One Rule For Them; Another Rule For Us?

Marking International Women's Day, March 2014. Maria Miller's visit to the Imperial War MuseumSome things never change do they? Maria Miller, the UK Culture Secretary has delivered a lukewarm apology after over-claiming nearly £5,800 on her expenses. Not only that but the committee looking into the case reported that she had to be pressured into providing information, and then only gave back the absolute minimum information that she could. The system relies on MPs answering such questions fully and frankly, and not in an obstructive way.

OK, £5,800 isn’t a huge amount, but that’s not the point here. I’m sure some of those who have falsely claimed welfare benefits that totalled a lot less than five grand have ended up with a custodial sentence, or at least a criminal conviction. Certainly more than the slap on the wrist that Ms Miller seems to have gotten away with.

Trouble In Store

Both Tesco and Morrison’s have reported a disappointing Christmas.

I’m not surprised.

In The Supermarket
In The Supermarket

My wife and I don’t do a ‘weekly shop’ and I can’t remember the last time we actually did go to a large supermarket.

Perhaps I’m not typical because I don’t currently own a car, but apparently I AM typical in that I am buying more and more on-line, and tend to use convenience stores rather than out of town hypermarkets.

I think that’s one reason that sales are falling overall for many of these retailers.

In the days of the traditional grocer, when a shopper would make a list that they would then give to, or read off to, the grocer, it was easier to stick to that list.


Shopping Online
Shopping Online

However, supermarkets have known, since their inception, that when a shopper is presented with a array of goods to choose from the shelves,  few can resist putting a few extras in the cart.  Bigger store mean more products on display. That’s more temptation to add more ‘goodies’, spending more money. Supermarkets too, in general, have long moved away from the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ mantra. Most sell premium ranges of products; at premium prices, of course.

Now, in my experience, when I shop on-line, I can take my time to choose what I want, I can compare prices from the comfort of my chair. I can stop and go get something to eat or drink. I don’t have to go out in all weathers, and I don’t have to carry stuff home. That goes for food and non-food items.

If I need something right now, I can walk to the local convenience store, but most things can wait until I place an order.

I use that online monster, Amazon, a great deal. Subscribe and save is a cool concept. I set up a subscription for regular non-perishable items, and as long as I have 5 or more  items each month, I get 15% off.  Free delivery too. Laundry detergent, fabric conditioner, toilet paper, kitchen towels, shampoo, razor blades, multi-vitamins. dish-washing liquid, shower gel, and toothbrush heads are all purchased this way.  One delivery a month. If I need extra, I can always place a separate order (without the 15% off). Conversely, if something isn’t required, then I can cancel that item for that month.  It’s worth it, just so as I don’t have to take those first four items home on the bus!

My wife likes it, that neither of us forgets these items and runs out anymore.  I see adding to that list over time.

If more people are doing what we’re doing, I don’t hold out much hope, in the long term, for some of these retailers.



The Best Thing About Christmas

It’s the gifts silly!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt always has been for me.  When I was a kid, I would start to get excited sometimes towards the end of November. Perhaps a little before that. Then the advent calendar would go up, and I’d get to do that magical countdown all the way through December.  Then the decorations would go up, and I’d get more excited. The big day would arrive. Until I was eight, I was the only child. On my father’s side, he was the eldest, and so was my grandfather, so I really was the only child in the family for those years.

I would get sacks full of gifts from not only from immediate family, but from aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, and even some of the neighbours.  It started to tail off a bit after that, as more children came along.  When I got to about fourteen, some of the great aunts and uncles now had their own grandchildren to buy for, so they started to drop me off their list,  and my pile of gifts on Christmas morning got smaller.

I was disappointed at first, but I still got fine things from my parents and grandparents.

Getting into my late teens and early twenties, Christmas became more of a party time. I’d meet up with friends at the pub and we’d mostly all drink entirely too much. Never enough to get into any serious trouble though.

Once my own children arrived, it became a real pleasure to give gifts. It was something I did as a child, just small token things from my pocket-money and the Christmas savings my parents made for me, but the delight on their faces was a real joy.

These days, Christmas is a quiet affair for my wife and I, but the giving of gifts is still, for me, the real pleasure of Christmas. Of course it’s still nice to get a few surprises on Christmas morning, but I like to see her face when she opens her presents,  just like I used to on the kids faces.

Ramblings and thoughts from a 50-something currently lurking in London