{29/11/2012}   A new toilet seat

I am staying in the flat I used to live in in Peckham.  For the past three and a half years I’ve on and off lived here, one of the two toilets has irritated me no end as the toilet seat moves around and a few times I’ve slid off it and ended up partially seated on the cold and often grubby toilet bowl.  Until Sunday, I had never bought a toilet seat before.  My life appears to be enhanced by the presence of a new and colourful toilet seat in that bathroom now.  I have also discovered that there are a lot of different kinds of toilet seats out there.

I never thought I’d get enthusiastic about toilet seats but here I am writing a post about them!  My quest began early last week when I first started saying here and had an early near-incident sliding on the toilet seat.  I tried to mend it, as indeed I have tried on many occasions before, but the fixture was well and truly broken.  Also, the seat itself was a little flimsy and unsatisfying.

I had a look in Sainsbury’s where, to my surprise, there was a toilet seat for sale, but it was white and £18 and this didn’t seem nice.  I realised I didn’t want a white toilet seat.  I looked in a few other supermarkets but they didn’t sell any.  I then went into one of my favourite shops, Kristal’s in Nunhead, a pharmacy that also sells pretty much everything.  I couldn’t see one but I asked and about two minutes later a very bright toilet seat was produced.  I recoiled when I saw it and rejected it, though it was better quality than the flimsy black plastic one that was currently hanging on for dear life.  It was a rather bright blue plastic with an underwater fish scene, lots of brightly coloured fish – £10.95.  Sorry, but I didn’t feel either Chris or I were bright tropical fish toilet seat kind of people.

I then tried online.  Oh my, there are so many different toilet seats.  I realise I don’t like novelty pictures, I didn’t want wood coloured wood, no white, no clear plastic, no water mark effects (I would end up wiping the toilet seat too often, thinking it was covered in dribble), no glitter … the list went on.  I couldn’t even find one I liked amidst all of them.

Then on Sunday, having failed to find a loo seat in a Tesco Extra, I detoured to Argos.  They had a whole page of wooden toilet seats (though not wood as I know it, but never mind) that were in bright colours.  I opted for a turquoisey blue seat, found it available and even discovered it was 25% off (£7.75 – more of a bargain than I expected).  I made my purchase and was surprised by how heavy it was.  I then, uncharacteristically (I am lazy, you see) set to putting it on the toilet as soon as I got home.  It fitted a treat, wasn’t complicated to fit and actually looks good.  I am now contemplating which colour to get for the other bathroom!  I never thought a toilet seat could change a bathroom so much.


{21/10/2012}   Internet shopping

I was just browsing (foolish, I know) on Amazon ahead of a small scale shopping trip tomorrow and before I could stop myself I’d pressed “one-click” payment and my order was in for £35 of stuff I had had no intention of buying online.  This scares me enormously, particularly that one click payment thing, as not only is it distressingly easy to part with money this way, I was sent into a mini frenzy as just – JUST – prior to clicking to “pay now”, my cat walked across the keyboard. I once found some unwanted shoe laces in my shopping basket (in more sensible days when I didn’t have one-click pay set up!) from her paw action so I have reason to fear she could have clicked on something inappropriate and potentially expensive.  However, the things I bought were going to be shopped for in London tomorrow when I knew I’d have a few hours to kill.  I am either scuppered for activities or I’m susceptible to a second, unnecessary, shop.

I know the Internet is great, offering more variety, more competitive prices, easy access to reviews and all this without leaving home.  However, would I have bought the three things I did?  Oh, actually today’s shop is a bad example as I would have done.  I also saved money on two of the three things by getting them online.  I’m all a fluster now as I was poised to rant about how you don’t really save money buying online because you end up buying things you wouldn’t have done otherwise … I see this is a heavily flawed argument.  I may have to conclude that I love the idea of going shopping much more, the actual event of going on a shopping trip, I also like to pick things up, feel them, read them, etc, and I also really want to support shops, particularly in these financially trying times.

However, it shames me to say that I did get a simper of a thrill from my one-click purchase of three things that I had been wanting/needing for ages and that I saved about £7 buying them online.  It shames me even more to say that one of the things I bought was a travel guide and I had already decided which one I wanted, having been into three or four shops to make that decision based on reading a few pages, checking out the pictures, etc.  So I had benefited from seeing and looking at books in shops, all at the full price of c£17, then went online and bought it for c£13.  I feel slightly guilty.  I was even looking forward to going out of my way to either Stanfords in Covent Garden or Daunt Books in Marylebone to buy the book, choosing those stores over the Waterstone’s, WH Smith’s or Foyles branches I had visited on my research missions.

All that said, for what it’s worth, I loved going into those bookshops with a purpose and I enjoyed looking at different guidebooks and making a reasoned choice as to which suited me best.  Plus, I was looking forward to going to Stanfords or Daunt as they are shops that make me feel comfortable, happy and like I’m about to go somewhere really exciting – the preserve of travel book shops in my mind.

As for inadvertently buying online today, it was all done very quickly and as I didn’t even need my wallet to pay for my goods, I’m slightly unaware that there is a debit on my account as a result of that little browse.  Ha, so maybe that’s another good reason to shop in shops: the handing over of cash or a card is a reminder that you are about to part with money, thus it is more likely to make you think twice about whether you really need to make that purchase.  Oh, and I can’t even read my book or use my laptop speakers because I have to wait for their arrival in the next three to five working days, which is likely to be when I’m at work so I’ll have to take the card to the Post Office to collect them …

{17/09/2012}   French supermarkets

A friend and I went to France for the day on Saturday.  As usual, I had a fairly big supermarket shop and as usual it was so much fun!  We were both very excited about the prospect of a shop, though we lost a precious 15 minutes of our one-hour pre-Eurotunnel supermarket sweep (for that is a little how it is with me!) due to trolley issues and my leaving my wallet in the car, fortunately discovered before being poised to pay.  There is something ludicrously exciting about shopping in French supermarkets.

This really is going to be an ode to Auchan as that was our supermarket of choice.  My friend and I think there are a lot more choices in large French supermarkets than large British ones, which we couldn’t explain when the floor space is probably the same.  We then worked out that the areas we were most interested in in Auchan were wine, soft drinks, cheese, cured meats, salady stuff and all things boulangerie and patisserie.  I think it is safe to say that all these sections are French staples and, for reasons unknown, are not British staples to the same extent – though in fairness British bakery sections take up a fairly large area.

There is something unexpectedly thrilling about seeing different brands and slightly different choices.  For example, there was a huge array of tomatoes.  I don’t often buy tomatoes and I certainly don’t get excited about them (though multi-coloured tomatoes have always fascinated me to the extent I buy them occasionally- I have recently discovered Lidl and they have a supremely exciting multi-coloured tomato pack!).  However, in Auchan I bought one of those beef steak (no, surely not “beef”?  Anyway, something like that) tomatoes.  It’s huge and has segment shapes like a very mis-shapen orange without its peel.  Guess how heavy it was?  650g.  For one tomato.  How cool is that?!  What I am going to do with it, I don’t know, though my friend had stuffing suggestions which sounded good.

However, when am I going to have time to stuff and eat a tomato when I have a fridge full of cheese, pate, cured meats and tubs of salady things.  Oh, just writing about it makes me feel desperate for it to be lunch or dinner time!  Though I do have croissants and pain au chocolate to satisfy my breakfast needs!  I know you can get coleslaw and potato salad, etc, in British supermarkets and I know M&S have a fantastic and inspiring selection of salady things, in fact more selection than in Auchan, but the French ones just seem far more exciting and delicious.  Plus, I do have a soft spot for mayonnaisey things and the French mayonnaise dishes seem lighter and nicer.

As for wines, most bottles mean absolutely nothing to me.  I know very little about wines, knowing a few that are easy to get hold of in the UK that I like, but about French wines I know even less; in fact I very, very rarely buy French wines in the UK.  In France, I go by the label and the price and am occasionally drawn to ones proudly displaying an award of some sort.  It’s always been hit or miss but now I have cottoned on to peeling off labels from bottles I like and sticking them on “wine I like” paper, my wine selection time is slowly reducing.  Mind you, as we had a mere 45 shopping minutes, my wine selection was very much grab, grab, grab!

It used to also be significantly cheaper to do supermarket shops in France, an extra bonus.  Now, I suspect only a few things are cheaper, but it still makes a supermarket shop a thing of excitement and a chance to shop with an “oh, f*** it, I’lll ‘ave that” mentality.  Plus it’s all in euros so that’s, ahem, Monopoly money so doesn’t count … right?!

Last night, I made moules frites using mussels I had bought the day before in France.  Every time I go to France I at least think about eating moules frites.  It’s a great, simple dish that doesn’t take long to prepare or cook.  But it turns out that most mussels from UK waters are exported, indeed I’ve only ever bought a bag of live mussels from our own shores maybe three times.  I am convinced this is as a result of bad PR that the UK isn’t associated with “mussels chips”.  After all, we’re known for fish and chips, though which in most cases are unforgivably dreadful.

In the UK, we have some fantastic produce, from fish and shellfish to meat and certain vegetables.  But what gets my proverbial goat is that we don’t seem to appreciate our natural resources.  Why, for example, do we sometimes go out of our way for New Zealand mussels?  Just because they’re bigger and have prettier coloured shells certainly does not mean they will taste better than those we could feasibly eat a day after being harvested, in fact even the same day.  But no, we’ve been brain washed into thinking that sometimes only New Zealand green lipped mussels will do.  What middle class fools we can be.

There are also a lot of food stereotypes, for example that toffs go shopping in Waitrose, Selfridges, Borough Market etc, and so can expect and afford better quality food, which mere Lidl shoppers can’t hope for (wrong!).  However, traditional Italian food has the right idea: a few fresh, seasonal ingredients can taste amazing.  A few evenings ago, with little in the house to make a meal, I made a pasta dish from three ingredients – tagliatelli (the only dried pasta in the cupboard), crème fraiche and good quality chorizo sausages .  I wasn’t particularly optimistic it would taste that great, after all how could three ingredients be enough.  But I was wrong.  I wouldn’t buy the three ingredients to specifically make it again, but it tasted really good.

I have recently discovered Lidl.  They do a Black Forest ham (maybe six slices) at, as I recall, £1.99, that for a treat I would happily pay about £6 for in Borough Market.  Likewise, they do a goat’s cheese roll that I would be prepared to pay about three times as much for as a treat.  But actually I don’t need to.  We’re all just a bit food snotty and often don’t appreciate that quality does not have to come at a price.  I have bought three bunches of spinach from Peckham’s various veg shops for £1.  You have to wash it and trim the stalks but the leaves are thicker, darker green and more full of flavour than most of the leaves you get in a supermarket for twice the price and maybe half the weight.  We – and by “we” I am probably referring to a label I detest, but our middle class, of which I resent being (probably) a “member” of – are brain washed into thinking quality does not come from street markets but from farmers’ markets and high end supermarkets.  But in the case of Peckham, no self-respecting West African is going to sell or buy puny, limp, baby leaf spinach.  Why?  Well why would you, it’s a fast growing variety grown for quick results; if you want a spinach dish to taste of spinach, buy proper spinach with a distinctive flavour, packed with iron, not a bag of “oo, it’s baby spinach which costs more, it must be the best”.

We do seem to have descended into a culture of the-more-you-pay-the-better-it-must-be.  Rubbish.  Yes, a budget pack of supermarket cheap meat can be chewy and tasteless  so you might think you’d be better off buying more expensive, say, steak.  You’re probably right.  But if you’re lucky enough to live in London or somewhere with a particular ethnic population, there’s a chance you’ll find cheaper steak from a local butcher than, say, Tesco Value.  I get annoyed that we as a whole seem to allow ourselves to be controlled by, largely, the supermarkets and food snob chefs.  We should trust our instincts more and/or pay more attention to simple, seasonal, local food.  We have long stopped being a nation of foragers, vegetable growers, etc.  What a shame – and I am guilty of thinking “more expensive = better” at times – so many of us have convinced ourselves that we can’t possibly have a good quality, delicious meal if we haven’t gone to Waitrose or bought Sainsbury’s Finest.  Every now and then for a special occasion, buy a punnet of Finest strawberries, then go and pick your own and taste the difference (note the absence of capital letters for Taste the Difference!).  One option will be cheaper and taste far superior, it will just take up potentially a lot more time, but it will be an adventure and a morning or afternoon activity – and think of the freebie potential!  I’m not saying we all have time for going to great lengths to source good quality food, I’m just pointing out that there are cheaper options for sourcing food that can be cheaper, we’re just becoming increasingly snobby, I think, about where our food comes from and how much it costs.  I think.

I dislike clothes shopping, it is a chore that usually ends up making me feel fat/weird-shaped/outcast!  I am writing this looking down on a failed pyjama purchase, it’s not pretty and it’s not fair.

Being on the pudgy side is manageable, it’s having boobs over a C-cup that causes me the most problems.  The pyjama issue is that the bottoms fit fine, as does the top … except that the boob-shaped area is, to put it VERY mildly, insufficient, thus rendering the top unusable, if only for aesthetic reasons.

Everyone has a different body shape and I appreciate that’s why clothes sizes vary from shop to shop.  Zara, for example, make clothes for people who are very different in shape to me; I would need to have about three of their sizes cut and sewn to get a top of theirs to fit me.  For my emotional protection, I never go to Zara.  Bench jeans work for me – a discovery made after years and years of research – but I still have to try on pretty much every style in the size I am by their standards until I find, usually two, different styles that fit me.

I do, however, have two favourite shopping places and a third fall-back.  I get most of my clothes from TK Maxx, then McArthur Glen Designer Outlet (Ashford) and, thirdly, department stores.  The common theme is that there are a variety of brands in a relatively small area so the odds of finding something to fit are increased.

I have to be in the right mood to clothes shop in TK Maxx, it takes a lot of time and patience, but as a result I have all manner of brands, styles, etc; good for interest factor but bad if you buy a brand you don’t know, want to buy more of but can’t find elsewhere.  Also, a bonus that you can get bargains.  Likewise McArthur Glen.  I went there earlier this year.  I needed a jacket.  I had a two-hour shopping slot (I arrived after work at 6 and the shops close at 8).  The shops were quiet, I tried on loads of jackets … and ended up, unsurprisingly, with the first one I tried on.  Whenever I go there for specific things to buy, I almost always get them.  Very satisfying.

As for the trauma of finding clothes that fit, when I win the lottery I am going to have bespoke clothing.  I have to buy one to two sizes bigger in shirts so my bust doesn’t strain in a way that boob-enhanced “glamour” models think looks cool/sexy.  I have to buy trousers a size bigger to enable my bum to fit in, but to the detriment of my waist which then has a waistband too big (and belts that have to tuck in a fair bit of waistband look cumbersome, especially when you have a shirt on that is two sizes too big at the waistline, thus giving you knobbly trunk-like attributes).  I’m fine with skirts.  I can get skirts a staggering two to three sizes smaller than shirts, though I’m (a) not into straight/fitted skirts or (b) not a big fan of skirts, unfortunately, though in part that’s because (c) they often look silly with tops that are too big because of aforementioned boob issue.  Vicious circle.

Don’t stop me, I’m on a roll now.  A lot of the time I look like I’m wearing maternity tops because a lot of tops fall from boob projection terminus straight down, not even touching my mini paunch.  I am as a result dreading the day I am offered a seat on the tube.

I am also really, really fed up of having to wear belts.  Surely there are other women with curves, well I know there are.  I would love to wear trousers that fit my waist and my bottom.

And, really, can “one size fits all” be anything more than a joke?  And another thing, what’s with all trousers being “one leg length fits all”?  Trousers used to be designed for my leg length, I never had to take trousers up.  Now they are usually made in one length, quite rightly to cater for women who would have had mid-calf length trousers previously, but which means me and most others have to either pay (£9-£14 I’ve had to pay) or butcher (NEVER study the hems I’ve done!) their trousers.  It’s scandalous and a huge issue in my day to day life.  Herrumph!


{22/04/2012}   Buying a new laptop

Having spent two days in car showrooms and another two days on the phone to car people, you would think I’d be steering well clear of showrooms and salesmen.  Yet within the week, I’ve now spent a long afternoon talking laptops in five different stores.  I now have snippets of car knowledge and a far broader understanding of what to look for in a laptop.
Unlike the car buying enterprise, where I found out what I wanted (an alpine white BMW 118i sport with sunroof) but decided to keep my car patched up for at least another year (I am not ready to embrace the concept of a car loan), I am now in possession of a new laptop.  I am also salesmanned out and fed up of big, bright showrooms.
I went to two Currys (I am very unsure about the apostrophes for Currys), two Comet stores and one PC World.  I would have liked to have bought my laptop off the very knowledgeable and totally unpushy bloke at Currys number one.  But by virtue of both geography (I moved from Folkestone to Ashford) and stock, I ended up buying it from Comet number two, from  a man I perceived to be a stereotypical salesman.  Admittedly, he was pleasant and helpful and didn’t try to push me towards the more expensive laptops.  He went round all laptops with my list of requirements, pointed out which would suit and checked availability of all.  But he did make me feel I would have to buy one!  I left the store before I did decide and I did go out of my way to find him to complete the sale.  I was then offered Office, Norton, cleaning gels and cloths, an array of service packs, a laptop case and then discounts when I said no to all bar the first two.  I don’t like feeling ever so slightly bullied.
Every time I buy a new laptop, desktop, netbook or iPad (of which I have all, completely unneccessarily and ridiculously), it amazes me the extent to which technology advances in the intervening years.  I was poised to get USB 3 ports (they are USB ports with a stripe of blue), thus making transfer of files, for example, up to ten times faster.  But then I found out that they are only effective when you use USB 3 compatible USBs.  I couldn’t even find a USB 3 compatible stick and none of my work equipment is USB 3 compatible.  I now know how to identify i5 first generation and, far superior, i5 second generation.  the former has a yellow/gold corner on the sticker, the latter has the same colour but a horizontal line with a sort of tick at one end.  My i5 is turbo charged, an i7 is pretty much supersonic.  My Comet number one advisor was a hardcore gamer, he described laptops in terms of how good they were for [game name that went straight over my head].  I could relate to that, strangely.
I am starting to grow tired of IT things now so I shall end here.  But at least it was a successful afternoon in terms of a purchase being made!  I’m not going to go into detail about the strops I had trying to set it all up though!

{21/04/2012}   Boot fairs

Has anyone I know sold things at a boot fair?  I have been to one boot fair in the name of research for a future boot fair selling day.  It was not a pleasant experience, though in part I probably chose the location badly.
I went to the one at the Flamingo Park on the A20 around Sidcup.  The odds are that anyone who’s ever driven from Kent into London on the M20-A20 has at some point been stuck in a horrendous traffic jam at boot fair rush hour because of that place.  To save on the parking fee, people park on the verge along the A20.  That’s never going to be pretty.  As for the boot fair – I will choose my words carefully – it was full of … well, Chris and I didn’t fit in, put it that way.  It did occur to me that my shiny gold, slightly sporty BMW (albeit 11 years old) would not be a great car from which to sell from.  I longed for my K-reg 1992 Golf!  We arrived at least two hours after it started, it appeared that more people were leaving than arriving.  And those leaving were laden, and in most cases I am not exaggerating, with … I don’t know what, stuff.
In short, though acknowledging that sales of anything decent had occurred hours before we arrived, it was full of, well, crap.  It was apparent that lots of sellers were regulars.  I also wonder how people can have tables piled high with brand new stuff, ie more than one box of the same thing, ahem!  I found it an unexpectedly intimidating environment, despite it being a sunny day with a slight holiday feel to it.  I very much got the impression that a lot, maybe even most, of the people buying were Eastern European farm workers using the boot fair as their local shopping centre, which wasn’t at my issue with that particular boot fair; it was more the over-familiarity between sellers and their almost professional trading techniques.  I was expecting people like me who go there every now and then to get rid of excess stuff.  I realised that boot fairs are the new jumble sales and one of the few places where you can pick up cheap stuff, not that everything did seem as cheap as it should’ve been.
I read a bit about selling at boot fairs, it actually put me off a bit.  The general consensus was that you have to arrive early (one near me starts at 7am Saturdays and Sundays and that seems about normal).  There are so many warnings about when you first open your boot as that’s when most thefts occur.  You are advised to always have someone with you to keep an eye out when you’re off to the loo or buying burgers or hot dogs.  You need a trestle table, ideally prices written somewhere, lots of change, some bags … it starts getting more complicated.  But it would appear to be an arena for selling things you never thought anyone else would want.
Within the next five months, I intend to fill my boot and get rid of stuff.  I got put off ebay after something I sent apparently never arrived plus I don’t like the ebay process.  Bring on the boot fairs.  But not the Flamingo Park one, I would have “novice” written all over me!

A few years ago for Lent, my boyfriend and I decided to give up supermarkets.  We started out embarrassingly smug and, thanks to a local fishmonger, greengrocer and butcher, we started off eating very well.  Then things like laundry powder, wine, clingfilm, tinned tomatoes and flour began to run out.  Our only easilly accessible non-chain was a minimart.  Realising this was the most obvious supermarket replacement dampened my smugness and is where flaws emerged for reasons of budget, quality and choice.

A lot of people I have spoken to about local shops have largely said they love the idea of shopping at a butcher, fishmonger, baker, etc but they don’t have the time to go from shop to shop (there are not many people who have all these shops in one small area), parking can be a big problem and that it’s not as easy to take young children with them (smaller shops, more queues).  A lot of people were also convinced it would cost more.

At the time I was living in Nunhead, southeast London.  We have an excellent fishmonger.  I would say the quality/freshness of the fish was superior to that of a supermarket.  The prices were also comparable, some fish a bit less, some a bit more.  The selection was much greater at the fishmonger and the staff are always willing and able to give fish advice, cooking suggestions and fancy fish preparation for an array of fish recipes I experimented with in those fish eating weeks.  A favourite was their suggestion to butterfly mackerel, soak it in warm heavilly (really, a lot more than you would consider ok) salted and sugared water for a few hours then BBQ it.

As for the butcher, it actually made me buy a wider range of meat.  Sometimes something would catch my attention and I’d buy that instead of what I’d intended to get.  Likewise, the butcher occasionally got out or especially prepared meat I’d wanted but which was not on display.  There may not have been buy-two-get-one-free packs of bacon, for example, but I only bought what I could envisage using and I didn’t think it was more expensive than supermarket meat, particularly as it is easier to get the right portion.  I do appreciate there are butchers at supermarket counters, but their range is limited and they have never had more meat out back from which to butcher a particular cut.  So, like the fishmonger, the butcher won me over.

The greengrocer we used is quite cheap, but again, no buy-in-bulk offers.  But, again I rarely want 5kg of carrots and I probably never manage to consume that amount of vegetable before it goes limp.  I notice greengrocers seem to sell relatively local seasonal vegetables cheaper than supermarkets but other things usually a bit more expensive.  But not always.  The verdict on greengrocer shopping was that there were fewer opportunities to buy unusual fruit and veg (I was frowned at when I asked if they sold papaya so I could make my beloved papaya and mango salsa) but if you chose wisely and were prepared to deviate from what you had in mind to buy, I think you would pay about the same.  I have a greengrocer near me now that has a fantastic selection of fruit and veg, far better than most supermarkets.

There is also a baker in Nunhead, everything baked on the premises.  They have a lovely selection of breads and cakes.  But they are expensive compared to a supermarket.  I ventured in there for the odd pudding/cake but if I didn’t so religiously use my bread maker for bread, I would have spent a lot more on bread.  Better bread, but at a price.

That is pretty much where the local shopping experiment ended in terms of quality and budget.  Shortly before Easter, I used the last of the cat litter.  The local shop didn’t sell the wood pellett stuff she has.  We had a very serious discussion about whether it would be ok to go to Tesco, the provider of the favoured brand of cat litter.  We decided we would go straight into Tesco, get the litter and exit the store.  So, feeling treacherous, we went into the first supermarket in over a month.  I had not expected to be so overawed!  There were offers everywhere, it was busy, noisy, bright, window-less, soul-less … but so (seemingly) cheap.  It felt like we’d been living in an almost pastoral idyll and had suddenly entered the future.  Very unexpected.  We got the cat litter, hovered over half price wine, distressingly cheap –  we’d been paying a lot more, albeit for different wines, on our trips to a particularly lovely independent wine merchant   – and gazed longingly at cheap good quality chocolate by the till.  We dared not speak to each other!

We continued buying fish, meat and vegetables locally and bought pretty much everything else from supermarkets again after Easter, actually a few weeks after Easter; we extended our abstention.  Having a butcher, greengrocer and fishmonger a ten minute walk away made it a lot easier though, and as it isn’t a posh area the prices make it viable.  Now, I have to pass one mini supermarket to get to a butcher, two supermarkets to get to a greengrocer and three supermarkets to get to a fishmonger (and I live by the sea).  I usually go to the supermarket.  Very disappointing.

     1893 advice to a lady:  “A woman who is too fat cannot take a step without puffing like a grampus, and being in a bath of perspiration; she is as heavy as an elephant; her waist and the great circumference of her hips give her an appearance of vulgarity, however distinguished-looking she may have been by nature.”

17th Century cure for baldness: rub cow dung into your scalp.

I have been in Hastings this weekend (almost snowed in) and I spent a while talking to someone I consider a bit of a local hero, Robert of Robert’s Rummage fame.  Being a great lover of rummaging, while paying for the three old books I bought I started talking to him.  Many years ago, he was a chef in a good London restaurant.  From that he got a love of old cookery books, a love it transpires we both share.  I have bought a lot of my old cookery books from one of his two shops, he says he’s getting rid of some of the not so old ones.  He then showed me an auction house brochure of largely 17th and 18th century cookery books.  It then transpired that he had a few of them, which he went and got out for me to look at.  I felt strangely privileged to be looking through c1650s books.  One had writing on every other page as each page of recipes was printed from a brass plate.  These books can cost c£4,000 if in good condition.  He then said I should speak to a bloke who’s just opened a shop up the road, Alastair Hendy.  The name rang a bell and I had already been in his shop, which is one of the most beautiful shops imaginable.  Alastair Hendy used to (or maybe still does) write for a newspaper, food related.  He would sometimes go into Robert’s Rummage and buy old cooking pots, etc, which Robert would then see pictures of in the paper a couple of weeks later.  I went to Alastair Hendy’s Home Store again.   (This is about him if you’re interested:

The shop is entirely in a largely Georgian house, with a bit of wattle and daub/Tudor.  He said it took three and a half years to renovate it.  In each room there are (expensive) home things, ranging from enamel ware (some old, some new) to sturdy bureaus.  There is even an old ladies’ toilet.  The room in the photo is clearly on a bathroom theme.  Wonderful shop.  Also, interestingly, on that street there is a baker, a shop that sells a bit of meat (I’m stretching for the butcher) and Hendy’s sells candles, proper ye olde stick in a candlestick holder candles.

I love that street and I love the old town in Hastings.  Today, unsurprisingly, it was extraordinarily cold, particularly walking into the icy wind coming off the sea.  It’s somewhere I like to go when I need inspiration for things to make or ways to make my home look more interesting.  This weekend was all about old books.  I have another weekend planned soon for a small table.  One day I may even return a lot of my things to Hastings as it’s somewhere I’d love to live.  It just isn’t somewhere I could live and commute to London.  My friend thinks it’s somewhere that’d make you want to go out and drink too much booze on a regular basis.  He could be right, though I can’t quite work out why there seems to be such a drinking culture!  Maybe it’s because there are a lot of pubs.  Like, seriously, a lot of pubs.

{15/01/2012}   A New Bag

This is the first time I haven’t first written this on a word processing programme. I don’t think there is a word count so who knows how much I’ll end up writing. Oh why, oh why are my paragraphs not coming out as paragraphs?  I can paragraph, I promise. Grr to technology. [They are now as I’m manually putting the little blighters in]

Yesterday, after one month of mission-shopping and maybe three additional months of half-hearted-shopping, I finally have a new handbag. My favourite bright pink velvet one broke to an unrepairable extent so this one is to replace that. I have others but there is something about a new bag.

Maybe probably definitely the reason it took so long to find a replacement was because I had an idea in my head of what it would look like.  It even got to the point where I contemplated making one myself, but as I wanted leather, I ruled that out. Plus I have minimal sewing ablilities.

I wanted a bag that could stand on its own, had dividers inside, whether seaparate zipped compartments or a middle divide zipped bit.  I wasn’t sure about colour.  It needed to be carryable on my shoulder and swing from my hand.  Then I started looking and realised I was fussy about the leather.  Some bags are either cheap looking leather or plastic disguised as leather.

I went sales shopping yesterday and thought I’d go to John Lewis, Selfridges and Harrods.  Nothing inspied me in John Lewis.  Nothing was in the sale in Selfridges and Harrods was all round distressing.  I saw one there that was worthy of further investigation, in the sale with an additional 10% off: £1,200.  Another one, more reasonable, £225 … oh, £2,225 (yikes).  And on spotting an ok one at the knock down bargain price of £7,500 I got annoyed and gave up.  Ended up getting one back in Folkestone from TK Maxx.

As for this whole designer bag bollocks, seriously, how is a leather bag worth THOUSANDS? How can anyone justify spending that much.  On a bag.  And if you’re a Harrods shopper, ie filthy rich, why buy something in the sale that still costs a fortune and that is probably out of fashion?  To put it mildly, most bags I saw (from a distance, looking in shock and horror at the branded bag displays) were rather too bling and, dare I say it, tacky looking.  I am glad I don’t get sucked into fashion following.

Now I have a nice new bag (dark brown leather bag with a very satisfying split bar top open – does that make sense), I have filled it with nice things.  I have taken great pleasure in putting things in it, utilising the three compartments and two zipped pockets.  I love an ordered handbag.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that I am looking forward to going to work tomorrow with my new bag, a new outfit and possibly the aforementioned beloved cowboy boots!

In some countries, Russia being one, there is a culture of not putting your handbag on the ground/floor of the train etc.  It always annoys me that we, people of the UK, and me put bags on the floor.  This means you can’t really then put them on your lap, on a sofa etc.  My new bag has little studs for feet.  Very practical.  I shall also endeavour not to put it on the dirty station platform tomorrow.

In a few weeks I will be bored of using the same bag every day so I will enjoy removing everything from my new bag, then putting it into an old bag that I haven’t used for a while, which will feel like a new bag again.  Such simple pleasures!  I worry slightly I am opening myself to Freudian investigation!

et cetera