All Change

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

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?

Big Shopping

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.’

‘What then?’

‘Not sure…’

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.

Nimis Excitatus Imagination

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

A Thanks

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.

SILLY SATURDAY – NEWSLESS

Featuring unnewsworthy items that could be happening near you, but probably aren’t.

When banana loving visitors could not come, the obvious thing to do was put them on the local recycling Facebook page. They were snapped up immediately.

Wanted for criminal damage. A flurry of terror and excitement as rogue dog fox digs up lawns. Neighbours have been patching up lawns and fences in a bid to save their grass. Night cameras have been installed to prove his guilt.

…while indoors, home owners fear The Elf has returned.

A supermarket closed its vegetable section for several hours yesterday after a staff member spotted a worrying headline as he read the newspaper during his break. As workers hurriedly cleared shelves he tried to explain that the headline actually said ‘Tornadoes Leave Two Dead’ not ‘Tomatoes Leave Two Dead.’ The manger later explained that once a food contamination alert has been raised the action must be completed and suspect foods cannot be sold until tests have given the all clear.

Silly Sunday Silly Shopping

Seaside locked? You could go shopping instead.
Seaside locked? You could go shopping instead.

Saunter through the gardens…

Perhaps stop at the cinema…

…or for coffee…

… but you better save time for shopping…
Don’t miss the arcade…

You could buy a book…

and stop for coffee and get some ideas on what to do with your old ladders.

But you must be getting on with your shopping – hmm looks like it’s closed.

This looks more hopeful.

Is this the fashion section?

Perhaps not.

Wonder what’s upstairs?

At least you get a good view… fashion must be on the next floor and perhaps the restaurant…

Whoops!

I think we must be in the art gallery…

That’s what I feel like doing with my feet.

That’s enough shopping for today.

Really Surreal

When you get back into town and nothing is quite how you remembered…

A jolly day out…
…meeting friends…
…for coffee…
Think the weather’s brightening up?
Shopping centre’s changed since I was last here.
Wonder what the new book shop is like.
…or the new department store?
Very nice, but I haven’t seen any human beings yet…

In The Yellow Zone

The group chat on chemotherapy for beginners I saw as a last chance to be out and about. I had been to a similar thing with Cyberspouse in autumn 2018. In those pre Covid times we all sat round a big table in a small classroom and it was a very jolly affair, with our English compulsion to make jokes in medical situations. Most people brought their spouses and there was tea and cake in the middle. This time we were in a church centre opposite the hospital in a large hall with spaced out chairs in rows. Everyone was heading for the back rows so I thought I would be helpful and choose the second row. A mistake as I couldn’t see everybody else properly. We were all given a home work pack and a cup of tea.

All you need to know from this chat is that chemotherapy kills fast growing cells, if it killed all cells we would be dead presumably. Fast growing cells include not only malignant ones, but those we need, such as white and red blood cells, also those we like such as our hair. All chemotherapy is different, a variety of chemicals depending on which part of you they are targeting and every patient can react differently.  What is for certain is we all lose our immunity and get fatigue, a variety of available drugs and vast medical experience should prevent nausea and vomiting these days. The Big message was Ring the Hot Line, the number on the Red Card, the number written on every piece of paper and leaflet issued. Any symptom that you normally ignore Ring the hotline from toothache to temperature.

That done I walked down to the shopping centre in the sunshine and headed for Beales’ department store, ironically still open, though its flagship store in Bournemouth closed down even before Covid. The new very bright café upstairs is quite spaced out and quiet, people are still asked to wear masks in shops, even though Boris says we don’t have to and I did not want to catch anything before my Covid test in a few days.  The top floor had turned into a clearance section and I bought a few little things plus my fabulous bargain of lined curtains, intended for interior decors, but ideal for my beach hut… once I have made a very big hem. Curtains are actually very heavy and I had to ask for a carrier bag which fortunately was environmentally friendly and edible.  The bus driver said how nice it was to see a Beales’ bag again. I felt like I had had quite an exciting day!

Isolating or not isolating for chemo in covid times is still rather vague, urged to be very careful, but told to carry on with normal life as much as possible. Friday saw me back at the hospital for a Covid test; this time I went straight home. Saturday night I cooked a roast chicken for the four of us, my daughter had a long weekend pass and Sunday we walked to the beach hut and went swimming. At this point I was feeling very fit, I have been walking more than five kilometres and doing loads of gardening…

Monday was chemo day at the cancer centre in the Yellow Zone of the hospital. My daughter took me. In pre covid days you could bring a friend for company. Now no extras set foot past the front desk. Having been told I would be there for four or five hours on the first visit and to bring things to do and lots of layers to keep warm with the cold cap, I was the only patient there with a large overnight bag. Our little ward had four reclining chairs and one young woman had a cold cap on, looking like something out of a brain transfer in a science fiction film. I asked if it was her first time and she said no and you get used to it.

As I had to have an anti nausea tablet which takes one hour to work, but lasts for five days, it seemed worth filling in the waiting time by at least trying the cold cap, which has to start forty five minutes before chemo. First your hair is sprayed with water, then a rubber cap on, then the metal helmet which must be tight fitting. Cotton pads are put on your forehead to stop it rubbing, but the water and pads made me think of the electric chair… The weight was probably worse than the cold in giving a bit of a headache, it turned out I could have brought my own paracetamol. You are allowed to stop if you don’t like it…

I was the only new person, one old / older lady said she enjoyed the day out and we had all chosen a hot lunch from the menu. My chemo actually only took seven minutes for red stuff in a syringe into the canula and then a drip for twenty minutes, but followed by another ninety minutes of cold cap. I was allowed to go straight away; three hours and ten minutes and I had only looked at my newspaper and phone, puzzle books and kindle untouched.

Back home I thought I would recline on the sofa with a cup of coffee and heard my daughter on the phone telling her brother and husband I was asleep on the sofa, no I wasn’t… later on I thought I would get up and get the washing off the line and water the garden, but I only took one thing off the line and felt wobbly…

In the days that followed I had seven daily injections given by the district nurse, these boost your white blood cell production. On the first visit she took my temperature and it was too high, so I did have to phone the hot line; fortunately it was borderline and I had no symptoms, so I was told to keep checking my temperature. In the following days I did virtually nothing and my mouth got more sore, another side effect, but I was still eating. So this was the famous fatigue; just like when you feel wobbly recovering after an illness only more so, wondering if you will ever leave the house again or how you could possibly have thought it would be easy to post blogs while you were stuck at home. This is just a tiny insight into what it must be like for people with long term chronic conditions and those who now have Long Covid. Apart from that there was nothing else to complain about and low and behold I was back pottering in the garden on Friday and walked round the block this morning. Tomorrow, two weeks after chemo,  is a visit to oncology outpatients to see the nurse, then Friday will be another Covid test and blood test to see if I’m ready for the next round…

Friday Flash Fiction – Fall

                                                             

There was a word that made Mary shudder; she seemed to hear it everywhere she went. It was a four letter word beginning with F… FALL. In conversations it was usually preceded with phrases such as;

Did you hear Mrs. Burton had a nasty…

Of course she was never the same after her…

He had just got off the bus when…

The Waitrose staff were very good when she had her…

Most infuriating of all was her own daughter’s loud voice as they negotiated National Trust Gardens.

Mind you don’t…

Like death, falls were something that happened to other people, usually The Elderly and Mary did not include herself in that category. Why, she was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, Her Majesty wasn’t elderly and Sir David certainly wasn’t. There were other terms and words that Mary avoided; stairlifts, wheelchairs, mobility aids and that condition Mary couldn’t even utter to herself, frequently referred to in advertisements during daytime television.

As Mary briskly walked down the high street, she noticed with distaste that Betty was cheerfully pushing a shiny red three wheeled contraption.

‘My son bought it for me last week, after my fall’ explained Betty proudly.

But however sprightly Mary felt, she found herself being very careful, not wanting to end up like that woman on Tuesday.

There had been a circle of concerned people outside Somerfield’s and a young man with a mobile phone had taken charge. Sprawled in the middle of the pavement was an old lady, her skirt up past her knees in a most undignified manner. Mary had scurried by, making a mental note to always wear slacks when she went out.

At the door to the ‘Cosy Teapot’ she took the two steps up carefully to make a dignified entrance. Her daughter Catherine was already there.

‘I thought we’d sit downstairs mother, you don’t want to have a fall on those rickety stairs.’

Mary ignored that remark.

‘You’re looking very tired this morning Catherine, perhaps it’s the menopause’ she said, as the young waiter came to their table.

‘Well,’ said the younger woman, obviously keen to relate a drama ‘we were fast asleep last night when the phone suddenly rang; I looked at the clock, it was three thirty a.m. my heart was thumping, I thought it must be bad news from Australia or you taken ill.’

‘Why would you think I might be ill?’ Mary interrupted.

Catherine carried on regardless. ‘To my relief it was only Careline; Miss Brown next door had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up. We had to go round with the spare keys to let the ambulance people in. Next time we’ll take a torch; it took us ages to find the light switches… and Miss Brown, she was wedged on the other side of the bed. When the ambulance men finally came they asked if she was my mother! I’m sure they thought it was our fault her house is such a mess. But they were quite jolly, checked her blood pressure, got her back into bed, filled in lots of forms and declared she was fine. By that time it was five a.m.’

‘That old woman should have gone in a home years ago’ said Mary unsympathetically.

‘She’s younger than you Mother… hmm you could have one of those Careline buttons, just in case.’

‘Certainly not.’ Mary cringed at the idea of neighbours and medics tramping round her bedroom in the middle of the night and changed the subject. ‘Rita had her own drama the other day, when it was so hot; her daughter took her shopping and they were outside Asda when her daughter suddenly fainted. After much kafuffle, they were both sat on chairs inside Asda and the manager came rushing over and patted Rita’s hand, asking if she was alright. She told him indignantly she was fine, it was her daughter. We had a good laugh over that.’

The two women tucked into their cake.

‘…anyway, what have you been doing this week Mum?’

‘The old people’s lunch club started back yesterday and we had a new volunteer. You’ll never believe what she said to me “Here’s a spare seat dear.” I told her in no uncertain terms. “I’m serving not eating.”

She wondered what Catherine found so funny.

That afternoon Mary was pottering in her garden, glad she didn’t require a gardener. Her grandson mowed the lawn, put her hanging baskets up and did some of the heavier jobs; he enjoyed doing it. The garden was one of the many reasons why she refused to be shoe horned into some pokey flat

Mary was a compulsive dead header and was tidying her favourite basket which hung from the shed wall. One dead bloom eluded her, but if she just stretched a little… suddenly her foot slipped off the edge of the path.

She couldn’t believe she was lying on the ground, but was greatly relieved no one had seen. This wasn’t a fall, just a slip and she was sure she could get up; with the help of the wall and the trellis she pulled herself triumphantly to her feet. Not a fall, not a drama, but perhaps it was time she went indoors to have a nice cup of tea and watch Countdown; she could rinse that spot of blood off her hands while the kettle was boiling.

As she moved cautiously up the path to the back door she heard sirens screeching. This used to be such a quiet street she mused, someone must be causing trouble. Loud rustling noises caused her to turn round; a policeman was climbing over her wall, he must be chasing a burglar.

‘Wrong garden’ she tried to call, but he rushed over to her.

‘Are you alright madam?’ he asked, before replying to his radio. ‘PC476, re. report of elderly lady collapsed in garden, I’m dealing, ambulance in attendance.’ He turned to Mary. ‘Lucky for you an old man over the back saw you out of his bedroom window, knew he couldn’t help, so he dialled 999. Now, we’ll get you into the house and open the front door for the paramedics.’

The opening of the front door revealed two men in green and several concerned neighbours. She tried to protest.

‘I’m fine, there’s been a terrible mistake.’

To her horror she heard the ambulance man say to her neighbour ‘Does she often get confused or have falls?’     

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Silly Saturday – Line of Shopping

Many of us enjoy watching high tension police thriller series, such as Line of Duty, which we’re following at the moment. To keep up with impossible to follow plots, who to trust and to understand police lingo and initials, you can follow social media groups obsessed with interested in your favourite programmes. But would you like your own boring everyday life to be like that?

Okay boss, CHIS leaving the house now.

Stand by everyone, moving on foot, approaching OSS, passing OSS… masking up, at the HGS now. Exiting GG, can you confirm UHW?

Armed response unit stand down, I repeat stand down. CHIS is unarmed.

CHIS reaching into back pack, could be a burner phone, can we get a trace…

Approaching ROG, can we get a check on a white van ABC 123D…

CHIS has crossed road, heading north, repeat heading north, has made contact with masked person, can’t identify.

Entering building S.  unit 7 follow …

Can’t follow, security guard on door, don’t want to draw attention…

How long have they been in there now?

Fifteen, exiting now with UHW, looks like the real thing this time, heading south, ARU hold back, too many PONIs around.

Following CHIS south west, confirm unarmed, no further contacts made… approaching HB…

Line of Shopping Facebook chat room – guide to police terms

CHIS  – Covert Human Independent Shopper

OSS  – One Stop Shop

HGS  – Hand Gel Station

GG  – GreenGrocers

UHW  – Unidentified Hand Weapon

ROG  – redorangegreen – traffic lights

Building S  – Sainsbury

ARU  – Armed Response Unit

PONI  – Persons of no Interest

HB  – Home Base

Recorded phone conversation of CHIS suspect

I’m off to the shops.

( Muffled ) Yes wrapped please, they’re for my neighbour, she loves a nice bouquet.

Oh I thought we had spaghetti… and a bottle of wine? I’ll have to carry it, not much room in my back pack.

I’m baaack, whew, very busy at the shops and strange,  lots of police around, I couldn’t see anything happening.