flight.  The latter took up quite a bit of time: bath, steam bath, Google search, yawning, chewing toffees (great excuse and it did help a teeny tiny bit) and fighting an unexpectedly successful battle to not feel sorry for myself – I am convinced I will go deaf on the plane, particularly as this actually happened to a friend of mine.

So here I am, awake with a blocked nose, writing what I am anticipating will be my final blog of the year ahead of five nights in Reykjavik, where rumour has it it will be snowing on Saturday and Sunday, where I am truly looking forward to going to the Blue Lagoon, essentially one huge steam bath – surely that will clear my head – and where I will be to end 2012 and start 2013.

Is there a point to this post?  Yes, yes, there is.  It is to embrace being poorly over the Christmas to New Year week, for then you can justify sitting around eating treats (satisfying your poor poorly body’s cravings/needs, of course) and watching television/reading books and to go away in the middle of this week, allowing guilt-free pre-holiday shopping (to be extended to sale shopping if that’s your thing), and then the final otherwise potentially wasted days of the end of the year (sorry to the four friends I have who have birthdays in this week) being spent somewhere you really want to be with friends you really want to be with!

So, assuming awful things don’t happen to my poor ears and I finish writing this and fall asleep (the potential is there now, I am starting to get heavy-eyed and I’m definitely typing slower), I would say this has been a most successful between-Christmas-and-New-Year week, even making the most of feeling pretty dreadful!

So, in light of the fact I have decided to have a Facebook/laptop/internet/mobile phone-free mini break over the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Happy New Year and I will be back on 2nd January, or the 3rd if things don’t go to plan with our flights home (which I do have reason to believe could be the case as we don’t really know what airline we’re getting due to airlines going bust, etc, etc).  I should also add, to my immense surprise, that as of tomorrow I will have written this blog for a whole year (with some holidays off) and for me (who never manages to keep things up for long) this has been a huge achievement.  May your 2013 be full of surprises, good surprises.


{27/12/2012}   Post-Christmas sales

I hate crowds and I hate busy shops, ergo I am not a sales shopper.  But for some inexplicable reason, every year I go into a town around this time of year and force myself to endure a bit of the sales experience.  It then means I can have a first hand rant about it all. However, this year, despite amazing sales figures, I have had two forays into town, both of which were largely bearable.  There is something both exciting and primitive (I’m referring to the odd tussle I’ve witnessed before) about sales for it is a joy to find a bargain.

I know a few people who have queued for the Next sale.  In the early hours of the morning.  This horrifies me.  They always come back laden with Next Sale bags and a long receipt, necessary for returns due to the inability to try things on what with all the people crammed into the shop.  I just couldn’t do it.  Love a bargain though I do, I cannot and will not put myself in a situation where there will be hundreds of (largely) women all prepared to push and shove to get the things they want and then to have to endure queues to pay.  I usually deposit my purchases near the queue area if I see more than a certain number of people queuing.  This has happened possibly 90% of times I’ve gone into Primark.

As a child, my mum loved the Harrod’s sale and we would often go there, as I recall for the last day of the sale.  It was always crazy busy but we always got a few things.  I remember going once and buying a £1 sugar bowl with the lid missing because it was originally £199.  I have no idea how or why it was ever that expensive, even with the lid, for it was a, ahem, distinctive shade of orange.

That, however, is a problem I have with sales, the mentality of, “Well, it’s not my size but it’s 70% off so I’ll buy it”.  I have a pair of trousers that I’ve never worn bought for their bargain status (100% wool and beautifully lined).  They might fit me one day, but I might not want them then.  Oh well, they were a bargain though and they do look lovely in my wardrobe!

This year, despite my little jaunt to the shops, which left me surprisingly unscathed and with a wallet no lighter than when I set off, I kind of enjoyed looking around.  I didn’t really see much that seemed a bargain to me, and anyway there have been sales all year.  Two years ago, traumatised by an early attempt at sales shopping, I left it until the end of January to venture back to the shops, going to Bluewater on a mission to buy work clothes.  I came away with some amazing bargains, though a lot were bought more because they were my size and a bargain rather than their being clothes I might otherwise have bought.  Another issue with sales.  I did enjoy that shopping trip and I did get some great clothes for a fraction of their original price.

My ultimate aim this year (and into next year) is to stay away from the shops and the sales as there is nothing I need.  It’s just so tempting sometimes to have a peek and it really is very satisfying to get a bargain!


{26/12/2012}   Christmas 2012

I write this with a heavy cold, very tired from having barely slept last night and surrounded by chocolates and sodden tissues.  Outside it’s blowing a gale and it keeps raining but I’ve just watched the original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, I’m at home with my feet up and Christmas lights on and somehow I’m feeling the love for Christmas.

Christmas these days is just my mum and I, though Chris joined us in time for dinner (although he is currently in bed poorly!).  My mum and I had a lovely day yesterday.  My cold didn’t get bad until about the time Downton Abbey started (mum’s TV choice not mine, I’d never seen it before, except for last year’s Christmas Day special!) so all went to plan, possibly a first.  I had wanted dinner for 7 pm and somehow it was all ready to be served at 7 pm.  This year’s goose came out the oven with a crispy skin (the excessive consumption of which is suspected to be the cause of Chris’s dicky tum!) and all went well with dinner, including crispy roasties and a passable brussels sprouts dish.

My mum and I didn’t argue once, we didn’t over-eat Christmas chocolates or get wasted on daytime drinks (has happened!) and neither of us were particularly ill (apparently one year my dad and I had flu and didn’t get up all day and I had a fair few years when I had bad tonsilitis!).  I like mum coming to mine because it’s the only time I see her sitting down doing next to nothing … well, she does have a soft spot for children’s films so managed to watch a fair few, with Tangled being quite a hit.

We even managed to go for a walk along the beach when it wasn’t raining.  It was incredibly windy but blew away all cobwebs and woke us both up no end!

As ever, we spoilt each other with too many presents – making up for small family Christmasses!  We each had our stocking, as did Chris when he arrived, and we both had time to “play” with presents!  Even the cat got involved and chased around the wrapping paper and balls of used sticky tape.  Oh, and she chewed a sheet of bubble wrap.

I was in the kitchen on and off from 3 pm to 7 pm, though the latter hour aided by bubbly (whoop!).  I enjoyed it, particularly as everything seemed to go so smoothly and I got the cooking time right for the goose, which I didn’t last year.

This is all very disjointed and not interesting to other people to read but for all the stresses surrounding Christmas, it’s the only time of year I will eat something I hate (brussels sprouts) just because it’s what you do on that particular day.  Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without your family traditions, some general traditions and a few new things.  It is for me about family, no matter how small your family and no matter whether those family members are real family or friend family.  It’s a lovely time of year, even if the odds seem high that at least someone will have some kind of ailment or there will be arguments and dinner issues!

{24/12/2012}   Christmas films

I have largely spent today in front of the television watching dreadfully cheesy Christmas films, none of which were classics, even with a stretch of the imagination.  I am currently watching a new animated Christmas Carol (which is a classic, and is indeed one of my favourite ever stories) with the lovely voice of Colin Firth, though sadly I will have to miss the end as I will be watching The Snowman and The Snow Dog.  Today’s enlightenment has been that I love watching cheesy Christmas films and that I can watch them all day long.

Christmas really is the only time of year when I can listen to awful music and watch awful films and I absolutely love it.  It’s like an excuse to succumb to guilty pleasures I fear I may be in denial about, ie a propensity for cheesiness!  But all these stories about Father Christmas, the North Pole, elves, reindeer, lovely things happening, magic, families, love all around (or, as in Love Actually, Christmas all around!) and sleighs and sleigh bells … oh, it is just like having a warm bowl of stew, a hot mug of chocolate or your feet in fluffy slippers, wrapped in a blanket, sitting in front of the television … hee, hee, I may be giving too much away as to where I am while writing this!

Tomorrow, I expect my mum and I will go through the TV guide and have mini squabbles as to who will watch what, though we are both likely to want to watch cheesy films.  I have said it before but Polar Express is one of my favourite ever films to watch at Christmas.  I also love The Snowman (not long to go!), Christmas Carol … no, no, there are just too many to list.  I would like to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, I haven’t seen that in years.  Ah, yes, I’m thinking of all the films I enjoy watching.  I even like watching Back to the Future around this time of year, despite it not being a Christmassy film.  I wish Christmas TV listings could go on for longer or there were another time of year when such films were aired, perhaps a  six-month Christmas on 25th June?

I am writing this in a state of distraction as I am rather enjoying this Christmas Carol and am getting twitchy about getting dinner sorted before The Snowman.  Oh, it’s all a bit much.  I had to stop myself going through the TV listings and highlighting all the films I wanted to see.  We used to do that, though there were then issues about dinner times and things clashing.  If only we had Sky Plus in those days, indeed it would be quite useful now too!  But there is something nice about catching bits of films you’ve seen quite a few times as it all adds to memories of Christmases gone by.

So with that, I wish you a very, very Happy Christmas and I shall take tomorrow off so I can watch films, eat too much and drink too much!  I will be in no fit state to write a post!  HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

There are not that many things I do every year but, in December, I now realise there are a few things I do every year and which are a huge part of my enjoyment of Christmas and New Year.  The longest-standing event is Christmas karaoke, which I have organised for at least nine consecutive years and which took place last Sunday (fabulous and festive as ever).  Yesterday, a friend and I did a recently started annual trip to get our Christmas Day food and we both had a fantastic day, preceded by dinner with three others and lots of Christmassy vibes.  Sadly though, another annual tradition, going to Whitstable (hmm, a theme!) on New Year’s Eve with a friend, won’t happen this year, though we have arranged to go a few days later so that kind of still counts.  But for someone who eschews routine in the sense of set times and days of the week (why I have never and would never do a weekly club, eg 7 pm every Monday night), I find reassurance and comfort in these December traditions.

Yesterday’s food shopping trip is getting more organised by the year.  My friend, N, booked her meat collection in advance so just had to collect and pay for it.  Quite specifically, the meat is from the Butcher of Brogdale, just outside Faversham.  I didn’t need as much, though I did collect a pre-ordered goose from another one of our annual shop (farm) stops.  As ever, we got all excited about the Christmassy meat counter and all the lovely meat – this time of year really does bring out the carnivore in me and we both had a surprisingly serious conversation about what would happen if some foul person stole my car (not a huge issue in this scenario) with our c35kg (no kidding) of meat (we concluded that if a vegetarian stole the car and the meat, that would be the worst case scenario!).  We then headed to a farm, Mallards, to get Christmas vegetables.  Again, this was more exciting than being about eight years old in a sweet shop with an unlimited budget!  We then drove round the corner, albeit through muddy and flooded country lanes, to Monkshill Farm where I collected my goose and got two dozen free range eggs, laid that day.  By this point we were full of the joys of Christmas, so much so N was singing “Mistletoe & Wine” with a little more enthusiasm than I would necessarily think acceptable for a Cliff song, but hey ho it all added to the Christmas buzz!

Our final food stop was in Whitstable at The Cheese Box to buy … well, cheese.  Lots of it.  We queued for about 20 minutes then spent as long as everyone else had at the counter, both ordering and sampling!  I love cheese, though I don’t really understand why something so rich and fatty has become a Christmas tradition as I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to eat cheese on Christmas Day, due largely to all round food consumption excess.  However, it has to be bought.

Our final stop, as ever, was for lunch (a late 3pm lunch, in part because we actually got organised and booked somewhere and that was the only available time) and this year we ate at Wheelers in Whitstable.  It’s a fish and seafood – “restaurant” would make it seem big and fancy, it’s not, there are only, I believe, 16 covers.  But, oh my, each of our three courses were utterly exquisite.  I can understand why every Christmas Eve the same 16 people dine there for the first sitting and the same 16 people dine there for the first sitting; apparently no one else will get a look-in to eat there on Christmas Eve unless and until one of the regulars dies.  I now get why those 32 people go there year in year out; some traditions are too good to give up.

We then stopped at a shop we also shopped at last year for a foil goose tray and festive serviettes before walking to the car, in the rain, laden with cheese and a few other goodies and me with my goose tray acting as an umbrella.  We got our feet wet and muddy and needed a torch to walk along the path back to the car, but it was all just lovely and Christmassy and delightfully similar to last year’s exploits!  Though we have decided to order our cheese in advance next year.  So I guess 2013 could be our most organised Christmas Day ever, but even if it weren’t it would still be a hugely enjoyable day out.



The other day, I was TV channel hopping and came across a polar bear cub looking adorable on the ice with his mum.  I love polar bears so I kept it on.  I started enjoying it and wondered why I hadn’t watched a nature programme for so long.  Then it all came back to me and I ended up having to turn off “Snow Babies”.

The truth is that I cannot watch killing between animals or animals being mean to each other.  The point at which I realised I couldn’t bear to watch nature programmes was during an episode of the stunningly amazing The Blue Planet where whales were not only killing seals but (oh, I can picture it and I feel sad again) flinging them into the air and playing with their dead and dying bodies.  I hated it.  There is enough cruelty in the human world without having to see the parallels in the animal/mammal/bird world.  That was it.  I turned that programme off in horror and distress and haven’t watched a wildlife programme since.

I was lulled by the baby animals/birds, particularly as they were all snow-dwelling.  All was going well, and indeed I don’t think they did or were going to show any baby creature deaths, but I faltered when an eagle took a very, very young caribou who had been running along the snow with his mum and family and friends.  Admittedly I didn’t see the death but it was a bit upsetting.  But I persevered.  Then there were cute bits – arctic foxes learning to pounce on ice, baby macaques all fuzzy headed, more polar bear cub lollops – and I got lured back in.  Then, there was a penguin incident whereby a little penguin, a young scamp, set off without his mum and waddled amidst the 80,000 identical penguins.  He got lost and kept crying.  I needed to know his mum would find him but he’d been heading out for quite a while.  It wasn’t looking good.  Then it got worse because some penguin mums had lost their offspring and were desperate to care for a baby so they set upon him.  All these hormone-charged girl penguins bundled in, stamping on him and squishing him.  I was transfixed in utter horror.  Then the narrator said he was just about done for, at which point he emerged from the scrum, having been kicked/shoved, and he was lying virtually unconscious.  I was so utterly upset … then his mum came charging through and scooped him up in her baby penguin carrier area and he was saved.  At which point I needed a sherry to calm my nerves!  Seriously though, I found it unbelievably upsetting.

I turned off after his rescue.  I don’t know why I find it so hard to watch.  Maybe it is because you can understand some of their actions and I guess, kind of annoyingly, you humanise them.  But I guess I like the fluffy lovely side of the animal kingdom as that’s kind of escapism.  So ultimately it looks like I’m more Disney than Attenborough, which I do find quite a disturbing revelation!

When I stay in London and do a seven-minute commute to London Bridge, I feel this is not long enough to contemplate doing anything, plus I almost always end up standing anyway.  It is on these commutes and similar ones that I tend to look around to see what other people are doing.  It’s all about the mobile phones and free newspapers, but mostly about mobile phones.  On longer journeys, I feel that people are more gainfully busy, often reading, doing work, eating breakfast (grr), painting nails (grrr) or on a laptop.

My usual commute is usually almost an hour and I always get a seat so I usually read, write letters (or Christmas cards), occasionally catch up on emails (so, yes, on my mobile) or, on the way home, work.  It occurred to me, while staying in London for a couple of weeks last month, that I don’t read, I barely write and I don’t feel I have any real sitting time (ie sitting with nothing specific to do) when I don’t have a proper commute.

As for the mobile phone and Metro-reading, I often think about how brainwashed we are regarding news.  I mean, a lot of the people who read the Metro probably don’t read other news so we are all fed the same stance and the same news.  I’ve always found that a fascinating phenomenon.  As for mobile phones, I increasingly see people playing games on their phones, something which I see purely as killing time.  Some people even watch videos on their mobiles.  I also see a lot of emails and texts and sometimes I have a sneaky peak at what they’re writing and reading.  We have lost so much privacy by having mobiles and using them in public.  Oh well, if you’re going to have a large, bright screen, what can you expect but someone to catch a look!  I’ve seen some fairly interesting things and a lot of banal nonsense.  Snoop?  Me?!

I know it makes a difference as to what you can feasibly do beyond playing with your phone or reading a paper, ideally a free one or one someone’s left behind, but, really, but what did we do before phones?  I guess trains were probably far quieter (no loud phone conversations or ring tones – can you imagine the quiet?!) and maybe people read more, listened to music more (though loads used to and still do that) or just sat looking out the window.  At least on a longer journey, particularly one where you’re seated, you have more time and space to read/work/write, etc.  That’s what I genuinely love about my commute though, it’s the time to do things like that, especially as this year for me has been an epic letter-writing year, pretty much all of which have been written with the caveat that my writing will be awful because of my being on the train (in actual fact, my writing is just as bad when I’m not on a train!).

Every now and then on days when I am staring at other people and thinking about how they’re spending their commute (from the busy, shorter-distance trains), I think that I won’t be like them and get out my mobile and idly look at Facebook in the desperate hope someone will have posted something exciting in the 30 seconds since I last checked it.  In reality, once I’ve concluded that maybe 80 percent of people are doing something on their mobile phone, I then resort to my phone for company.  Maybe one day I’ll switch off and keep off my mobile for at least a week’s commute … and then I could think about all the things I could write in my blog about what people do on trains.  Yes, I’ll write notes in my notepad and one day write it here, assuming I ever manage a week without my phone on my commute!

{20/12/2012}   Shop opening times

I read with horror that Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford is open until midnight tonight and tomorrow.  I expect there has been much distress amongst the staff who work there over who will get to work the graveyard shifts.  However, it being the run-up to Christmas and so many shops shutting at 5.30 pm, I guess it’s kind of a good thing.  I often think about shop opening times, which is a bit sad really, but it drives me mad that there is no consistency between locations and that a 5.30 pm closing time usually means I can’t do any shopping during the week, especially as I don’t get a lunch break in the conventional sense.

I think I will end up concluding that there is no win-win solution to this but it so often happens that can’t get to shops during the week so end up going to supermarkets.  That said, shops are clearly struggling, economic times being as they are, and I really don’t think most shops could contemplate employing more staff.  In Folkestone, where I live, as in most small towns outside London, the shops are generally open 9-5.30 and usually the same on Saturdays and those that are open on Sundays, it’s 10-4.

The other day, I decided to get a train to Stratford to do some early morning shopping before it got busy.  I arrived at Westfield at 9.45 am.  The shops didn’t open until 10 am, so I decided to go to Spitalfields market.  I got there at about 10.15 am and was even worse off for having done that as the market doesn’t open until 11 am.  I then started shopping in Westfield at 10.45 am, frequently muttering under my breath how annoying it was that the shops weren’t open earlier.

Likewise, I have got to Oxford Street for 11 am on a Sunday before.  But, no, the shops there don’t open until 12 pm.  Likewise, where I live there are a few shops that don’t open on Mondays and when I lived in Whitstable there were more that didn’t open on Mondays, but also a fair few who closed early on Wednesdays.

So, yes, I’m having a moan about the inconvenience to me of shop opening times.  I know it’s hard to get it right but in a way the Spanish and Italians could be onto something with their siesta times.  But like that would work in the UK as an awful lot of people rely on their lunch break to go out shopping.  I guess everyone is different.  I wonder how many people will go to Westfield between about 10 pm and midnight for their shopping.  They might catch a few drunken revellers who impulse buy, but are sober people who aren’t passing Westfield really going to stop in to shop that late at night?  I have been to Bluewater a few times between about 6pm and 8pm, though not near Christmas time, and it has been lovely; so much quieter.

In my ideal world shops would open at 9am and close at about 6.30 pm.  That said, if I worked in or owned a shop I would be appalled at the prospect of being open that long, despite it only being an hour more than normal.  I do, however, think late night Thursday shopping is a really good idea.  Surely enough people would go shopping to make it worth the shop owners keeping the shops open?

As I write this, I can see a lot of flaws with all propositions.  However, unfortunately for London shop keepers, I do think there should be certain areas, for example Oxford Street, that should open longer, say 9 am-7 pm every day.  Does that sound harsh?  I just feel that when I go abroad, shops seem to be open longer, or maybe I’m over-generalising.

Yes, see, I knew this post wouldn’t get anywhere other than to air the fact I am not happy about the opening times of shops!

{18/12/2012}   The Snowman

I love animation, children’s stories and Christmas so for me The Snowman has always been a film I have enjoyed and which I reckon I’ve watched most years on the television.  It was first aired in 1982 and has been shown every Christmas except 2003 (to coincide with a DVD special edition).  This year, a sequel will be aired, The Snowman and the Snowdog.  I am ridiculously excited about seeing it.

For me the story of The Snowman is magical because it brings to life a snowman and an ordinary child gets to fly and go to the North Pole.  These are all things that I’ve always wanted to see and do!  I don’t know why I never tire of it or feel I’ve outgrown it, I even love the music, Walking in the Air. 

This year, I have read a fair bit about the making of the sequel, and an added element is that now I appreciate more the hard work that goes into illustrating and colouring in each frame by hand.  12 drawings are needed per second of action and the film is 24 minutes long.  I find this truly amazing.  This just adds to how special it is.  It also increases the intensity of my belief that it was genius of Raymond Briggs to refuse a sequel.  He could easily have cashed in and produced a story each year, but he had written the story as a one-off; after all, the snowman melts.

I am glad this sequel got Raymond Briggs’ blessing and input and I like that it’s set in the same house, which over the 30 years has been modernised!  I also think it’s a nice idea that there is another family living there and another young boy.  The sequel starts off sadly, with the death of the family’s old dog.  There is then a snowdog, which is a lovely idea.  I don’t think the dog’s death is the key sad event but apparently it’s a real tear jerker.  I cry at the original, which ultimately is “merely” because a snowman melts. 

I also think the writers have been clever to have some familiar London scenes, for example the Oxo Tower and the Houses of Parliament.  I am also very excited that there will be penguins, though I have a slight niggle they are solely birds of the South Pole? 

I know it might seem a bit sad to be of undeniable adult age and be looking forward to an animated film, but in the days of amazing computer generated graphics a film created by humans and pencils is a joy and a work of art.

So where will I be at 8pm on Christmas Eve?  Yes, in front of the TV ignoring any phone calls, though whereas I would have more likely first watched it with a mug of hot chocolate to hand, now it will more likely be a glass of Baileys (cos it’s Christmassy, right?!).  Roll on Christmas Eve!

{18/12/2012}   I miss Woolworths

In early January 2009, almost four years ago, Woolworths stores closed forever, leaving just the internet business.  Believe it or not, I often wonder where to buy certain things from and wish there were still Woolies stores to go to because they’d have sold what I wanted.  A lot of people I know at the time said they weren’t surprised as they didn’t really go to Woolies much.  I guess I went there quite a lot because for two years I lived in walking distance of a store, in Lee, for six months I changed buses outside Woolworths in Brixton and, well, there was one in every town.

I often wonder how they’d have done now that people are more keen to shop in cheaper shops.  I recently wanted some fabric dye and could only think of Woolworths to get it.  Yesterday, in pursuit of stocking fillers, Woolworths would have had the best selection.  I also drew a temporary blank as to where to get some insoles, but finally thought to go to a shoe repair shop.  I suppose part of their problem was that they sold a bit of a lot of things and sometimes it was better to get the variety.  For example, if you wanted a CD you probably wouldn’t have gone straight to Woolworths, rather going to a designated music shop, such as HMV.  Likewise, for DIY stuff there’s often a Robert Dyas or equivalent on the High Street.  Stationery?  WH Smith or Ryman.  Plus, the more I think about the larger supermarkets I go to, the more I realise they sell pretty much everything Woolworths sold.  Aren’t we lazy?  We now seem increasingly satisfied to buy everything in one shop: computer; curtains; food; stationery; TV; frying pan; mobile phone; Christmas decorations.

I used to buy a lot in Woolworths, and I particular enjoyed the odd Pick ‘n’ Mix bag, though I was somewhat put off when people kept telling me stories about the hygiene issues and horrible things children (and probably adults) do to some sweets (I had a friend who worked in a cinema with Pick ‘n’ Mix and he refused to ever eat them based on what he used to see!).

Another sad thing about the demise of Woolies is that that was one of the early victims of the recession and I had no idea how many other familiar stores would go, for example The Pier, Habitat, Comet, Past Times.  Now our High Streets seem to be full of empty shops and temporary shops and a lot more bargain, 99p or £1, shops.  There really have been about three or four times I’ve thought about something I’ve wanted to buy in the run-up to Christmas this year and have thought first of Woolworths.  I don’t think to go to supermarkets, I usually end up going to a few shops, but if I’m in a supermarket and in the mood to wander up and down most aisles, I do get a lot of non-traditional supermarket things there.

I guess the way we shop has changed a lot in the past four years and there will no doubt be more change ahead but if I could bring back one shop, it would without doubt be Woolworths.

et cetera