Saturday, 31 January 2009

Retail therapy in Wolverhampton

I was paid yesterday. Including the Tax Man's cheque, that means I'm temporarily LOADED!!

Like all the other Wulfrunians, I hit the Mander and Wulfrun Centres like a good little retail therapee. It was packed.

I bought two pairs of dorky but comfortable shoes from Clark's last days of the shoe sale, the two jumpers I had my eye on in Sense, the jeans from British Heart Foundation, Baby Blues Appeal and the Beacon shop for the Blind, new bras and socks from Marks and Spencers, new support pop socks from Boots (as well as stuff for Christmas and birthday presents) and a 4GB Wharfedale mp3 player from Argos.

As I paid for my new toy, the girl behind the till rattled off a warning that unless there was something wrong with it, the mp3 player was NOT subject to the 30 day returns policy.

Okay. That sounded fair enough.

I was pretty well loaded down with stuff by the time I headed for home for the first time. I dumped all the shopping in the back room and went out a second time to do the essentials shopping including Council Tax payment at the Post Office.

There was a massive queue going out the back door which I joined. It was after nearly 30 minutes in the queue that I got close enough to a sign which was attached to the first Tensaband pole. It apologised for the delay which was due to a series of post office closures in the area and payments could be made at the shop counter at the front of the store.

I'd just wasted half an hour. THAT notice could have been put on the inside of the window by the back door.

I went to the front counter. And got stuck in a relatively short queue. A woman bought some stamps for letters to Germany and the girl at the till was tapping away on the pressure sensitive till screen for nearly 10 minutes before she found the right code for stamps for Europe.

I paid for my Council Tax and my three Lottery lucky dips and headed to the Nationwide to pay money into my bills account.

After the Nationwide I went home again. I couldn't wait to unwrap all my new 'toys'. The new clothes needed washing and adjusting and I wanted to start playing with my new mp3 player.

Whoo hoo!

My excitement was short lived.

The instructions were grim. The battery, although rechargeable wasn't removable and the device seemed to have been designed to be as user unfriendly as possible.

Pook.

Double pook!

I'm going to have to spend an awful amount of time on this. Although it's functioning badly, it's not broken. So I'm going to have to persevere.

Apparently, depending on how shortly or longly I depress the '4' button and when, it's the ON button, the OFF button, the PLAY button, the PAUSE button or it can help toggle beween menus with the '8' and the '7' buttons.

It can also record voice, sorry, VIOCE and the LIBRAY can store up to 1000 tracks.

Now, let's see if I can work out how to preset the Radio stations.............

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Lost in translation?

Growing up, I occasionally heard a remarkably bitter song by Scott Walker (formerly of the Walker Brothers).



As I listened to Radio 2, I listened to a lot of music from the 50s and 60s even into the 70s (rock just passed Terry Wogan by) and 80s. I heard this version of Jacky a few times.



It was always introduced by the radio announcers as written by "the incomparable/the genius/the extraordinary Jacques Brel" who had apparently had a lot of his work translated into English in the 60s.

Later on, I bought the Marc Almond version. Which seems very much weaker than the Scott Walker version I grew up with.



But nowadays, with the power of YouTube - a lot of small miracles can happen. I looked up the song and found a Jacques Brel video with English subtitles. Imagine a cross between Lee Evans and Kenneth Williams and you're half way there to getting an idea of the guy.



Absolutely extraordinary. And the lyrics....even accounting for the spanning of the new English lyrics to the melody - some of them are just, well, wrong.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

SHOW ME THE MONEY

I paid the cheque into the ATM using the cheque deposit facility on Tuesday evening. Nationwide take three working days to credit a cheque into a current account.

Of course, Nationwide weren't going to consider Tuesday as one working day but counting Wednesday, Thursday and Friday then I'd get the money today. Yes?

No.

Nationwide don't count the day the cheque is paid in. So that's Thursday, Friday and Monday. The money will be in my account on my birthday - Tuesday. Almost a week after I paid it in.

When I queried this I was reminded of a small £60 overdraft facility that I had set up years ago.

Greaaaaat. That'll have to do then.

I took out all the £60 and went to get my hair cut. Now, I've no idea what happens in the rest of the country, but Wolverhampton is swimming in nail, tanning and hair salons. Queen Street alone is home to at least three.

I picked one of the cheapest. It looks like a very old style barber's shop with a small ladies' section in the back. They're fine for a quick trim - although the last time I had my hair done there (last November) it was the first time in a very long time that I came out of the shop completely od'd on hairspray.

My hair was crispy and I could feel the stiff ruffles on the back of my head crunch under my hands as I patted round to see what it felt like.

It was only when I washed it at home that I saw what my hair looked like. It was fine.

Really.

Honestly.

A short and tidy haircut for £22 and it was better than the College salon which IS pretty hit and miss.

I got a different hairdresser this time and got the full saga of how she had recently split up with a long time partner, sorted out custody of the dogs, bought a house, found a lodger (a family friend), tried to get her bills sorted - she had a friend who worked in the Council Tax section of the Civic Centre who had popped in and was giving her advice about instalments and had kept in contact with her ex's family - the sister was a bitch, apparently.

We were shouting to each other over the roar of the hairdryer at the end. There was mousse and not hairspray this time so instead of a mad professor sticky up and out look; I had a looser, floppier head of hair. Which looked fine.

After that I windowshopped. I popped into Sense and saw a couple of jumpers that would fit me (I'm a short, fat, size 20), went round all the charity shops and saw jeans in British Heart Foundation, Beacon Shop for the Blind and the Baby Blues Appeal shop.

There's was nothing worth having in PDSA although I have bought a few items in there before and I tried a pair of comfy but dorkish shoes (for work) in Clarks. I even went to Argos to see if they had any mp3 players that I might like. I've seen one that looks alright. I suppose.

Home and then housework.

It was a pretty ordinary and uninspiring Saturday, really. Same as every other one.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

After a long day at work I came home to find a letter on my doormat. It was brown and manila and official looking and came from the Tax Man.

My heart sank a little. Yet another form to fill in and yet more looking stuff up. I'd have to drag up the old wall planners again and fill in all the......

Actually, no I didn't.

It's a summary of all my employers from 2007 - 2008 and 2008 - 2009 and a cheque.

A cheque!

A cheque!!

For £568.06p.

Hee hee!

With my birthday coming up this will be awesome!

Now. Wish list

I want

shoes - there are two pairs I like the look of in Clarks.

an mp3 player - there are plenty of nice ones for under £40.

clothes - I like trawling the charity shops for stuff for work, but I need new underwear as well. A lot of socks are looking threadbare for a start.

stuff for the house - there's sooooooo much to be done.

I can pay off the last £200 of my credit card bill - boring, I know, but that'll be one less payment to make.

a haircut - my hair is growing at a massive rate and looks extremely untidy.

Um, um, um

Actually, that's probably the entire lot spent already.

Whoo hoo!

Money! Unexpected free money!

Although it's not free exactly, is it? It's all the tax I've overpaid since I left the Big E. Still I wasn't expecting it and it's a bonus.

Whoo hoo! Retail therapy, here I come.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Stars, stickers, silliness and cemeteries

In an attempt to try and remain positive, I'm sticking little stars on my wall planner every time I get most of my To Do lists done, do a good deed or get a full days work done without too much hassle.

It's day 11 and I have 6 stars. This includes two calls to the police as a concerned member of the public, a day when I finished work dead on 4pm (for a doctor's appointment), the day when I made the 'phone calls and sorted out the money mess and the day I was thanked for knocking on a car window.

Yeah, I know how that sounds.....

It was very late when I was walking to the bus stop on Wednesday. I left at 9:30pm. The road is extremely busy for traffic and very quiet for pedestrians. On my way, I pass the gates of a cemetery. That night, there was a car parked up just outside the gates. There's a tiny turn off between the road and the main gates of the cemetery of no more than 15 feet. There is no parking and no reason to be parked there.

I passed by, thinking (uneasily) that maybe someone had broken down and had just managed to push the car out of the way of the thundering traffic.

On my way in to work the following morning, the car was not only still there, but there was what looked like a heap of clothes in the drivers seat. I walked past. I stopped. I had second thoughts.

I could just imagine the headlines later that day.


'Grieving Pensioner Freezes to Death in Lonely Vigil
A grieving pensioner was found dead in his car by council workers
who came to open the cemetery in which his wife of forty years
had been buried the previous day.
Police are calling for witnesses who may have seen the car.........'
You know the sort of thing the local papers print.
I felt too guilty to carry on, called the non emergency police line and described the circumstances.
The operator asked for details - I gave her the car position, make, model, registration and by the time I'd done that, I was close enough to see a big pile of clothes in the driver's seat.
I told the operator that it looked like someone was in the car and it had been there all night.
She asked me to see if they were all right.
Gulp!
Keeping the operator on the line in case I disturbed a machete wielding psychopath
'Woman hacked to death with machete
Police are hunting the killer of a local woman who was
hacked to death on her way to work this morning.
Her name is being witheld until next of kin have been notified........'
You know the sort of thing the local papers print.
I knocked on the window, maintaining a running commentary for the benefit of the police operator.
The pile of clothes and blankets moved. A huge pair of black brown eyes blinked out and a young Asian woman cracked the window.
I asked if she was all right - it was cold out and the car had been parked overnight.
She told me that yes, she was all right, her mother had been buried in the graveyard the previous day and she didn't want her to be alone for her first night.
She added, somewhat unnecessarily, that she had taken her mother's death very badly.
I told her I was sorry to hear of her mother's death (she did seem very young) and I apologised for disturbing her.
I then explained to the operator as I walked away what had happened.
We both agreed that it was a very strange and morbid thing to do and at least the lady was all right - or at least, not frozen to death.
Yesterday I was wandering around through the Mander Centre when a very pretty young Asian woman broke away from her family group and thanked me.
I must have looked very confused.
She explained that she was the lady in the car and she was very grateful that someone had knocked on the car window. Calling me her good Samaritan, she told me that I had restored her faith in people.
Blimey. That was a bit strong.
I told her that I seen the car the previous evening and became so worried about it being there the following morning that I felt guilty about passing it again I couldn't pass it by. I could imagine some poor pensioner or something horrible - I had to see if they were all right .......blabber......blabber........blabber
She nodded, thanked me again and quickly returned to her family. A tad too quickly - suggesting I'd fluffed it and scared or embarrassed her.
But I still felt a little warm glow that at least I done something right on Wednesday. So two stars - one for Wednesday and one for yesterday.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Yet another day off for yet another domestic emergency - this WILL look good for my Performance and Pay Review

I rang in at 8:30.

I told my poor, long suffering, boss about the mortgage thing and that I couldn't bring all my tax and mortgage stuff in, make business hours 'phone calls and still manage a day's work. He agreed with me. He'd see me bright and early tomorrow.

I did some laundry, made myself brunch (2 x coronation chicken on toast, 1 x toasted crust and marmalade, cereal and coffee) and then sorted out all the folders and paperwork necessary for the telephone marathon ahead.

Tax, wage slips for the Tax Year to date, mortgage, home and contents insurance.

I warmed up with a quick call to the Doctor for an appointment and then 'phoned my mortgage company.

Who told me about last month's mortgage payment.

Actually, it was this month's mortgage payment I was interested in.

The very nice West Country chap told me that Nationwide were in the process of transferring Portman mortgage accounts over to its own system and that my account number was one of the old numbers. He could only give me what had happened to my account up until the transfer.

Great.

He gave me my new account number and transferred me over to the new mortgage centre. I was on hold for a verrrrrrry loooonnnnnngggggggg ttttttiiiiiiimmmmmmeeeeee. The muzak kept fading in and out and at times I started to wonder if I had been cut off.

A chirpy Welsh girl faded in and I gave her all the security details again and she battled a lousy line to help me.

The mortgage payment had gone through.

What? Then it dawned on me - I hadn't checked the account today yet.

The £34.16, she explained was the home and contents insurance and the mortgage payment was taken separately.

Oh. Thanks. I panicked over nothing.

Well, it's better to be safe than sorry.

I thanked her and, after a quick toilet break 'phoned the Tax Man.

Again, I was placed on hold for a very long time but there was better quality muzak this time.

I got put through to a very nice Geordie lady who helpfully told me that benefits payments were taxable and my tax was recalculated to take my benefits payments into account.

Oh. I said, that expla .....er....actually I was employed throughout 2008. I haven't claimed benefits this Tax Year. I was unemployed for a period in 2007.....

That shouldn't be included in this year's tax payment.

So, as well as all my pay slips and my tax coding letters, I had to drag out the wall planners from the previous years and tell her my employment status from The Big E onwards.

I was trying to talk to her on the cordless 'phone, pin down the ends of the wall planners as they rolled up like wallpaper and tell her what my pay rates were at the time of employment. I needed at least another elbow.

In the end, after a very long and awkward 'phone call, she told me to expect an employer review form in the post.

Terrific.

And the good news? Well, she said, don't quote me, but after a quick calculation, I was due a refund of about £190 at the end of this month. That's the money that was deducted from December's pay.

I may even be due refunds due to the mistakes that were pointed out during this 'phone call. But don't quote me, she said.

I'll look forward to that form.

I thanked her and felt that at least the day off wasn't wasted.

With overtime as well, come the end of this month, I'll be minted. If all the payments come through.

Whoo hoo!

Bit late for the January sales though.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Blah. Blah. Blaaaaaaaaaargh!

With the dark mornings, I don't draw the curtains back first thing. It was 107.7FM who told me it had been snowing.

It was the freezing air in my bedroom that told me that something was up with the central heating.

Sure enough, after lighting the cooker and ascertaining I still had a gas supply, I had to spend a good few minutes trying to restart the boiler. Bloody pilot light.

Although the date on the milk said "6th JAN", it was the sour taste of my cornflakes that told me that the milk was off and needed to the poured away.

To save as much money as possible, I filled up on breakfast to avoid eating lunch. The plan was to have a few glasses of water to slake my thirst and maybe read a Metro or something.

I put my best 'walking-through-the-snow' boots on and still nearly broke something necessary just outside my own front door. I swept the snow off the pavement and put salt down.

After putting DO NOT SPEND on my TO DO LIST last night, as I went out the door for the second time this morning, I already had milk, bread and salt on a mental shopping list.

The snow was pretty but the pavements were treacherous. I got to work quite late (but before 10am) and had a long but productive day before heading home again.

The few-glasses-of-water-for-lunch plan hit the buffers after Severn Trent notified us to say they were repairing a water main and they were shutting off mains water. I was parched by the time the water came on again in the late afternoon.

I had four or five mugs of cold water before I had even left work.

I have a few issues with the Tax Man after a massive tax deduction from my wages. I have to sort through all my pay slips from this year (April 2008 - Present) and try to work out what on earth went wrong.

I went to the cash machines to get mini statements and was horrified to discover that my mortgage payment for this month hasn't been taken from my account. Instead HSBC has



Nationwide B S £34.16

in amongst the direct debits listed. That's instead of the few hundred pounds it normally takes.

What?

Just what is going on here? I'm going to have to find some mortgage correspondence for tomorrow and try to get to the Nationwide to find out what's gone wrong there.

!Jeepers!?! Just what is it with me and money this month?

I finally got to Sainsbury's and bought milk, a loaf and salt. And a large jar of green pesto, a newspaper, a reduced melon (30p from £1.99) and some reduced ham (30p from £1.98). That's nearly £9.

Whooooooooooeeeeeeeeee.

The last of the big spenders has hit town.

Home then and the salt was put down before I even opened the front door. I had the mini toad in the holes for tea with a little mustard.

And Hi Juice squash, coffee (I don't like it, but I need the caffeine) and yet more water.

Blimey, I'll be scouring the streets for cigarette stubs soon.

Joking.

I don't smoke.

And now would be a lousy time to start.


Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year! New Broom! New start for this weekend! Definitely - ish

To Do List

Fix the door light - DONE - using a 16W bulb in a 21W light fitting makes it pop very quickly

Tidy the toiletries - DONE - after a quick burst of buying stuff at the Boots sale before realising the miscalculation in the wages - there are yet more to add to the embarrassing hoard

Tidy up generally - DONE

Tidy up the suitcase and sort out all the bags in it - DONE - I still haven't dealt with it properly after returning home last Sunday

Pay the random cheque received from AXA into the Nationwide Direct Debit Account so that it can cover the minimum payment for the credit card - DONE - Still not sure why they sent me a random cheque for £14.67 for an account I shut down in 2007, but I'm not complaining

Send off the cheque for the credit card - DONE

Pay money into the Nationwide Direct Debit Account to cover January's bills - DONE

Check balances and mini-statements - DONE

Calculate actual balances and check finances for January after realising the mistake with the wages - DONE - I've got £86 for the rest of the month

Shred personal stuff - DONE - I still miss setting fire to stuff

Update blog - DONE

Watch the iPlayer and see what's on itv.com, 4od and Channel5 - DONE - The Top Gear show from Vietnam was brilliant and very funny, Wallace and Gromit was too short (as always), itv.com has some good stuff but everything falls apart after the first ad break, 4od knows a commercial opportunity when it sees one and wants payment for the popular stuff, Channel5 is fairly rubbish

Buy and prepare the year planner - DONE - A big wall planner is a better idea for me than a diary, as I can stick things on it and tells me the entire year without having to find it and flip through all the pages

Adjust clothes - STILL TO DO - Must do soon as the funeral is coming up soon

I'm not doing too badly, honestly.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Happy New Year? Um no....... not really

After Terry Wogan rang in sick and one of my favourite radio presenters came on at 7:30 (Alex Lester - The Dark Lard), I dug out my headphones out, plugged them into my new 'phone and nodded and smiled my way to work.

My good humour was very short lived.

I came in to work to be warned by one colleague that another colleague has lost his much loved and very cute Jack Russell terrier pup over the New Year. It was run over.

A slight miscalculation with the wages has left me very short for the next few weeks, so I'm going to have to economise as much as possible. MwK rang me on my mobile as I was leaving Sainsbury's with as much cheap stuff as I could possibly lug home.

Auntie Godmother died in hospital today in the late afternoon.

He told me to ring Dad ASAP and not to bother her daughter as she was extremely upset. He, SiL, Cute Niece and Cute Nephew were all going round tomorrow to try to cheer Dad up.

Fat chance.

With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I got home to find Dad's 'phone engaged for almost half an hour.

I was about to ring him again when the 'phone rang. I told him that I was very sorry to hear of his sister's death and how was he keeping? He'd been on the 'phone to someone who knew her and was also shocked to hear of her death.

Auntie Godmother had declined so rapidly from the time we all saw her at Wastrel Cousin's funeral that he couldn't really take it in. She was only a couple of years older than him and hadn't reached 70 years of age. Still, at least she didn't suffer for very long, so at least that was some sort of blessing.

I thought of the palaver with Mum and had to agree with that. It took months and months of yo-yo-ing back and forth before Mum was taken into hospital that final time. Boy, did she suffer?!

I tried to make a few calculations - a plane crash has decimated train services to London from this neck of the woods - that means the coaches are going to be booked solid from now until Doomsday. I need to know when the funeral is as soon as is practicable so that I can book seats and book a return ticket.

He told me that I'll be told by him. It's the first funeral my Cousin has had to arrange and she's devastated. She was a newborn when her dad died, so this is her first major loss. Before now, she's just attended funerals of people she knew or knew of.

Her mother was a fine woman, widowed when her second child was only a tiny baby. She lived with an older brother after that (he's long dead - you're kinda sorta getting a hint of a theme here, aren't you?) successfully raised two children and working hard long into retirement.

She was very close to my Dad when they were younger and her death is going to hit him very hard. I'm not sure what I'll be able to do to help.

After discussing the recent freezing weather, he let me go - he'd had other calls to make.

A bit abrupt......but fairly composed.

I put the 'phone down and felt very, very worried.

Still, Dad has family close by and there are plenty of people who would be willing to help if he's stuck.

I've eaten a full pot of half price Ben and Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew ice cream. I think I've just taken on board the fat and sugar allowances for two people for a week. On the plus side, it's all I've eaten all day.

What with that cheap living thing and the rush to get out the door for work and the canteen shutting down for Christmas and New Year, I'm not eating as much as I have been used to.

I've got 12 mini Toad in the Holes (39p), 10 cookies (50p), squash (£2 for 2) and two raspberry turnovers (15p). That's me set until Monday for food.

Yeah, right.......really healthy.

I've got some charity shop black clothing that needs to be adjusted - I'll need that for the funeral.

I'm getting pretty good at needlework these days. Hopefully, my handiwork will never appear here.

And before it dawned on me that my finances weren't as health as I thought they were, I bought three samplers from the Haberdashery section of the local Beatties. Clearly hand crafted, well framed, very pretty.....I've got a sneaky plan to give them as gifts to people I don't like much.

I'll give MwK and Little Married Brother a call tomorrow to see how they're getting on.

How low can it get?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year?

Well, let's see......

As expected, the wastrel drug addicted, alcoholic cousin died - his funeral was in October. His pond scum friends (all with thick Eastenders accents), all unused to the length of Catholic masses, complained loudly and left the service in dribs and drabs to have a smoke. Charming.

At the grave side, after the interment service, one of his pals set up a cd player and it kicked off with "Going Underground" by The Jam. Very funny. The cemetery is on the flight path to Heathrow - so most people didn't hear a thing.

My Dad's health is declining so rapidly that he's in a real hurry to get up and finish my house before it's too late to see it. He's still not seeing a doctor regularly, abuses anyone who attempts to give him advice or treatment and is still waiting to hear something from the Criminal Injuries Board about the attack that left him half blind in Spring 2006.

He won't visit MwK even though he only lives around the corner (rent free in Dad's flat) and see his grandkids because he'd sooner visit me (hundreds of miles form London in Wolverhampton) as he gets more respect. Hmmmmmn.

He's doing nothing at all to help himself. His mobility is severely impaired, he's almost completely blind, his balance is rubbish, he can't follow a conversation, has trouble comprehending quiz shows, newspaper articles and television programmes and, yet, not only will he not apply for any help that he may be entitled to, he's loudly abuses anyone who tries to help him.

His remaining sister (widowed after her husband, a maternal uncle, took a pneumatic drill to an electric cable) has found out she is terminally ill. Lung cancer.

Just like Mum, she ignored all the lung cancer-ish symptoms. Unlike Mum who developed secondary bone cancers, Auntie Godmother started to suffer confusion and memory loss and needed to be rescued from different parts of London after she attempted trips out and couldn't remember where she was going or where home was.

She was diagnosed with secondary brain tumours just before Christmas. Great. That's going to be another funeral to go to.

I was saddened to see Woolworth's closing down.

Back in 1983, Woolworth's gave me my first job. I was a Saturday girl in the Hammersmith branch (long since shut down) when there were half pennies, pound notes and old fashioned tills that were basically adding machines with a cash drawer.

The prices had to be punched in on big round buttons divided into pounds and pence on the till board, there was a subtotal button the size of a chocolate bar that was so large and heavy, that I had to virtually karate chop at the thing to depress it, the accumulating amounts in pounds, pence and halves popped up in the glass compartment in the top, there were two tensioned till rolls to keep an eye on (one for the cash office and one for the customer), smudgy purple ink and the cashier had to calculate the change from memory.

You can guess how I managed with that. Most of the time, my till was down at the end of the day.

Eventually, I was put on the Delicatessen counter where there was no till. There were what we thought were snazzy scales that we could put the price per kilo and it would print off a price label for the cashier to read. No barcodes, of course, only prices which we had to check were clearly printed before handing the packages over to the customers.

Now, no one believes me, but once upon a time, as well as the Winfield brand, Chevron records and any zip you wanted, Woolworth's sold food.

We had a small dried and tinned goods section towards the back of the shop, regular bread deliveries, fridges for dairy, meat and drinks and an entire Delicatessen island which sold cooked and uncooked meats, pates, cheeses and salads which we scooped into little polystyrene pots.

The place was a minefield of cultural faux pas'. There was a large Caribbean community and a large Jewish community. For some reason, many West Indians don't eat pork. Of, course the Jewish people didn't either.

Admittedly, we didn't operate under kosher laws, but a large number of Jewish and West Indian housewives (in those days, it was mainly women doing the grocery shopping) all queued up every Saturday, demanding that we washed our hands and utensils between serving them, the previous customer and the different meats.

One Jewish regular always had her kids with her. One carried the dairy and one carried the beef.

The place stank. Smelly Deli was where you went if you couldn't operate the tills. The customers didn't know, but Smelly Deli was the equivalent of the Remedial Class at school. No one wanted to work there.

The food was prepared up in the storage fridges on the first floor. The first floor was a dark windowless hangar of a space which was crammed with shelves packed with all the goods for the shop floor. There, towards the back, like two alien spacecraft, were two white walk in refridgerators where all our goods were delivered to and stored.

During the Saturday rush there were numerous trips up and down in the lift for more stuff. Corned beef was very popular, as was the best back bacon, and the ham on the bone.

I went to Woolworth's in the Mander Centre before Christmas and it was dreadful. The shelves had been picked clean and goods from the back of the store were being randomly thrown into crates which were then heaved onto the shelves.

Toiletries - do you remember when Woolworth's sold bath foam, sun cream and bath salts? One entire section previously given over to children's clothing had nothing but black plimsolls held together with elastic bands.

It was very sad.

2009 is shaping up very nicely. Not.