Blog : Posts tagged with 'shopping' : Page 1

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Sizing

In which measurements are somewhat elastic.


Christmas being over now, we’ve finally finished all the Christmas things. Visiting all the family, distributing all the presents, and taking back to the shops everything that doesn’t fit.

That latter category seems to be getting bigger and bigger now; with more and more online shopping, it includes more and more things that we’ve bought for ourselves and not just things from other people.

I wouldn’t mind so much, if maybe different shops and different companies could be maybe a little more consistent. You see, I know how big I am.* So I go online and I look at sizing charts, I buy things that apparently match my body, and find that they don’t fit. At all. Fair enough. So I go to my wardrobe, and I find something from the same manufacturer, roughly the same type of clothing, that fits me. I note down its measurements. I buy that size. And, when it arrives,** does it fit? No, of course not. Nowhere near. How stupid of me to expect that it would.

Now, I know consistancy can be tricky to get in mass manufacturing: for one thing, I’ve been told before that no item of clothing will be exactly the same size as something else from the same batch, because of the way stacks of fabric are cut. And I’m used to the fact that different shops size things slightly differently, so Expensive Middle-Class Suits R Us will make slightly larger clothes that make you feel that little bit happier when you slip into a size 10, when Stylish Cheap Teenage Fashions Inc are a bit stingier with their stuff and will make you buy a size 16 for pocket-money prices. Even so, I’d expect different things from the same shop to be at least vaguely comparable. I don’t expect two garments to be six inches different on the label,*** but the same physical size. Grrr.

* About this tall, that wide, and so round around the middle.

** and “waiting in for delivery men who then don’t bother to ring the doorbell” is a whole another rant for another day.

*** literally, six inches. I wonder if anyone does make clothes out of literal stuff any more, or if you can even buy it.

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Retail Opportunity

In which we promote a good cause


The other week I mentioned, in amongst the other things I haven’t blogged about lately, the local football club’s plan to make lots of money knocking their ground down and selling the site to Tesco, disguised as a “let’s bring the World Cup to Bristol” campaign which they seem to be using to blackmail the city planning department. There is, of course, no need to build a Tesco on the site of the football ground. There are two other branches of Tesco within about fifteen minutes’ walk of the new site, two other large supermarkets within the same distance, and a very large Tesco about fifteen minutes’ drive away.

Unsurprisingly, lots of other people have noticed this, so I thought I would put a quick mention of them here. The Bristol Blogger has been looking at the football club and council’s published figures and knocking holes in them: here, here and here. Unsurprisingly, the city council’s marketing figures seem to be vastly overstated. Meanwhile, there’s a local residents campaign to fight against the Tesco plans. They’re called BERATE, and they’ve got a blog up, with links to their petitions; and old-fashioned paper petitions in a lot of the shops in the area. I’d imagine most people from Bedminster and Southville have already seen it, but they deserve as much publicity as possible.

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Library

In which we go to the seaside


We should be banned from second-hand bookshops. They’re far too tempting. Even though we have hundreds of books, many many books we’ve never read, we still can’t resist popping into a second-hand bookshop and buying more. It’s not like going in a normal bookshop, where you have a good chance the same books will be on the shelf the following week. If you’re in a town you don’t know, and you visit a second-hand bookshop, there’s a good chance you might come across a book that you’ll never, ever see again anywhere else.

All this is making us sound very middle-aged. A weekend out for us: tea rooms and second-hand bookshops. It makes us sound like fifty-somethings. Oh well.

We’re still trying to find the Ideal Seaside Town, you see. So we went out on Saturday, to a potential one, and found a quiet (but windy) prom, a quiet (but very windy pier), a nice second-hand bookshop and a shortage of tea rooms. We did find more books for our library, though, squeezing into the bookshop. “Sorry about all the boxes everywhere”, said the proprietor. “You can’t get to all of our shelves at the moment”. Which is no doubt a good thing, because otherwise we’d only have bought more than we did.

On the pier, we got chatting to some fishermen who were leaning back and waiting for a bite. “You look a bit like Cliff Richard,” one of them said. Unfortunately I didn’t have a seagull on my head at the time, so there goes that joke. I can’t see the resemblance myself.

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Woolies

In which we lament the demise of vinyl


Ah, farewell then, Woolworths. Well … maybe. Certainly my local shop is still soldiering on, as I assume the rest are.*

It’s maybe a sign of how the chain’s going, though. I last shopped there a few weeks ago – picking up a gift voucher for K’s niece – and it was a strange experience. Because my local Woolworths doesn’t seem to have changed for a long, long time. Everyone else on the high street has shiny displays; Woolworth’s here is a step back in time. Slightly worn shelving that wouldn’t have looked out of place in my grandfather’s newsagents twenty-five years ago; everything piled up on it without much thought. Worn linoleum. No fancy ceiling or light fittings: bare plaster and unshaded fluorescent tubes are fine for Woolworths. If the shelves had been emptier, I’d have thought maybe a wormhole had decanted me into Moscow, circa the Andropov years. I almost expected to find carrier bags bearing the 70s coil-of-wool logo that I remember from childhood.

Personally, I still have a little bit of affection for the place. I’d never shop there, not any more, but once upon a time I did. Back when I was a teenager, it was the first place I ever bought music from; my first port of call at first; and then, as I knew more, the place I would come to flick through the 7″ singles and buy ones that had just dropped out of the charts. When they stopped selling vinyl, in about ’95 or so, I stopped going.

I almost typed there: “if you told a teenager today that Woolworths…” – and then I stopped and deleted it, because it made me feel old. Strange to think, though, that people today have completely forgotten Woolworths was once the best place to buy singles, back when Apple were a failing computer company** and portable music meant songs taped off the radio. Nowadays, it isn’t the best place to buy anything. Still stocking vinyl would hardly help, in this decade, but looking a bit smarter might. If they didn’t look like they’d furnished the place with other people’s cast-off shelves, it would be a start.

* A bit different to when the Fopp/Music Zone chain fell over: one day they stopped taking card payments, the next the shops didn’t open, and that, then, was that. Or, indeed, the Dutch ISP Aramiska, which gave its customers a few hour’s warning before they ceased operating with no explanation.

** People forget today that the first Apple Mac was a commercial disaster, so much so that its champion, Steve Jobs, got fired from the company partly as a result. I recommend reading any of the many books about the development of the Mac and the Apple company in the early 80s.

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The quest continues…

In which we go on a quest for condensed milk


After Thursday’s post, Kahlan got back in touch, with a tip-off. Apparently there had been a rumoured sighting of a can of own-brand non-evil condensed milk, in a Waitrose. So our Saturday was spent driving 25 miles to Harrogate, the nearest branch,* to find … Nestlé products firmly on the shelves. Oh well.

To make up for the disappointment, we bought a jar of dulce de leche instead, and tried to make cookies, from this recipe. They didn’t quite turn out as I expected, being rather flat and soft, but they still taste good, albeit so sweet that I can barely manage to eat a couple at once. Not surprising, given the huge amount of sugar in each one.

Cookie ingredients Cookie mixture Cookie mixture Fresh-baked cookies
Sandwiching cookies Sandwiching cookies Dulce de leche sandwich cookies

A quick redaction of the recipe, the way we did it: take 230g of butter, chop it up, and beat it until it’s soft. Open your jar of dulce de leche and taste some just to make sure it’s not off or something. Beat 3/4 cup of light brown sugar and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the butter, then add 3/4 cup of dulce de leche, assuming you can scrape it out of your measuring cup, and beat that in too, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Lick your cups clean, and your fingers, and anything else the stuff has stuck to. Add 2 eggs, mixing them in one by one, before sifting 2 1/2 cups of flour, half a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bicarb into the mixture. Rest the dough for a few minutes before putting teaspoon-sized balls of it onto baking trays lined with greaseproof paper, and bake at 160 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the baking tray; then when they are properly cold, carefully pair your cookies up into matching-sized pairs before using the last of the dulce de leche – if you have enough left – to sandwich the pairs together. Yum.

* and the only post code district left in the country that’s free of the Mighty Tesco

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Notes on Riga (part 2)

In which we’re warm on holiday


“Ooh, how are you going to cope with the weather,” everyone said, when I told them I was going to Riga. “You’d better get some warm clothes.”

So I went out, shopping. I bought an all-enveloping thick wooly jumper (in the sale, Burtons in Middlesbrough) and a rather nice brown wool coat (in the sale, Debenhams at the Metro Centre), and, well, that was it. “That’s no good,” said The Mother. “You should have been going to sports shops. You should have got some skiing clothes, lots of layers, something waterproof, make sure you’re properly insulated.”

“Have you packed any sunglasses?” said Dad. “You’ll need sunglasses if you’re going somewhere like that in winter, otherwise you’ll get snow-blindness.”

“That’s a nice coat,” said someone at work. And then she laughed. “You’re going to freeze if you’re wearing that to Riga.”

Take a moment to spot the common theme here. Lots and lots of advice, on what to wear, from people who have never ever been east of Margate.* We do have a Resident Pole in the office, though, who has travelled up that way, and she thought I’d be fine. “I always think it feels colder here,” she said, “than on the Baltic. It’s something about the dampness here.”

And, it turns out, she was almost right. It was certainly damp and grey in Riga, with overcast skies most days, and sometimes a fine misty rain; but it didn’t feel any colder than Britain in winter. No frost, no snow. Chunks of ice floating on the river and the City Canal, but otherwise just like home. If I’d taken skiing clothes, I’d have melted.** As for needing sunglasses – the thought still makes K giggle.

* Well, The Mother went to the Dalmatian coast in 1972, but that doesn’t exactly count.

** One thing we found: every building in Riga, every shop, museum and restaurant, keeps the heating turned up on full blast. On the other hand, when you come inside wrapped up for winter, you’re expected to take your clothes off. All the museums we visited had free cloakrooms at the door, and restaurants and cafes all have communal coat-racks that everyone happily uses.

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Yuletide

In which FP feels like cancelling Christmas, but bringing back Yule


There’s five days to go, and I already feel like I want to cancel Christmas. I haven’t written a single card. I haven’t bought many presents, and I have no idea what The Parents actually want. To be fair, neither do they. I try to go look for something on my lunch break, and everyone else has had the same idea. The roads into town are gridlocked; as soon as I’ve found a parking space, it’s time to head out back to the office again.

But then, I look out at the night sky, and I remember what the Yuletide season is really about. I feel the crisp air, watch the frost, and think about the turning seasons. On Saturday,* the daytime stops shrinking and slowly starts to get longer again; and there is winter itself to enjoy. As this year starts to turn over into the next, I know I’m older, wiser, learning more about who I am and what I enjoy in life; and becoming happier with it, too. And I’m looking forward to life with excitement, and wondering just what we’re going to do next.

* Pedants might point out that the solstice is on the 21st, and Saturday is the 22nd. However, the solstice isn’t always on the same date. This December it’s on the 22nd, unless you’re in the Far East.

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I do not understand economics

In which we work out the surcharge for custom service


Browsing through the rope-and-chains aisle in B&Q* yesterday, fiddling about with the reels, I found some reasonable-feeling polyester rope. 5mm, cost 90p per metre. Affordable. I know B&Q is usually a horrible rip-off, but I wasn’t feeling active enough to find a better supplier.

Before bothering an assistant to get some cut for me, I looked at the lengths of precut rope they had nearby. The same stuff, the same colour, on a plastic reel. I checked the price: 50 feet 15 metres, for about £9.50. Or, in other words, about two-thirds the price of the same rope cut to whatever length you like.**

I’m sure the only thing this shows is that B&Q’s legendary exorbitant markup really is as bad as I’ve always thought: where they think they can get away with it, where you won’t bother to do the sum yourself, they’ll take you for as much cash as they can. And I suppose their main market isn’t people who want to buy the stuff in bulk, it’s people who pop in for a couple of metres at a time. Next time I need some rope, though, I’m going to do the legwork, maybe call the manufacturers, and find somewhere that’s slightly less of a rip-off.

* You can tell someone in their management must have picked up early on how important domain names were going to be.

** I would demonstrate this by giving links to their website; but their website is horrible, horrible, horrible to navigate.

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Sunday Sunday

In which we’re all efficient


We managed to be awfully productive yesterday. We’d gone to bed fairly early on Saturday night,* so got up bright and early on Sunday morning. We were having breakfast in town when the streets were still deserted, and were wandering around shopping in almost-empty shops. We even managed to get all H’s grocery shopping done, get back home, feel like we’d used up a full day’s energy, and it was still only one o’clock. A whole half-a-day left to do productive things, creative things, imaginative things, limited only by our own imaginations.

So, of course, we lazed around on the sofa and ambled around the internet all afternoon instead. Hurrah!

* after a rather nice Indian meal at a restaurant on Chants Ave.

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Coming to conclusions

In which we go shopping


A very nice man said to me today: “It’s been a good year, I think.” And it has for me, too. It’s been a very good year, and a very bad year; and the strange thing is, the good and bad parts have been together at all times. It’s been an extreme year, I think, a year of travelling and new experiences, of meeting very nice people, very nasty people. Most people aren’t specifically nice, or specifically nasty, but can be either if they want to be. A few, though, are at one extreme or the other; and luckily I know more of the former.

In the news today: the shops are supposed to be busy. They’re not, though. I’ve just got home from a trip to Leeds, which is usually a horrible place to visit on a Saturday; and compared to most weekends, it was positively quiet. York was the same today, I’m told, and the roads everywhere in the region weren’t exactly busy for a Saturday. The predictions of huge floods of shoppers are more down to the wishful thinking of the shops, I think.

Someone else said to me recently: “do you know what an emo is?” And I found it a rather hard question to answer. So if you have any suggestions, tell me.

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