scribbles tagged ‘shopping’

1614 Stakeholder Mapping

Sunday, May 15th, 2016 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

John Speed atlas of Britaine front piece. Estate sales in the USA are rather like having an open house to sell your house contents. An Estate Sales company manages promotion and financial logistics and people come fro all over to buy anything from cutlery, screwdrivers to dining room suites. They seem to happen as standard for middle-class-wish homes. A way of downsizing before moving into retirement homes, following an elderly person’s death.

I picked up this 4ft x 2ft scaled-up reproduction of a front-piece to a 1614 map by “John Speed” for $20. Bargain! The glass and fame are probably each worth more than that!

The border shows heraldic symbols for key Stakeholders in a United Kingdom of Great Britain, from top left, clockwise:

Romane Empire
Heath Britaines
Chritha Britaines
Kentish Britaines
Heathe west Saxons
Christa west Saxons
First Saxon Monarks
Later Saxon Monarks
Norman Kings
Andegavion Kings
Kings of France
Kings of Scotland
Kings of Ireland
Welsh Princes
Later Kings of Wales
First kings of Wales
Cornith Kings
King of Man
Danith Kings
Mercian Kings
East Angles
East Saxons
South Saxons

1614 Stakeholder Mapping
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Big white balls on the ceiling

Sunday, August 9th, 2015 | tags: , , , ,  |

Bare bulbs in basic ceiling fixtures provide harsh and inadequate light for the Wendy loft. At the moment.

Lighting6 months after moving in  I’ve gotten around to ordering lighting fixtures from ‘Lightworks‘ an awesome little family company that renovates old fixtures, designs and makes new fixtures and just loves lighting. I’ve spent several visits just sat on a bar stool in the shop talking to Charles and Kathryn while Wes walks through and the new puppy tries to get into the showroom.   They are lovely people.

LightingI’ve bought some plain pendants with 18 inch hand blown glass globules ‘shades’ that will cover two bulbs. The photograph is of the shop demo with an 8 inch globe. I’ll have bigger balls, in each room.

I’ve also commissioned them to renovate a standard lamp (circa 1920s) that mum and dad bought as a housewarming gift when I moved to Seattle in 2000.

Charles and Kathryn loved this and told me that if it was being sold today they’d expect about to get about $2,500 for it. WOW, that’s added a couple of zero’s onto what mum and dad paid for it!

By November the loft should have adequate lighting…

Big white balls on the ceiling
4 votes rating 5

4 bits of fabulous banter »

Smell the potatoes

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Farmers MarketDriving back from my weekly shop, I took a new route, ignored the Satnav and explored the back ways. Near home I passed a huge outdoor market. The traffic moved slowly, nowhere obvious to park. I parked at home and walked 10mins to the market. A treasure.

According to the signs its the biggest farmers market in the North Midwest. Size matters. I could smell the potatoes and beans. Everything liked good. From now on I’ll be visiting here for all my grocery needs.

Store holder vans reverse up to covered, raised, walkways. Their stock remains in the van behind them while they arrange a display of goods on the table in front.

At the western side the market changes nature as local artists display their wares, pottery, carving, stonework, garden ornaments made from rusting metal. A huge freeway sign overlooks the whole event. City life.
Farmers Market

Smell the potatoes
3 votes rating 4.7

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Non refundable deposit

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 | tags: ,  |

Oh dear.

Apparently, today,  I’ve put a non refundable cash deposit down on a double kennel in British Columbia  and Chuck wants to know if I’ll pay the outstanding balance. What to do…
non refunable deposit

Non refundable deposit
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Antiques theme park

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

You know those permanent, indoor, antiques markets dotted around English cities and towns? They have them in the USA. The riverside city of Stillwater is full of them. It looks like whole families make day trips to Stillwater to browse through the many antiques markets. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the archaeology of different decades. The wood burners and red glassware were particularly beautiful.

Red glassware

Red glassware set and stained glass window


Wood burner, fender, vases and oil lamps


Stuff on shelves


Furniture and paintings

The British version of antiques roadshow is broadcast on the local Public (free) TV

Antiques theme park
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red red wine stain

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 | tags: , , ,  |

Red wine stain removerWhen shopping for cleaners I tend to look for something that will zap as many things as possible with a minimum environmental effect. Vinegar and baking soda are pretty darn good at cleaning all sorts of things

‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’, takes a very different approach. They make the cleaner very specific to the stain. This approach would fill my cupboards with numerous cleaners for tomatoe sauce, tea, beer, toothpaste, egg etc

Presumably, to be financially viable, a specific stain has to be an extremely common cleaning problem. A stain that has no commonly known alternative cleaning method. I was taught that white wine and salt are best put on red wine spillage

I wonder of the red wine stain problem is particularly prevalent in Minneapolis

red red wine stain
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8 wooden columns

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Architectural salvageCity Salvage

Several people roamed around the spacious yet cluttered store. Heated sufficiently to remove the steam of our breath and feel like outdoors in a temperate climate. For a Minneapolis winter, this is a good temperature for a store. Customers are bundled-up in clothes suitable for minus degrees Fahrenheit. The winter is coming…

All these beautiful wood, doors, columns, sconces…. every piece with a story to tell. This is a magic shop. I left the magic undisturbed, leaving with a raised heart and the treasures left in their place for others to see and enjoy.

I’ll be back,

Next time I may bring a friend….

8 wooden columns
1 vote rating 5

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shopping list

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 | tags: ,  |

For a Wendy that doesn’t really enjoy shopping this list is worse than daunting

  • Apartment (+light fittings, window dressings, insurance)
  • Car (+Inspection, Insurance)
  • Phone (+Service)
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Toaster
  • Iron
  • Kettle

It looks such a short list, but there are way too many decisions needed for each of these purchases… I’ve spent most of today researching car and phone purchases and tomorrow looks busy on the same topic, though I am making progress. Despite immense social pressure I wont be buying a Subaru Outlander…

I’ve also got to study for my Minnesota driving licence, and book the 3 tests (online, sight, practical), that’s near enough shopping though not a big range of choices involved.

shopping list
1 vote rating 5

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Buying a computer in John Lewis’s

Monday, February 10th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

We wandered around the computer displays.

Wendy: which one do you like mum?

Mumsie: I can only choose based on how they look dear

Wendy: They’ll all work for what we want them to do, so that’s an ok way to choose

Mumsie: This one has a big space-bar, I want a big space bar. Why is that one [an Apple] so expensive?

Wendy: It’s for people who like showing off that they can pay a lot for their computer, I can’t help you with using that one, I can help you using with all the others.

The large store was very busy in January. We asked for an assistant and were put in a notional queue, we browsed while we waited for an assistant.

Assistant: How can I help you?

Mumsie: I don’t know, we want a computer with a keyboard

Wendy: Mumsie wants to do emailing, share her digital pictures, use Facebook and write the WI minutes. And I don’t want to push her into getting anything she doesn’t feel comfortable with

Mumsie: Oh, is that what we want?!

Assistant: You want a Surface RT, it comes with Microsoft Office installed for writing your minutes

Mumsie: Wendy, is that the ‘Word’ thing that I use? I just copy last month’s minutes and make small changes each month

Wendy: Yes mumsie [turns to assistant] Do any of the others have a version of word installed, and how much would it cost to add Word [annoyed because my surface pro didn’t come with any version of Office, just the option to purchase the full version]?

Assistant: Only the surface comes with Office installed, it is a reduced version but should be sufficient for your Mum’s needs. You’d have to buy and install it on other Windows8 machines

He started talking about Bluetooth and other technical features at this point and I could see mumsie getting disengaged.

Wendy: can mum have a go with it?

He took us to see three Surfaces, each with a different coloured keyboard. Mumsie really liked the keyboard because it had a decent space-bar, but mostly because it was backlit so the letters on the keys were really easy to see. We bought the surface because the value for money and enabling mum to keep using word was important.  Then on with the shopping, we wandered off to look at the winter coats. Mumsie carried the surface easily around the store as we continued browsing. Nice. It was like buying a computer had become just another thing you buy on a shopping trip. A bit scary for mum, but it was my money so it all went smoothly. The package even fitted under the table in John Lewis’s café as we stopped to treat ourselves to coffee and cheesecake. Mum doesn’t use a walking stick, but if she did she would have been able to carry the surface easily around John Lewis’s. Well done.

I was a bit scared about how right the Surface RT would be for her, I would soon find out, but that’s another blog post…

Buying a computer in John Lewis’s
3 votes rating 5

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getting the best computer buying experience

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 | tags: , , , ,  |

We want to buy a senior, computer-novice (Mumzie) something for emailing, sharing digital photographs, writing the Women Insitute meeting minutes and looking at her family on Facebook.

What’s our shopping experience going to be like?

Online buying?

To prepare I did some online searches. Would I be able to sit with mum using my surface, look through and decide between different available computers. No. The choice was overwhelming, the marketing was invariably lists of product features and Spec’s which would mean nothing to mum. There was a lot of reading required, small fonts, technical reviews. It was tedious for me and I could follow what they were writing about.

There was no way mum could choose a computer on the internet, even with me navigating and advising here.


Specialist technical shop?

I wandered into PC World (Currys) to check out what the experience would be like for mum. I wandered around the laptop displays, looked at the labels for each laptop. It wasn’t easy to choose between them even when you know a little bit about processors. A customer service person approached me and directed me towards a Surface Pro telling me how good it was. I started asking him questions and he not only didn’t know the answers he gave me the wrong answers e.g. you can’t buy a Surface Pro without a keyboard attached (which I’d done, so you can!). He was rude and condescending, he started arguments with me and didn’t let me draw them to a close.  It was so frustrating that I ended up just walking off, there was no other way to get out of the conversation because he wouldn’t let it close and he wasn’t being helpful.

The company lost a potential sale because of his attitude. No way was I taking mumzie into this ignorant geeky tat-palace.


Shop specialising in service?

John Lewis’s have a department that includes computers, cameras and peripherals. The layout was similar to PC World, the staff were more stylishly dressed and so much more polite. They listened to me, they found out that I was looking for a computer for my mother. They answered my questions or said when they didn’t know and offered to find out for me. Thank you!

The store has a café with a decent menu, the store sells furniture and clothes, and kitchen stuff. Plenty of fun to be had here above and beyond the computer buying experience. A really good context. Hooray.

Mum’s coming to John Lewis with me for a friendly, well rounded, comfortable and possibly even fun computer shopping experience…


getting the best computer buying experience
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NEXT self dissemble

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

instructions first pageThe delivery man carried my cupboard on his shoulder. Even before it arrived in my hall I’d realised that it was self-assembly. My heart dropped. At the price charged for the cupboard I hadn’t expected Self-assembly, I hadn’t anticipated spending Saturday morning with a screwdriver. Sigh.

Page 1 of 20 Is the cupboard that difficult to construct?

2 people, as tools, to construct it?  I’m offended at being called a tool, I want my cupboard today and my friends, who are not tools may not be available to help me for emergency cupboard assembly….

2 screwdrivers, phew, I’m equipped. Actually I also needed a hammer for inserting dowels and a pair of pliers to removing pieces inserted in the wrong place due to design asymmetry and instruction ambiguity. Now I understand why the sales person was so keen to sell me insurance against getting the furniture scratched.

Helpline?! Goodness, it must be difficult to construct!

This phrase nearly put me off unpacking the box:

“Self-assembly items cannot be returned once assembly is part or fully completed unless the item is found to be faulty

I wonder how many returns Next get from people like me who didn’t realise self assembly, unlike me are scared by 20 pages of instructions and a ‘helpline’ for something that should be simple, and read this no returns as evidence of difficulty to construct and Next pre-empting, to avoid, arguments with its dissatisfied customers.

Important?  they want me to check that they’ve sent me the right bits? Cheeky! They should check they’ve sent me Pacakge contents listthe right parts.  They don’t think I should involve my children in the construction process? Do they think I’m a complete idiot, unable to take responsibility for making decisions about my children and taking responsibility for my own poor decisions. Bloody cheek.

About half the text on the front page is NEXT covering it’s back against customer complaints and returns and treating customers as ignorant, irresponsible, or devious. Thanks NEXT

After 5 years of looking for a cupboard this size and shape I wasn’t gong to let these poor first impressions put me off. I started unpacking and gathered my tools… what happened next is another story….

NEXT self dissemble
8 votes rating 5

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cinderella cupboard complete

Sunday, October 13th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

cupboard complete!A little space in my entrance hall is aching for a cupboard. I carried a tape-measure in my pocket for 5 years, diligently measuring every small cupboard I encountered. Like Goldilocks uncovering non-conformity problems:

  • Too tall – block the hall window light
  • Too deep – block the kitchen door opening
  • Too wide – block the front door opening

I learned to see ‘wrong size’ at a distance, I stopped measuring and hope gradually dwindled. The space in my hall gradually attracted stacks of practical boxes. As I walked by them I thought ‘crazy box woman’ and sighed. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling a disproportionate pleasure from finding durable, functional, beautiful home storage solutions.

Then while off to buy some food I walked passed this in a shop window display.

It looked right. I got excited as I slipped out my tape-measure to check I wasn’t fantasizing. Yes! It fits just right. It’s sturdy, the colour compliments the room. Purchase made, delivery arranged. What I didn’t check was whether it was self assembly or not, but that’s another 4 hour story….

cinderella cupboard complete
4 votes rating 4.8

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first fitting

Saturday, July 27th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

Voucher for £50 at 'a suit that fits'3 weeks after my initial measure-up for a suit I returned my ‘mystery shopper’ form. A couple of days later my payment arrived,  voucher for subsequent purchases from the tailor.  I think they liked my feedback because they’ve given me twice the standard payment for my mysterious shopping.

This means that I can buy a bargain price hand tailored shirt to match my suit. Nice, they are doing a good job of building customer loyalty.

first fitting
1 vote rating 4

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through the magic door

Friday, December 7th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Costume HireColourful costumes adorn the window of ‘Event Junction’. C3PO, Marilyn Monroe and more.

I walk by several times a day. It always brings a smile to my face. Cemetery junction is a lively community hub and a traffic nightmare. This store compliments the diversity of the area and starts you dreaming of possibilities and happy events.

It reminds me of the 70’s children TV program “Mr Benn“. It’s a pleasant diversion from the other local, numerous, convenience and fast food stores.

At the moment I’m trying to pluck up the courage to go in and try on the costumes… find my own adventure.

Just seeing the shop makes my day.

through the magic door
2 votes rating 5

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a few tricky questions

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

Display model (not powered-up)Before parting with my hard earned cash in return for a plucky little champagne coloured Acer Aspire S3 with an Intel i5 processor there were a few tricky questions that the store staff were well placed to answer.  Here are the questions I asked and the sales assistant’s answers:

  1. Does the £150 trade in money back offer apply to all of the new PCs on display? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)
  2. Are there any conditions on the trade-in of a laptop? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)
  3. The free upgrade to Windows 8, do you do that in the store for me or do I have to take the new machine home and upgrade it myself? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)
  4. How do I get to the control panel on this Windows 8 machine? (she showed me some Windows 8 features)
  5. Do you have one of these in stock? (assistant: I don’t know I’ll just ask…)

She was trying hard. She was very personable, probably new to the job. I smiled at her and waited patiently while she researched the answers to my questions. I hope I was reassuring because she must have felt a bit bad about not knowing the answers.

I walked out of the store with a box under my arm, £350 on my credit card bill, and a smile on my face.


a few tricky questions
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2 bits of fabulous banter »

BONKERS price matching

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Sparkles boxFrom all the advice and a bit of playing with some Windows 8 laptops in store my plan was emerging. Fermenting ideas. The strongest ideas bubble to the top. The bubbliest plan is to buy:

  1. Windows 7 laptop – with hardware that meets with windows 8 requirements
  2. Intel i5 processor as minimum – I want fast
  3. Something pretty – not chunky but doesn’t need to be too small as long as it’s light enough not to pull my shoulder muscles
  4. Find a way to take an image of the Windows 7 drive then use the free upgrade to Windows 8 and take an image of that.  Try it out and go with my preferred image.
  5. Ask for the Google Nexus 7 tablet as a birthday or christmas pressie.

I LOVE my plan.

Gosh, I’ve gone and gotten all happy and I haven’t even spent a penny yet!

I know which of the in-store laptops were most appealing and an online search found that even the manufacturers refurbished version was £200  more than the instore model I’d seen, and that was BEFORE the £150 cash-back trade-in on my ‘old’ laptop.

All the online versions were not only more expensive, they were quoting a 3 week delivery period, what’s up with that?!  Walking out of a store with a laptop under my arm is the cheapest and quickest option!  Thomas and I roll up at PC world who are selling the Acer Aspire 3 for near £200 less than thier ‘Currys’ store.  Oddly, Currys had a price match promise – but why buy more expensive and have to claim the money back in a price match within the same company – BONKERS!

BONKERS price matching
1 vote rating 5

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blue screen of temporary illness

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , , , ,  |

PC demo zone on Windows8 launch dayEver since the Cupboard’s face got smashed in I’ve been asking friends and colleagues for advice on what I should do – what sort of computer I should get and when.

My UK friends give diverse advice which naturally mirrors their own preferences. Though the IT professionals quickly get side-tracked onto talking about virtual machines – getting terribly excited at the thought. They seem to run substantial Apples with dual-boot from which they control lots of virutal machines. Not really for me.

I’ve also been popping into local shops that sell computers – Currys, PC world, Comet, John Lewis .   In these stores I get the pleasure of chatting to young handsome fellows who’re very excited about the prospect of being able to save up for an Apple iPad. Cute, but not actually too helpful for me – they aren’t good at ucovering my criteria and herding me towards one of their products. I’ve got wads of dosh in my pocket for something special, yet no-one’s selling to me. They’re selling to themselves. Most bizarre.

On the day that Windows 8 released I pootled along to Currys to play with a copy on their display machines. Everything started well:

  • No queue outside the store of people waiting to get their sticky hands on the new fancy OS. Such good fortune. I do dislike all the jostling and the lack of diversity when everyone plumps for the same thing. Even the store’s Demo stand was enticingly empty.  I felt good.
  • 5 assistants all ready to help me and the other customer in the PC section of the store. wonderful. I do like having someone on hand to spend time chatting with me – especially if I’m planning on spending more than £200.
  • A queue around the Apple stand.  Baffling.  Such ugly and expensive machines. Still not much choice – they’ve side-stepped having to make all the decisions that I’m about to take on…. which manufacturer, which processor type/size etc. More spacefor me to explore!

Store copy of windows 8 on release dayI wandered over to the windows 8 laptops that looked about the right size and design funkiness. Oh, a small blue one with ripples on the lid (Acer Aspire One).  My first experience of Windows 8 was a message that says:

 “Automatic Repair couldn’t repair your PC

Oh how I laughed!

A young assistant noticed my standing looking at the computer, giggling,  he swooped in and offered his help.

wendy: is this manufacturer installed windows 8 or a windows 7 machine that’s been upgraded in the store?

assistant: it came from the manufacturer with windows 8 on it

wendy: it’s not working, that’s not good on a demo machine is it?

assistant: it just means it didn’t shutdown properly, that’s all, I’ll just reboot it


I fell over


(no broken bones)

blue screen of temporary illness
2 votes rating 5

7 bits of fabulous banter »

misleading advertising

Monday, October 8th, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

M&S promote British StyleI rarely go into M&S. This window display is a prime example of why. The slogan says “the best of British style” the mannequins are wearing shades of biege jumpers, denim and undistinctive footwear.  Neither classic, exciting, country, or any kind of combination that could really be described as style except perhaps ‘comfortably numb’.

Poor show M&S

I’m confident that British styling can do a whole lot better!

misleading advertising
2 votes rating 4

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adult shop

Sunday, July 15th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

It’s hot work

A woman with close-cropped hair and pixie-like features winks at me while she twists round to see her bum in tight fitting black leather trousers. I can hear the gentle creak of leather on her and the other customers as they squeeze past each other down the thin display isles. The store oozes intimacy.

Free Tea and Coffee

Prices start at around £100 for leather trousers, through £350 for a half-decent jacket with built-in body armour then up to £700 for a fully featured, brand name, helmet. Half a day passes as I systematically look at everything, finding out how one item differs from another. Assistants helped; pointing me to good brands, explaining how things worked and finding other sizes for me to try on. Some black, Goretext lined, Alpinestars ladies leather boots with ankle armour accompanied me out of the shop.

Like the shop I used to work in, this one provides its customers with tea and biscuits. Unlike the shop I worked in there’s no teapot or china involved. The polystyrene self-service with custard cremes seems strangely at odds with the price and style of the gear being sold.


adult shop
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listening at high speed

Sunday, July 8th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

Oxfam art nouveau shop frontHe spoke with floods of enthusiasm but without punctuation. Goodness knows how air made it’s way INTO his lungs:

Would you like a bag Ive got a bag Ive got a bag thats just for you its an em and ess bag see

His enthusiasm and personal approach drew me into a large smile then the mention of M & S almost prompted a LOL. Ah yes, I’m a woman of a certain age. The age where women are expected to start shopping at M & S. He continued his stream of thoughts, picking up my book of London pictures and flicking through the pages to look at them.

As he talked I realised that the ‘Lemmy’ look was completely misleading:

That’s a very nice book. Beautiful pictures. Have you been there? (points at Parliament). Its very good. It was done by Pull Gin.

Wendy: Pugin?

Yes. He died when he was forty. He fitted a whole life into 30 years. He did Gothic. He did all of Gothic. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have Gothic. He went mad. Have you been to Windsor castle? That’s good too. Did you know they had a fire there? My dad helped rebuild it. He’s a carpenter. He saw Prince Harry and Prince William. They went to the school that’s there, near windsor.

Wendy: Eton?

Yes. They looked like penguins

Wendy: In their black and white school uniform?

Yes. It must be nice to be rich. I’d like to be rich. But I like being me it’s ok not being rich. I dont want to be them they have a lot of things to do.I like working here.

Will you come back again? Will I see you again?

A queue had started to form behind me, I was impressed by how quickly he reacted to a queue forming. He clearly understood that this shouldn’t happen and he clearly enjoyed talking to me. I was very glad that I hadn’t been in a hurry because taking the time to listen to his child like enthusiasm was very refreshing

Wendy: Yes. I’ll come back, it’s been nice to meet you, have a good day, bye bye

listening at high speed
1 vote rating 5

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Pop goes the weasel

Monday, March 19th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

(warning: long budgety scribble heavily influenced by Excel)

Money’s not yet too tight to mention, but the UK budget announcements on Wednesday may tip the balance for many people . The average UK salary is near £26,000 per annum. I’m lucky enough to earn more than average, a ‘middling’ salary that helps me support my 1st luxury of living alone in a house that demonstrates my detachment. My purchase-ability has been steadily dropping since returning to England in 2007. My expenses have also steadily dropped. I am lucky enough to be able to live within my means, and like most people, my means are systematically shrinking

Once my salary has gotten into my bank account this is approximately how it leaves:

50% on home mortgage and insurances

Ground Floor PlanMy 4th mortgage. Each home more gorgeous than the last. This upscaling is why, after 20 years, I still only own half of my home. Some friends  have repaid their mortgages because they’ve lived in one house for a long time. In Reading town I’m primarily paying a premium for living near a station with a 25 minute one-stop commuter ride to London. Spending this money is both a ‘basic’ because I need a home and a luxury because I could rent, or live further from London,  in a place that would only take 25% of my salary.  Being able to  choose to live here and invest in ‘property’ makes me feel like I am a rich person

6% on home services

Water rates, electricity, gas, council tax for local services like rubbish disposal, police etc

12% on home maintenance and improvements

Replacing broken equipment (e.g. washing machine) paying for plumbers, electricians, roofers, cleaning equipment,  painting equipment and plants

12% on transport

Thomas V2Being able to travel any way other than on foot feels like a luxury. My 2nd big luxury expense is tanking Thomas for petrol, insurance, servicing and parts. Some money goes on public transport for holiday journeys like my train ride down to St. Ives at Christmas

10% on health, food and appearance

Toast, marmite, tea, socks, pants, shampoo etc  The stuff that makes up most of my weekly shops

10% on entertainment, friends and family – mainly eating and drinking

Pub and phone boxYAY! My 3rd luxury – a fabulous regular expense that brings me a lot of happiness….

0% on savings

Um never really managed to save. I have managed to get ‘Savings’ this happened when I started jobs that paid ‘Bonuses‘ for good performance – in 2000. This amount is nothing like the size of Bankers bonus! Normally, It could cover the cost of an extra pint of beer a week.


Before my salary gets to my bank account a lot is deducted in tax and:

20% on pension

I got my first job after completing my PhD in 1991. Having missed years of making pension contributions, which meant I had some catching up to do. I started by contributing 15% of my salary to my pension in1991. As pensions have become less reliable and effective saving schemes, I’ve increased my contribution to 20%


What do you do? How do families with only one income cope?  How do couples use the extra income that joint expenses release?  How can families earning less than average income afford to provide for children?

How will the budget affect you?

Pop goes the weasel
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Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

skin sandpaperConcerns have been expressed about my well-being during my annual vacation – the Barcelona bumptiousness tour. This note should reassure and exfoliate all concerned people by detailing  recently aquired safety equipment to use on that holidee spree:

Kids factor 50 sunscreen – because my skin’s so youthful

Norwegian moisturiser – because my skin has Scandinavian origins

Sandpaper – to strip the surface layer of skin



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pour the Napoleon brand e

Monday, July 11th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Getting ready for Barcelona in October. How? Buying a light-weight rain jacket and some comfy sandals! This year I’ve been lucky enough to get an annual bonus so I’ve indulged myself with:

  1. Expensive “Ladies” Linen Barbour Jacket coated with a rough finish polyurethane. Essentailly a jacket that looks wet and has an over-priced classic British brand name. Almost Burberry. Does this make me a chav?
  2. Cheap black leather Sketchers’ “tone-up” sandals. The advertising bumf supplied by the manufacturer says that a clinical study (of 8 people) showed that there is significantly more muscle activity when walking in these compared to normal sandals. That activity will make my bum firmer. Well, there’s fancy foot-technology for you! If the previous purchase hasn’t qualified me as a chav, surely this one will?

These summer purchases will compliment my Ray Bans which are itching to be put in my Tumi Barcelona carry-on bag beside my elderly Animal washkit

If I haven’t already, I’m about to crash through the cusp of chavy. That’s the equivalent of Concorde breaking the sound barrier, only for Brand purchasing

Yeah Baby!

pour the Napoleon brand e
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3 bits of fabulous banter »

institutional violence or a ticket to Kansas?

Sunday, April 17th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Institutional ViolenceVisitors to earth from planet Wendy see the marketing of high healed shoes as institutionalised violence, targeting females. For some inexplicable reason hobbling, the risk of broken ankles, is an attractive female characteristic.

Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.

Erica Jong

The majority of females are complicit in perpetuating this violence. Visitors from planet Wendy are baffled by this complicity. Visitors keep their befuddlement under their stylish hats lest they cause offense, identifying themselves as targets for the near ubiquitous, rigorous enforcement regime.

What shoes should I wear to demonstrate my lack of complicity without attracting non-compliance social penalties?  My tastes rarely coincide with high street fashion. My criteria for yesterday’s shoe purchase trip, in priority order, were

  • must not introduce a risk of bodily injury when walking – I can fall over without artificial aides.
  • comfortable – definitely bouncy soles and soft uppers
  • can be worn to walk 4 miles per day on sidewalks and in buildings
  • please or amuse members of the public, work colleagues and clients when I wear them to work
  • give the impression that I’ve dressed-up a bit for a trip to the Theatre, Garden or Dinner party
  • colour should sort-of go with some of the clothes I already own. A fairly open criteria favouring blue, black, grey, brown, white and orange.

ticket to KansasI’ve wanted a pair of red shiny, low-heal, soft soled shoes ever since I first read the Wizard of Oz. This pair of Kansas hoppers closed the deal in the time it took to try them on. I only visted 2 shops, RESULT!  All my criteria filled and MORE!

Waiting decades before finally meeting these shoes adds a special relish to our union

Unwrap the Edam, the cheese is on me!

institutional violence or a ticket to Kansas?
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3 bits of fabulous banter »

golightly glasses

Sunday, February 6th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Optical Express said they could replace the lenses in my ski-chic wrap-around graduated-grey tint,  reflective Ray Bans for a reasonable price. Hooray. Phew! I was thrilled at being able to get the lenses replaced in my favourite glasses.

That’s the highlight of the story over. It’s downhill from here on in, though luckily no broken bones.

3 frowns: Ratings explained

The following summary actually omits many of the details that added to the paucity of my experience. I made 4 trips to pick up my glasses, each time and transport:

  1. Optical Express explained that their ‘labs’ no longer had the specialist equipment so the glasses had been sent to another lab and I’d have to come back next week
  2. On this visit they made me wait in line, did not know what had happened even after checking their computers to find that my glasses work had been put ‘on hold’. The labs were not answering the phone so they suggested that I come back next week,  when they knew more, Sigh
  3. This visit they explained that actually they could not fit new lenses in my current frames, but they could give me 5%  (about £6.00) on a different, new, set of Ray Ban frames. This discount amounted to less than my cumulative busfares for the previous trips to pick up the glasses. I turned down the measley offer, explaining why, and asked for my glasses back saying I would go elsewhere. This prompted them to offer 50% off a new frame (£60) which I rashly accepted, and selected a Holly Golightly pair of Ray Bans
  4. Finally picked up my old glasses, without new lenses, and new glasses with new lenses. New lenses were scratched. How poor is that? I gave-up and walked out

It seems that British optical laboratories provide customers with substantially fewer lens treatment and fitting services than those in the USA (tint colours, coatings). Opticians prefer to sell you a whole new pair of glasses than try and replace lenses in existing frames. Even more sadly, Optical Express lead me to believe they could supply a service that they could not, then compounded this by substandard service. I’ll be going elsewhere to replace the lenses in my other glasses.

Generally rather disappointing

golightly glasses
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3 bits of fabulous banter »

buying manufacturers ethos

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Two men from John Lewis’ electricals (JLE) arrived to take away my defuncted Indesit and replace it with a magnificent miele. Miele’s company slogan is ‘Forever Better’ they build products to last and provide better user experiences. They pass-on the cost of achieving this goal to their customers.  I’d rather not have to replace a washing machine several times in a decade. This machine should last me several decades. Awesome!

The men from JLE  looked at the old Indesit which came with the house 3 years ago. Audible tutting noises….

JLE: its not disconnected. We can’t do anything until its disconnected. I’ll go away and come back in 10 minutes, that should give you time to disconnect it

wendy: Oh, I thought you guys would do that as part of the removal and deliver

JLE: Oh no, that’s a whole different service, that’s installation, we haven’t been instructed to install your machine, you’ll have to do that

wendy: ashame, if the sales-process had offered me disconnection and installation I would probably have bought it

I pull the washing machine out from under the kitchen counter, turn the valves on the hot and cold water supplied to the off position, disconnect the supplies, remove the water-outlet pipe and unplug the machine from the power source. Easy. Didn’t need to pay someone to do that, I’m glad John Lewis’s didn’t sell me that service.

JLE: remember to remove the transport bars before you use it.  If you don’t remove the bars it will break the machine

wendy: transport bars? what are they, where are they? are there any instructions?

JLE: just read the manual miss, its all in the manual, do what it says in the manual

After loading the Indesit onto their trolley, both removal men washed thier hands it my fabulous butler sink. The transport bars hold the drum in place while the machine is being moved. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, within 5 minutes my Miele was connected to power, water supply, water removal pipe and ready to go.  Awesome.

The handbook had lots of user instructions

Did I read them? Did I?

Not yet

buying manufacturers ethos
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4 bits of fabulous banter »

graceful failure

Monday, January 24th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

hand washThe washing machine finally gave up the ghost, died

It was a graceful departure, no explosions or fires, no flood, it didn’t take-out any other appliances on its way down, no uncertainty about the end

I was able to work out how to remove the half washed laundry and finish the job by hand. Hand washing and rediscovering the world of the laundrette until I can arrange a replacement

(warning: gratuitous gushing)

Isn’t the internet fabulous? Within 4 hours of the washing machine biting the dust I had read multiple product reviews and store-supply and support reviews, selected a new washing machine, measured-up the space to check it fitted, purchased and booked delivery of the new machine and removal of the old machine. Before the internet this activity would have taken days, carefully fitted in around work and ivolved trips to multiple stores. How easy it is to do the research and find the right solution from the comfort of your connected home – NOW. I love how the internet has changed my life

(gratuitous gushing over)

graceful failure
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1 wonderful musing »

uniform debt

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

Specialist servicesMiss interpretting and spelling written words is one of my innate talents. Context, together with how the word sounds in my head normally helps me get things right

Sometimes I use the wrong context. Here in the fabulous Jackson’s I was thinking about ‘Austerity’ when I read this sign. I read Boys School Uniform Debt and assumed it was some form of financing offer to help parents avoid getting into dept when buying school uniforms for their boys.

It sounded plausible to me….

uniform debt
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4 bits of fabulous banter »

China in Reading

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

CMartNestled amongst the pound stores, opticians, charity shops, and estate agents of Friar Street is the CMart.

CMart – a store full of Chinese goodies. Without subtitles.

No subtitles!

While standing in the check-out line holding some packages with very enticing pictures 2 fellows behind me got very animated in what is possibly Chinese. I smiled at them and they explained in broken English that the package they were holding came from Bejing. The check-out chap smiled, I smiled, a first class purchase experience, even though I’m not sure what I bought.

I’ll be back for more happy customer and staff ambience.

PS 100 word post before the PS
China in Reading
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mail-order space

Friday, November 26th, 2010 | tags:  |

Staples delivery of 2 pen boxesRecently our multi-talented office manager ordered 2 boxes of pens. With every delivery of 2 boxes of pens Staples gives you, gratis, for free,  2 square foot of space.

The pens and space arrived in this fabulous brown box. The much needed space has been added to the side of my desk so that people can stop-by and chat without being hit by the spontaneous, unpredictable and sudden door-opening activities of other exuberant-corridor-wandering colleagues.

mail-order space
rate wendys scribble

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