I thought we would wait in a much grander room than this, nothing to inspire my new stand up routine. But what a selection of odd bods here for the audition, plenty of material there. A few gals and chaps I recognize from the circuit, the third division circuit, ha ha. Hmm… some well known people from television, surely not as desperate as me for the job. I am banking on them choosing an unknown so He can’t be accused of favouritism or worse if they pick someone the press can dig up the dirt on.
Would you believe it, he’s certainly come dressed for the part, wonder who designs his dresses, looks like a cross between a wedding cake and a fifties party dress. Must be a wig with all those ringlets. I’ll tell you who’s not wearing a wig… Himself has just walked in, has he no pride, you would think he could comb his hair for once, better still have a hair cut; but come to think of it, he’s just right for this job and he should have some cracking politician jokes. But if they are looking for an all rounder I bet he can’t sing or play an instrument. That’s what I’m counting on and He does love music, though I’m not sure He’ll be keen on my harmonica, ukulele probably more up his street.
Wonder if we just present our routine or they tell us what they want. That’s what it would have been like in the old days…
‘Pray sing me something soothing, have you perchance a new ballade?’
If they didn’t like the melody it would be off to the tower… new topical jokes every day, not easy when you had to wait for a ship to sail in and a messenger on horseback. Much easier now with social media, but have to be quick off the mark with a fresh joke that hasn’t already been made by those political commentators on the news. Speaking of which, look who’s come in the room; he doesn’t need the job, unless he’s expecting to be sacked by the BBC. I suppose he would at least know where to draw the line, not like some of the stand ups. Politics, modern art, avoid family life…
Ah ha, that smart chap has returned with his clip board, still got a face like a wet Sunday. Then so have all the people in this room, like they are afraid to smile or crack a joke till they get in there.
Hell, he’s beckoning me to be first and look who’s giving me a thumbs up, patronising bastard, no doubt confident he’s going to get the job. Well it’s not over till it’s over, maybe I’ll throw in a few jokes about the other applicants to be Jester at the Court of King Charles the Third.
A staff member stood at the entrance to Wilko, apologising that the computers were down and they were only taking cash. I was vindicated, smugly waltzing in with a £20 note in my purse. Anybody who has been to Wilko’s will know you can get quite a few things for £20.
How many of us have been ’treated’ to a meal by younger relatives only to see them turn from the till and say ‘Have you got any cash on you, the card machine is broken.’
Will cash be phased out, should it disappear? Covid hastened the avoidance of real money in those early pandemic days, when we were told to avoid touching anybody or anything. Even shops that had been cash only started accepting cards. Anyone who has hands that don’t work properly, whether through stiff joints or peripheral neuropathy, will ruefully remember their school days; Saturday shop jobs when they were amused to see old people tip the whole contents of their purse onto the counter, as they could not see the coins properly. Swiping your piece of plastic, phone or watch could be seen as a great way to avoid fumbling around as the queue at the till builds up behind you. So why should we preserve the Royal Mint?
How can children learn about money if they can’t see it and see their pocket money disappear when they buy comics and sweets? Who doesn’t look back fondly at jobs where their weekly pay came in a brown envelope. If your salary goes straight in the bank you never see your hard earned money.
You may be reluctant to buy a coffee if you have to break into a shiny new note, but loose change is handy, vital for lots of things. Putting the smallest coins in your piggy bank probably won’t amount to a holiday, but you can have fun pouring the contents into a Coinstar machine or taking a bagful of coins to an amusement arcade. If you are selling raffle tickets at your club’s evening event you hope everyone has real money in their pockets. At the library coffee morning there may be glares if you have no coins to drop in the ‘voluntary contribution‘ tin. Then there are the times parents have used a coin to unlock the door of the cubicle in the public toilets when their child was locked in…
Counting up other times I need cash there is the Big Issue seller ( yes I know some of them have card machines now, but ours haven’t ) , spending less than £5 at the greengrocers and putting a pound in the saucer for the Wick Ferry.
Money is part of our national identity and a highlight of your first holiday abroad is working out the ‘foreign money.’
Do you take cash out with you? Wads of notes because you are laundering money or just a fiver and a few coins?
Guerrilla shopping in its purest form means only ever using cash, it is the opposite and perhaps the antidote to the big shop. When you go to Superco and use your plastic, phone or watch to pay and swipe your Happy Superco Shoppers’ card to earn points ‘they’ know exactly what you have bought, how much you have spent and when. In seconds your lifestyle has been assessed by Algo Rithm. We don’t know who he is, but do we want him to know everything about us? He has friends everywhere so anything could happen. When you go to the doctors or clinic to have your diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol etc checked they will frown at you and say
‘Hmm, I see you bought a bottle of whisky, two giant Toblerones, a dozen Cadbury Crème Eggs and no fruit or veg last week.’
The guerrilla shopper slips under the radar, using every shop in his neighbourhood and beyond, buying a few items at each, never visiting any location at a regular time or day. There is no record of what he spends, eats or reads.
There are many other reasons for being a guerrilla shopper, apart from being a criminal or paranoid. If you are on a tight budget you can take advantage of the best prices and offers and get your clothes and crockery at charity shops.
If you do not drive and wish to avoid Dearburys’ Delivery knowing exactly where you live as well as what you eat, then you must shop at every opportunity, buying only what you can carry, fit on your bike or clamber onto the bus with.
Adventure is a popular reason for guerrilla shopping, providing excitement without going hunting or to a war zone and fun without going on holiday. Guerrillas do not ‘go shopping’ they go on an expedition to find vital supplies. Will you manage to get enough for dinner, perhaps come back with a surprise bargain from the charity shop?
Even in rural areas the guerrilla should be able to shop; the milk machine at the dairy farm shop where you put your coins in and fill your reusable bottle, the free range eggs with the honesty box at the farm gate in a lonely lane, farmers’ markets and ‘pick your own’ fields…
In Southbourne Grove we have a treasure trove of shops, the only place we’ve lived which has gone up rather than downhill. As well as Sainsbury Local, Tesco Express, CoOp and One Stop, the guerrilla shopper could buy one onion in the greengrocers, a chicken leg at the butchers, a roll at the bakers and brooms and batteries at Southbourne General Store. There are also all the shops you could want for gifts or leisure and plenty of coffee stops. The only thing we and other shopping areas have not got any more are banks…
If you are using cash you still have to get it from somewhere. Cash machines mean you have to use your card; Algo Rithm will know you have been there and a hidden camera will take your photo…
Have you tried guerrilla shopping? ~What are your favourite shops?
Doing a Big Shop is the nadir of modern life and of married life. While wars rage and the planet hovers on the brink of destruction, couples argue in the aisle about which loaf of bread to get or which size washing powder to buy.
The inane conversations start in the car park as a partner or elderly parent in the passenger seat passes comments such as
‘Why didn’t you just park there?’
Once inside, the question of tonight’s dinner arises; ‘seeing what they’ve got’ is never going to work in a huge store packed with everything. Perhaps this reminder of how lucky they are to have a choice of food will start another banal conversation.
‘Shall we get a tin of baked beans to put in the food bank box?’
‘How can you be so patronizing, they probably live on baked beans, let’s get something decent.’
Of course there may be dramas to alleviate the boredom of trailing round every aisle, such as meeting your neighbour who tells you all about their colonoscopy or an announcement on the tannoy…
‘Cleaner to aisle 67…’
At aisle 67 you have the excitement of negotiating a spreading pool of blood, which turns out to be the economy size jar of blackcurrants dropped out of the trolley by a bored toddler. The parents didn’t notice as they were busy reading the ingredients to compare a Heinz tin with supermarket own brand.
At the checkouts there will be the regular discussion as to which checkout to use; self service or real person on the conveyor belt. Whichever is chosen will be the wrong choice. The computer won’t let the fifty year old shopper buy a bottle of wine without human approval, while at the human checkout our shoppers are stuck behind someone who has saved up a hundred vouchers. Whatever goes wrong it will be the other partner’s fault and a reminder that one of them wanted to go to a different supermarket in the first place.
As they wheel their heavily laden trolley with the wonky wheel …
‘I told you not to get that trolley’
…they pass the food bank box half full with tins of baked beans and bags of pasta.
‘Oh no, we forgot to get something for the food bank.’
If you want to avoid the banality of shopping why not try the excitement of Guerrilla shopping? Find out how in the next blog.
Today’s tale carries on from Saturday’s story. As a newcomer to Hambourne, Charlotte could never have imagined that attending a few meetings of Happy Hambourne Creatives would have led to her being a possible murder suspect.
Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.
There was an awkward pause then Erica suddenly started laughing.
‘Even poor Danny could not have thought of a murder or plot this bizarre.’
Charlotte was a little taken aback that there could be laughter so soon after Robert’s death, but at least the tension was broken and the attention taken off her.
‘Er… you mean Danny from the Happy Creatives group?’
‘Yes, he’s been rather quiet lately, but for years he’s been sending off scripts to the BBC, hoping to be the next Sunday night detective drama. He was always hoping Robert would put a word in for him, with all his supposed connections.’
‘Come on Erica, Mini’ said the third friend ‘time we all went, I don’t want to get a parking ticket.’
Charlotte found herself alone again, she should be going, but with all the morning’s drama she could not recall what she had planned to do after coffee, or was she planning to decide what to do while relaxing at the lovely Hambourne Refectory? She thought about poor Danny, rather a lost little soul she had felt, the couple of times she had seen him at the meetings. She could sympathize and now any hopes they both had of Robert introducing them to ‘someone’ at the BBC or on the literary scene were gone. Life was stranger than fiction, not just a cliché, but supposing it wasn’t. She imagined Danny thinking up a murder plot, wondering if it could realistically be played out and who better to try it out on than a man he resented, envied, even hated?
She stood up abruptly, checked her bag and made swiftly for the door, as if staff and customers might read her dangerous thoughts
Charlotte couldn’t leave those thoughts behind, but she could transfer them to her new heroine. As she walked through Hambourne Abbey’s graveyard the first chapter was already taking shape in her mind.
Recently widowed Lotte Lincoln had moved to the quaint town of Puddleminster looking for peace and quiet, but soon found herself investigating a murder. As a newcomer she had at first enjoyed wandering around exploring, enjoying the fresh frosty air as she strolled through the historic graveyard, popping into the local shops and admiring arts and crafts in the little gallery. But she was also lonely, peace and quiet wasn’t as soothing as she had anticipated, so she had begun to make more of an effort to chat to locals, little thinking this would soon lead to her being embroiled in a murder enquiry.
Charlotte mused upon the drama she could get Lotte involved in as she walked. The victim could be an artist, perhaps a woman so no one would think she had stolen a real life murder, in the unlikely event the novel would be published and actually read by residents of Hambourne. She suddenly found herself near Robert Falstaff’s little road, or she assumed the barricaded lane and heavy police presence indicated this was where he had lived. Now she was there it was impossible to see what was going on and she felt uncomfortable. As she turned to work out which way led to her little flat in the high street she almost bumped into a familiar figure.
‘Oh, em Daniel isn’t it, you probably don’t remember me, new in Hambourne, Charlotte, I went to a few meetings of the Happy Creatives…’
She felt herself rambling on in an effort to be friendly, to assuage her guilt for ever suspecting him of murder. The man looked awkward, then visibly pulled himself together.
‘Yes of course Charlotte, I remember you, that dreadful man making you feel so small, no way to treat newcomers… oh I shouldn’t be speaking ill of the dead.’
‘You heard the news then, of course I hardly knew him. I gather this must be the mu… where Robert lived?’
‘Yes, not exactly the first murder we’ve had, or at least there have been strange events in Hambourne… ‘ he looked up as a police officer approached ‘…anyway, I must be going.’
Danny made a hasty exit and Charlotte wondered why had he come to the crime scene. Her thoughts were interrupted by the policewoman.
‘Good morning, do you live nearby, are you trying to get to your home?’
Charlotte felt herself flushing.
‘No, yes, I mean I’m new in the town, just strolling around and got lost, I’ve got a flat in Hambourne Mews.’
She hadn’t intended to give away where she lived. The policewoman gave her a patronising look.
‘You were heading in the wrong direction, but Hambourne often has visitors flummoxed. So if you are new you probably didn’t know the victim.’
‘No, well only a little.’
Charlotte immediately regretted her words as the officer’s face lit up.
‘Ah, I hope you don’t mind giving me your name and address, we do need to interview everybody who knew him.’
Charlotte felt a mixture of fear and excitement. She might end up a suspect, but it would be interesting research for her novel, to discover what it was like to be interviewed about a crime. Everyone meant they were bound to talk to Daniel as well, she was sure he had been uncomfortable hanging around near police officers…
Charlotte found inspiration for her new novel much quicker than she expected, but not in a way she welcomed. News spread fast in Hambourne, but while Charlotte enjoyed listening to local gossip she rarely took it seriously. As a newcomer she had no idea who they were talking about most of the time.
But today, sitting in the Hambourne Abbey Refectory, her favourite coffee stop, she heard shocked whispers at the next table then felt the gaze of the three women fall upon her. One of them she thought she recognised as the timid ‘mouse woman’ from the Hambourne Happy Creatives. She pretended to be absorbed in her phone, though she had no messages.
‘Charlotte isn’t it, you were at the group last week.’
Mouse Woman was addressing her.
‘Yes, yes, er I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.’
‘That’s okay, not many people do and when you’re new it’s hard isn’t it.’
Charlotte was happy to meet her again, she had been friendly and unintimidating at last week’s meeting.
‘Come and join us’ said one of the other women, who did look intimidating.
Charlotte imagined that mouse woman would not have issued the invitation herself, now she looked pleased to have official approval of her new friend. Like being the new girl at school, Charlotte felt pathetically grateful to be admitted to the inner circle.
‘I’m afraid we have heard some dreadful news Charlotte’ said the intimidating lady. ‘I gather you were a friend of the gentleman in question.’
Charlotte thought this unlikely as she didn’t have any friends in Hambourne yet and certainly not of the gentleman variety.
‘Oh I don’t think …’
Mouse Woman could not contain her excitement ‘Robert Falstaff, murdered.’
‘Oh no, are you sure, I mean perhaps it was natural causes, heart attack, not a suicide…’
‘Definitely murder’ said the intimidating woman.
‘Are you sure Erica?’ said Mouse Woman.
‘Yes Mini, he could hardly have stuffed his screwed up manuscripts in his mouth and cut his own hands off.’
There was a collective gasp and Charlotte felt quite sick. Hambourne Noir, what sort of place had she chosen to live? Mini the Mouse, for a moment she stifled a giggle at her appropriate name, Mini now had colour in her cheeks and it was the liveliest Charlotte had seen her. She looked around the café, a few other tables were occupied.
‘It wasn’t on the local news this morning and nobody else appears to be talking about it.’
Erica looked affronted at her doubt. ‘I happen to live a few doors away from Robert. I stepped outside to see what on earth all the commotion was this morning and there was Trudy his cleaning lady sitting on the steps of the ambulance, aluminium blanket round her, just like a TV drama.’
‘Lucky to get an ambulance,’ interrupted Mini ‘with all these strikes and hold ups at A&E, old Mr Reeves had to wait fourteen hours with his hip…’
Erica frowned ‘…so to cut a long story short I went over to see if Trudy was alright and insisted the police officers let her come inside my house and get warm, have a proper cup of tea and be interviewed away from prying eyes.’
‘You’re not supposed to give hot tea for shock’ said Mini.
‘That was hot sweet tea when my mother was with St. John’s, I didn’t put sugar in.’
‘But what did she say?’ The others were all agog.
“The blood will never come out of that Persian rug, Mr. Falstaff would be horrified at the mess.” She kept saying that over and over.’
Charlotte was wondering how long Erica was going to drag out the drama and indignant that this dislikeable woman should be privy to all the action when it was Charlotte who was the writer.
‘So how did you find out what actually happened Erica?’
‘Large drop of brandy in the tea and luckily the WPC, not that they call them that these days, had a call on her radio and went out into the hall to answer so we couldn’t hear. Managed to get the words out of Trudy before the police woman ushered me out of my own sitting room…’ she paused for effect then enacted the cleaning lady’s words. “Blue, his face all blue… and purple, bloated, then I noticed his hands were missing, well not missing, just not attached to his arms, placed neatly on his writing desk can you believe it… trail of blood all over the Persian rug, family heirloom it was, not that he had anyone to pass it on to…”
‘So she said quite a lot then’ said Mini.
‘Oh she was in a state.’
‘But who would have done such a dreadful thing’ said Charlotte. ‘Where is it you live Erica?’ she added, wondering if she could walk home that way and catch a glimpse of the drama scene, not the body obviously, but take in the atmosphere.
‘Well shall we say he wasn’t loved by everyone in Hambourne.’
‘Indeed, he was very nasty to Charlotte at the creative group’ said Mini.
Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.
Are you suffering from the above medical condition?
See how you score on this test to find out.
1 You visit Specsavers for an eye test and after subjecting your eyeballs to blasts of air, laser beams and snapshots of your retina, the optician says he will take you back downstairs where a staff member will hep you select new frames. He offers to go down the stairs first as your eyes are not back to normal yet. DO YOU SAY
B Oohh… has anyone fallen down the stairs?
C ( to yourself ) Ah ha, flash fiction idea ‘Derek could never have imagined that his first day as an optician would end in the death of one of his customers…
2 You are popping round the corner to the shops. Do you
A Toss your door keys in your pocket and grab your phone to pay with.
B Pack your backpack with the following – water bottle, face mask, full set of door keys, purse with cash in case all the computers are down at the shops, credit and debit cards in case you have to book a hotel overnight ( see comments further on ) … notepad and pen, emergency chocolate rations, Kindle or paperback, smart phone. The latter four items so you will be prepared in case you return to find your road in lockdown, because a mad gunman is holding your neighbour hostage or a gas explosion / helicopter crash has left the whole street flattened.
C Take your back pack as above and stand in the queue at the till ‘writing’ your next novel. ‘Glenda could never have imagined that a quick trip to the shops could turn into a five day siege that would change her life for ever.’
3 You receive a text message from a loved one. Be a bit late, stuck on M25 in dreadful weather. Do you reply
A Okay, I’ll hold back on dinner.
B Oh NO… Keep me updated, but don’t use your phone while you’re driving and stop at the services and wait till the weather’s cleared, but let me know what’s happening. Have U got enough food with U?
C Feel you body fill with dread and picture the news headlines Bank Holiday Motorway horror as family all killed in massive pile up.
4 A police officer / fireman rings your doorbell and simultaneously bangs on your front door. When you open the door he says. ‘No need to panic, but we are evacuating the whole street, NOW. Do you say
A Okay, just a false alarm no doubt, some nervous neighbour thinks they can smell gas ha ha?
B Oh my God, what about the dog, have I got time to grab my handbag…
C Feel a mixture of fear and elation. At last you are participating in real life, some drama to blog about, inspiration for that novel you are trying to start…
Now add up your score. 1 point for answer A. 3 points for answer B and 5 points for answer C.
If you scored 4 you are totally laid back and never suffer from stress.
8-12 points – well done for being prepared and sensible, but be careful not to become obsessed and over anxious.
16-20 points – you are suffering from Nimis Excitatus Imagination or in lay terms, an overactive imagination. There is no cure and it could lead to total insanity or becoming a best selling author.
While others were posting their 22 achievements for 2022 and their 23 goals for 2023 on Facebook, I had got as far as putting the washing machine on. As bloggers wrote about their Word of the Year I was contemplating making chicken stock, checking the washing machine filter and finishing my Christmas cards.
On the writing and blogging front in the early 2020’s I have not had a novel on virtual tour, excitedly revealed my new cover or started a new novel.
If I am going to choose a word of the year perhaps it could be TIDY. Tidying is an unavoidable activity closely linked to cleaning; both are tasks that take us away from more creative pursuits. Whether you are tidying up after Christmas visitors or faced with dusting when you take your cards and decorations down, most of us start the year with tidying of some sort. We might even enjoy the virtuous feeling of getting the year off to a good start and after vacuuming turn to our computer to tidy up our internet banking or our digital lives.
Perhaps one of my aims for 2023, apart from starting a novel, could be to learn Latin. I love the brevity of Latin; Word of the Year replaces four words with two, Verbum Anni. It would take us half the time to write and read blogs if we all wrote them in Latin.
Do you have a word of the year or some worthy aims? Will you trek to Everest Base Camp or tidy your sock drawer?