Saturday Alive, the magazine programme to start your weekend with a lighter look at dark news and a darker look at light news.
Gourmets and health experts alike are welcoming new rules making it compulsory for warning labels to be put on vegan food. Carnivores and omnivores will be able to shop safely knowing what they are buying.
Anglers are reporting a serious shortage of maggots as the food industry embraces alternate sources of protein.
A strike by Boutique Indie Authors has gone totally unnoticed. The select group of writers put down their pens, turned off their computers, ignored their WIPs and refused to blog for the third day in a row. An anonymous spokes person said long writing hours and no pay or pension rights had led them to the drastic action.
WordPress denied reports that some bloggers were not human and were created by artificial intelligence, although an inside source was reported as saying they had no way of knowing if any of their bloggers were human.
April Fools’ Day is to be renamed as April Fun Day to avoid offending the Foolish Community. Traditionalists will be further irked to learn that jokes will be extended beyond noon till midnight.
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.
Why Omicron, what happened to the other letters before that. I keep forgetting what it’s called… Omicrom, onicrom, Covicrom… What is your favourite Greek letter? I rather like Epsilon.
For ordinary folk everyday chit chat is banal, but the life blood of family, friends and hum drum jobs; the antidote to World Crisis, disasters and politics. It means nothing to outsiders and sounds very dreary.
Six boxes short on the crisps and they haven’t delivered the sandwiches!
Hardly a Global Crisis, but to the three workers on the team it is a big drama.
I saw Phil when I was in Aldis!
A remark full of significance when you relate your shopping trip to your friend, in fact you messaged her before you even left the store.
Our regular banal conversations are now littered with remarks that meant nothing two years ago, testing positive would probably have referred to pregnancy.
Sharon’s tested positive. Have you had your results yet? Evie’s going back to school on Friday. No she can’t think where she got it from and her friend had to come and collect the dog.
Covid, Christmas, Chemotherapy and restricted lives bring vivid dreams as our brains take themselves on holiday. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley camera club in the church hall – in my dressing gown and pyjamas. Next minute a fellow blogger ( who doesn’t even blog about cooking ) was concocting the most delicious recipe, deep frying rich wraps of hidden delights. The food fantasy is understandable when chemo and sore tongue make food tasteless or vile. I am obviously missing an ideal opportunity to ascend to a higher spiritual state in which food is no longer important, or even vital. I do not have what it takes to go into the wilderness and live on leaves, but at least I have found that out now before going up a mountain or into the desert. The fact that millions of people do not have enough food does not stop me being filled with lowly envy when people drop remarks like
‘No, we’re fine, we stopped off at MacDonalds on the way.’
I hardly ever have MacDonald’s and have certainly never ordered a cooked breakfast from Tesco to be delivered to my door, but these are now things on my wish list for 2022. I have learnt a few things though. Expensive and fad diets are pointless, if you eat less you lose weight. If you want to try this without chemo, just picture honestly what you have eaten and drunk at the end of each day and cut out the sneaky biscuits, fizzy drinks, crisps, chocolate ( insert your favourite treats ) the next day. I do now have an insight into young children at meal times, or people with eating disorders; putting something into your mouth when you have no idea what it will taste like or cannot bear the idea of anything passing your lips. We glibly tell our children they are going to like strange textures and flavours with no notion what their tongue is telling their brain.
Your body in good health is a marvellous machine that repairs itself, with your skin and nerves protecting you from the outside world and your internal organs function efficiently without having to be programmed by a computer. You do not need expensive moisturisers or exotic food supplements. But there are the odd benefits to chemo interfering with your system. After decades of barefoot and sandal wear resulting in as many decades of pumicing and moisturising my heels ( in fairness to our bodies, the feet naturally grow tough soles to walk barefoot, much healthier than wearing shoes ) my heels just fell off, revealing the feet I had not had since I was baby…
Week Three after my first chemotherapy session included an appointment to oncology outpatients to see a nurse. I told her how fit I was feeling and she reassured me the fatigue would get worse each time ( perhaps she said slightly worse ) and it was amazing how fitness levels dropped. She also said this was the week when hair thins… but she did order me mouth wash for next time; sore mouth and food tasting like mashed cardboard is probably the worst part. But like the fatigue it had suddenly got better and food tasted wonderful.
Sure enough, two days later my hair did start falling out; yay, no need to bother with the cold cap next time and I could get out my collection of colourful scarf/hat Chemo Chic wear, mostly ordered from Hannah Bandanna. It didn’t all fall out and I look rather like my grandmother, who even when I was young had very sparse wispy white hair. We just took this as being what a grandmother looked like, along with the large pink plastic whistling NHS hearing aid box that hung on her chest. Now I wonder if the hair loss was upsetting for her and was it the stress of bringing up three children while Granddad was away in World War Two ( away in Southport with the civil service, not on the front, he had already done that in WW1) or perhaps genetic, her sister was completely bald and hung her wig on the bed post overnight.
Sunday ‘chemo eve’ I went with my son to the beach hut and we had a swim in the sea. He probably got more than he bargained for; walking along the cliff top we met a couple I know, who hadn’t heard about the big BC. He has lung cancer so lots to chat about! On the way home, walking along the promenade, we met more friends at their beach hut and she recalled her bowel cancer treatment… You’re never alone with cancer!
In the ward on Monday was the young lady from last time with a full head of hair and about to put on the cold cap, proof it can work. The lady opposite me was sitting quite happily with her bald head uncovered. They were trying to put in her canula, while she repeated she didn’t usually have any trouble. At the chemo group chat the sister had said they can always find a vein. I gather putting a canula in is a nerve wracking rite of passage for medical students and I would certainly not like to try putting a needle into and not straight through a thin or even invisible vein.
Smugly I assumed mine would go smoothly, but my nurse also had trouble. I have only one arm they can use – the arm of the lymph node removal is apparently out of bounds for everything including doing blood pressure. Inevitably the desperate tapping of veins etc has to be performed with the patient looking on, which can’t help, but third time lucky. Meanwhile it was about fourth person lucky, a nursing assistant, who managed to get into the vein of the lady opposite.
The ‘red poison’ is put in slowly by syringe; it is so strong they must keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t go into surrounding tissue. The second drug just goes in by drip and was only supposed to take fifteen minutes, but no sooner had I messaged my lift that I wouldn’t be long than the alarm beeped. The drip had come to a halt; much tapping of the tube and fiddling with the box the tubes feed through between the bag and the arm. In the end the nurse removed the yards of plastic tube, dumped it all in the bin and started with a new length of tube; an idea I had been tempted to suggest myself. All was well until just two minutes left when it stopped again, luckily she was able to restart.
Soon I was ready with my bag of prescriptions to take home, the large bottle of mouth wash making it deceptively heavy. I followed the WAY OUT signs, but luckily paused at the entrance to rearrange my stuff and glancing in the prescription bag realised the seven day course of injections ( which stimulate white cell growth ) was missing. The centre is actually in temporary accommodation in a large ward while the regular place is being upgraded; I had great difficulty finding my way back through the maze of desks, little rooms and other bays till I found Bay Three. My needles were still in their fridge.
At home three days later I was waiting for the district nurse to come and do my first injection, they can call any time between 8am and 5pm, but I had this funny feeling the hospital may not have contacted them and phoned up before noon to make sure. No they did not have me down and did I have the prescription form? NO, I had not thought to look in the bag and check. They cannot do injections without the oncologist’s prescription form on which they have to stick a tiny label peeled with difficulty from the syringe and write the date. What number to ring? After searching through my bundles of information I had no idea, but actually phoning the main hospital number and working through the options is the easiest approach and I did end up in the right place. The nurse said notification should have ‘gone to the hub’ and then out to the district nurse. I was home alone and no I couldn’t send anyone to fetch the forgotten prescription. Fortunately she agreed to phone the district nurse and email them the form… I wasn’t totally convinced and had almost given up hope when the nurse turned up at 4.55pm.
Now my aim was to learn to do injections myself, it looked quite easy. In the stomach is not as bad as it sounds, subcutaneous, under the skin, just a matter of taking a fold of fat skin. I’m sure there are many people out there used to doing injections on themselves for various conditions, but this was my first time. The next day I did it under supervision, no problems, yes I would manage fine by myself tomorrow.
The nurse said the cap on the needle point is very stiff so you have to grip tightly and pull hard. Next morning I did exactly that… the plunger came out and liquid sprayed into the air. I had broken it. I took out another syringe and made sure I gripped the right part, success. Perhaps I would keep quiet and not tell anyone about the broken one…
In Wales a two week ‘firebreak lockdown’ has started and only essential shops are allowed to open with the essential idea that these essential shops are only allowed to sell essential items, so as not to cheat on the non-essential shops who are not allowed to open. For example, you may not buy an electric kettle at Tesco, because Dai Jones the Electric in Pontypandy has been selling only electrical goods in his shop since 1937.
How are customers and supermarket managers to decide what is essential? Essential for survival or for Covid Comfort?
Tick which of the following you will buy over this weekend as the clocks go back and winter nights draw in. Chocolate of course, chocolate biscuits, bread, wine, potatoes, warm fluffy slippers, rice, cosy pyjamas, bunch of carrots, bunch of flowers, cabbage, boxed set of old black and white films, pork chops, celebrity magazine, cheese, pot plant, milk, Lego set, a free range chicken, new underwear, shredded wheat, paperback book, cocoa pops.
If you ticked more than ten ( 8 if you are vegetarian, 6 if you are vegan ) you are being self indulgent and breaking the spirit of the new rules. Now imagine the task of staff who have to police the supermarket customers.
Chains will be strung across the sweet aisle, padlocks put on the ice cream cabinets and constant patrols to remove flagrant non-essentials from the shelves. As staff must socially distance they cannot grab that bottle of whisky out of your hands so there will be announcements over the PA system.
Will the lady in the lurid pink coat put down the packet of chocolate digestives and raise her hands in the air… now take a packet of plain digestives.
Customers are reminded they must produce their child’s birth certificate if they wish to purchase birthday candles and cake decorations.
Pet owners with a certificate from their vet may purchase one bag of pet food, but not a squeaky mouse toy.
On the ball managers may have already set up deafening alarms to beep if you pick up a box of hair colouring and there would be greater embarrassment if you have braved the medical aisle and got as far as the intimate products…
Perhaps within a few days harassed supermarket staff will allow you no further than the till where you will be handed one basket of food essentials.
If you have recently come out of isolation, albeit briefly before we’re all in lockdown again, you will have noticed that shopping is now very different. Perhaps you will look back nostalgically to those months of cyber shopping. I got an email yesterday from the Co Op ‘We have missed you, please come back.’
I have been back, but they didn’t recognise me in real life; even with a mask on I am not quite the anonymous self who ordered twice a week. On line shopping with our local Co Op was fun, not at all like the big supermarket chains, more like a game. At the start you had to spend £15 to get free delivery, but could not have more than 20 items, this gradually increased to 30 items, but still delivered by scooter. There were always plenty of delivery slots and I though smugly of all those people staying up till Sunday midnight, desperate to get any slot with Tesco or Sainsbury in the coming week. Of course, with the limit on number of items the cosy Co Op was not likely to suit those needing a big family shop. The website was a challenging computer game; you could always get chocolate, but not necessarily what you needed for dinner. It was vital to think outside the box. Type in baked beans, no luck. It was weeks before I discovered that typing in Heinz revealed beans and such Covid comfort food as tomato soup. The website did improve over the months, with the layout involving less scrolling down, but keeping the fun of guessing whether you should tap onto ‘Get Inspired’ ‘Food Cupboard’ or ‘Bakery and Cakes’. If you forgot to check your emails with updates on how your order was progressing, there was the fun of not knowing if you would get everything on your list, or perhaps an unwanted substitute.
So what is it like at real shops now? Don’t forget the mask… the rest of the rules seem to vary from shop to shop; another game to play, with arrows to follow and circles with footprints to stand on. Don’t mix up the bottle for sanitizing your basket handles with the hand gel. Move out of the way once you have swiped you card ( cash is out, except at the greengrocers ) to make safe space for the next person. But that little row of chairs where you used to sort out your bags and make sure your purse was put away has gone; don’t have a medical incident, that was where shoppers who had a funny turn were seated as they waited for the ambulance!
How will you get on at shopping centres? Those benches where husbands were parked while waiting for wives to finish in the shop or come out of the Ladies are gone. There is nowhere to rest your heavy bags and meet up at the arranged time. In town will department stores ever be the same again? Restaurants and toilets closed, no meeting friends or relaxing with coffee and scones while you check you phone, or if you are a writer, do some people watching and scribbling.
It is nice to once again see what you are buying, but will you be going on line or out to the shops in the near future?
What if the biggest computer ever designed was switched off, could it be rebooted? Earlier this year the human world was switched off for a short time and ever since, people have been trying to reboot it, while others think we should just leave it switched off.
Can we talk about Covid 19 or pandemics without mentioning countries or politics? Yes. Good things, bad things and ugly scenes have happened this year all over the world, but we might not all agree on what is good or bad, right or wrong.
Good things happened for Gaia and for a lot of people. With everything at a standstill the air was fresher, the skies bluer, people in cities could breathe and see mountains on the horizon for the first time. Wildlife thrived and found new playgrounds. If any proof was needed, this was what climate change protestors had been pleading for; why was it okay to switch everything off to save a few people, but not to save the whole planet? The harsh truth is that Covid 19 may be terrible, but it is not a threat to the human race or the planet, while accelerated climate change affects us all, including our unborn descendants. Those of us whose lives and homes remain unscathed by fire, flood and famine cannot be complacent. Covid 19 won’t destroy the human race, but it is another symptom of the way we treat the planet and other creatures and we have all been affected by it.
Can we halt rebooting and unplug our giant computer at the mains? The beginning of pandemic panic is already taking on a rosy hue in our memories. Silent roads and empty skies, no road carnage or plane crashes. Spending more time with your family, discovering you can work from home, no commuter traffic, empty office buildings with the potential to house the homeless and key workers. The Pope calls for ceasefires and peace all over the world, people are nice to each other and appreciate the forgotten workforce, the cleaners, delivers and carers. Volunteers make an unprecedented effort to help their local communities. Governments and councils, in days, bring all homeless people off the streets. There is a splurge of on line creativity, people across the globe connected.
There was also a catastrophic loss of jobs and businesses, the world of live arts and entertainment devastated. Hunger, loneliness, domestic violence and mental health problems for those isolated in cramped places. We weren’t all in it together, those who had the least had even less. Big cracks appeared to divide people over long standing issues, people started arguing over new issues such as facemasks and there were vitriolic on line comments by those certain they alone knew how to deal with a pandemic. And nobody took any notice of the Pope’s plea.
Is there any chance our world leaders know what to do next, how to organise societies that must live with a virus that will not go away, create a new fair normal. Perhaps someone will come up with new software to change how the Big Computer runs everything. The newly unemployed will be trained to build solar powered airships and homes, grow environmentally friendly food for the whole world and boost the care sector into a respected well paid profession. Maybe this software will conveniently delete any powers that threaten the new compassionate, sustainable world norm…
One of my earliest memories is of being seen across the busy road we lived on and walking by myself to the corner shop. I was well known by the two ladies who worked there. One of them was called Dolly, which seemed a very strange name for an old lady. Among the sweets they sold were Dolly Mixtures which I assumed were named after her. Mum could watch my progress and return ready to signal when it was safe to cross back. What I actually bought on these solo expeditions I have no recollection and I assume it was because my baby brother was asleep indoors, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of popping to the shops – until now…
Unless you are subsistence farmers or have a team of servants, someone in the household has to go shopping. Whether you live in a beautiful Mediterranean town and gaze down from your geranium filled balcony to the daily market selling freshly caught fish and newly picked vegetables or do a huge weekly supermarket shop with no idea where the food has come from, shopping is an activity or chore that never ends – until now…
When my parents bought their first house, on a new housing estate, there were no shops nearby, but we were not likely to starve. The milkman brought a boxful of groceries, there was a greengrocer’s van and the butcher’s boy came on his bike. It was a long walk to the new shopping centre for my mother with a baby and toddler as well as me. Her friend from round the corner had six children, so it was quite an expedition with the added excitement of a route through a large cemetery. Mum used to be amused by another neighbour who would dart back and forth between Fine Fare and Tesco checking the prices. Even in these small shops our mothers would be complaining that they were ‘always moving things around’. Needless to say there was often some vital item forgotten and I would be sent on my bike to another housing estate where they boasted a parade of shops.
When we emigrated to Western Australia in 1964 all three of us were sent up a sandy track, the unmade section of our road, to the corner shop and later Tom The Cheap Grocer. The shops closed for the weekend at noon on Saturday, so on Saturday morning Mum and Dad would make a frantic dash in the car to stock up at the bigger shops in an older suburb. A far cry from today’s 24 hour shopping.
Things have come full circle; having your shopping delivered is popular again, especially with busy working families. When someone says they are off to do their Tesco shop they probably mean they are going upstairs to the computer. With the advent of The Virus and isolation, Grandparents are being smugly told by their offspring that they should have learnt how to do on line shopping.
Our local shops are so good that we had no need for on line shopping and a typical Saturday morning would be a walk along the cliff top, coffee at the Ludo Lounge, then stroll over to the greengrocers – until now…
Anyone with a 12 week sentence ( the medically very vulnerable told by the Prime Minister and the NHS to stay indoors ) or those shielding them, is dependent on supermarket deliveries or family, neighbours and volunteers. But with the sudden popularity of on line shopping you have to log on at one minute past midnight to try and get a slot.
The fun of bargain hunting has been replaced by the excitement of not knowing for sure what you will get in your delivery. Six weeks into our lock down and I think I have cracked it. The poplar local greengrocers which only takes cash, has engineered a major delivery operation using only the phone and Facebook. The free range, outdoor reared and expensive butcher up the road takes orders and payment on the phone. My latest discovery is a website for deliveries from local Co op shops. They seem to have plenty of slots, but this might be because you have to spend a minimum of £15 with a limit of 20 items and an eclectic limited choice of what is available. Type in cheese and you will find cheese. Type in baked beans and up come green beans, jelly beans and coffee beans. Put in peanut butter and up comes butter. With some outside the box thinking I did find Whole Earth Organic peanut butter and it appeared on the shopping list, but the next day showed up as unavailable in the polite e-mail update. The deliveries come by motorbike. How have your shopping habits changed recently?
Before Covid 19 you may have had a weekly supermarket shop delivered or ordered the occasional item from Amazon. Perhaps you supported your local shops and never went on line. Now many of us are adding excitement to our isolation by exploring what can be bought on line. You may not want to sell your soul to Amazon, though if you are an author who self publishes on Amazon Kindle you already have. But there is a reason why Amazon is so successful; people look for what they want, find it, buy it in a matter of seconds and it arrives when predicted, or much sooner. If you have nothing better to do, you can track the progress of your present to yourself. Then the magic moment arrives when the door bell rings and there is a real human being come to visit you, the only human you have seen all week and they have left you a parcel on the doorstep. If you are lucky, as they rush back to their white van, they will turn and acknowledge your existence as you open your front door waving frantically and thanking them profusely.
You have bought a bright red microwave and some luxury toiletries to cheer yourself up, you can’t get a delivery slot with any supermarket, so can you actually buy food on Amazon? The only essentials that are readily available at a normal price are Tassimo pods for coffee machines. I did buy a fruit and veg box from a farm with British grown vegetables – contents may not be the same as in the illustration– I hoped we would get the bag of potatoes but NOT the boring iceberg lettuce. When the box came it was EXACTLY like the illustration, the lettuce will still be going when isolation is over…
But be careful you know what you are getting when you order food. Fancy a tin of Ambrosia rice pudding, a bit of comfort eating and it’s only £5.99 ( what! ) for a 400 g tin. It might be handy to read customer reviews – 1 star customer review …whilst we are facing an international crisis and people are facing tragedy, you are profiteering. You should hang your head in shame
Did they not notice the price when they ordered? To be fair, you can order a dozen tins for £24… and at least it is real food.
Here is what else you might find at your door. Ambrosia rice pudding can earrings. A genuine replica Heinz Baked Beans tin to hide your valuables in. Nice fresh farm eggs that are polished wood in a toy egg box. Rubber pork chops for a toy shop – a shop that is plastic, not a shop that sells toys… A basket of fruit – made of marzipan. A breadmaker instead of a loaf of bread.
What surprises have you had ordering on line?
Take your mind off shopping and pandemics with some short stories.
A second anthology from the author of ‘Dark and Milk,’ including recent prize winning short stories. As you would expect, some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.