Monthly Archives: Dec 2019

Requiem for a Bookshop

There was a time you could go to the bookshop at Brierlow Bar, browse an interesting selection of books, buy a few nice greeting cards, have a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat, listen to the elderly gents discussing steam railways and come away feeling relaxed.

It was, to be honest, a bookshop from a different time and it probably wasn’t very profitable.

Judging by the crowd in the cafe it’s much more profitable now. But ithe profits, unfortunately, don’t seem to have been used for upgrading, or even maintaining, the toilets.

In terms of stock, we couldn’t buy any cards this time, as the ones we liked seem to be out of stock.

The Natural History selection seemed a bit bigger this time and the poetry seems to have grown a little in quantity, though the quality has, I think, declined. They still have a good selection of History and Military History but Julia wasn’t able to find anything in her line this time. I quite like travel and cookery books but I haven’t been able to find any decent ones for a couple of years now – both victims of the increased cafe space/reduced book-shelving.

It is also more difficult to get round, as the gangways were always quite narrow and the increasing customer numbers make access quite difficult at times, particularly as so many of them seem to drift round aimlessly and clutter the place up.

There was only one dog in today, but it was barking quite a lot. It was only a pup (though an Alsatian pup, so quite large) and the owner was bribing it to stay quiet by giving it treats. Or teaching it that if it barked it would get treats. For me this goes to prove that people should have to pass a test before being allowed to have a dog. Judging from the evidence of her kids it wouldn’t be a bad thing to make them pass a test before breeding either.

I did manage to buy a few books so it wasn’t a wasted journey, but I’m afraid it’s going to be the last time we treat it as the main destination for a day out.

Apart from the access issues, the toilets and the stock, I just don’t feel relaxed there now, and the cafe reminds me too much of what happened to our kitchen on the farm, even down to the cliched decor.

I wish them well. They’ve invested time and money in the place and made it much more lively, and presumably a more viable business. However, it’s lost something in the process and it’s not the pleasant, relaxing experience it used to be. I suppose that’s the story of life.

If you want to read a selection of opposite views try this site. Lots of people love it, and they all seem to love it in the same formulaic way. If I was a suspicious man I’d think someone was rigging the reviews. However, having seen some of the customers it’s more likely that they all belong to the Stepford Wives reading group.

There are some very informative negative reviews too, some of which echo my feelings.

I did like a few of the quirkier ones – like the one where they ate, spent an hour browsing and then bought a book.

Or the one where they found it a good place to while away a few hours with the kids.

Presumably they also spent a lot of time cluttering the place up and getting in the way of grumpy old gits like me.

In conclusion I will leave you with a nightmare vision of the future, where you can’t buy books in bookshops or plants in garden centres because they have all expanded their cafes and gift sections until there is no room for actual stock…

And having unburdened my soul of this sorrow I will enter the New Year as a happier man.

Happy New Year to you all.

Breakfast at Sainsbury’s (Scone Chronicles XXVII)

I’m going to have to up my work rate after what I said in the last post. This is therefore going to be the first of two posts today.

We have not had a good time at Sainsbury’s at Arnold recently. Twice before Christmas we went in and ordered Beef Baguettes. The first time we tried, we were told there there were no baguettes. I pointed out that they had a shop full of baguettes. It seems that they aren’t allowed to use them.

The second time it was a lack of beef that interfered with the plan. We had festive toasties instead, which allegedly contained turkey and stuffing, but tasted of cotton wool and ketchup.

When we found that the place was crowded at 11.30 I nearly didn’t bother stopping, but I’d promised Julia a day out, which, in my view, means that she doesn’t have to make breakfast.

The cafe was full, many of the tables for four being monopolised by a solitary coffin dodger who was on first name terms with the staff. Say what you like about quality of a service (and I will cover that fully in a later paragraph) , they know how to treat the elderly and I may well move in when I’m a few years older.

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Tea – note the cup for a milk jug

i got a table for two while Julia ordered the food. It needed clearing and wiping down. So did many of the others. A member of kitchen staff emerged at one point, cleared the pots off one table, left the crumbs and went back into the kitchen, never to be seen again.

One lady went as far as to get the table wiping equipment from the staff and wipe her own table down, also wiping the table for a lady in a wheelchair. To be fair, we are supposed to take our own pots away, and it must add more work when people are too lazy, or too arrogant, to clear the table after eating. On the other hand the staff should keep the place clean – I’m paying enough and should have a clean place to eat.

When Julia arrived with the tea I noted the milk was in a coffee cup, rather than a receptacle designed for pouring milk. Again, we paid enough for them to provide a small jug.

It’s just minor details, but it’s annoying that people can’t get the simple things right. For an echo of these thoughts seethis post, though I note there are one or two typos in it – sorry for that.

The food arrived quite quickly, and a member of staff took it on a tour of the cafe before finding us, so we were never in danger of burning our mouths.

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Big Breakfast – Sainsbury’s, Arnold

The breakfast report –

Portion size – good

Sausages – excellent and herby

Hash Browns – crispy and delicious

Beans – average, after all opening a can and heating beans is not a skilled job

Mushroom – excellent

Toast – average, another unskilled job that is difficult to do badly

Eggs – borderline – a hint of snottiness to the white means they were slightly undercooked

Bacon – this could take some time. There is a division of opinion on whether bacon should be crispy or pink and juicy. I favour pink and juicy myself but if the cook does it crispy I’ll eat that too. However, I’m not aware that there is a school of thought that says bacon should be cooked until hard, tied in a knot and basted with grease before being dumped on the plate. If there is such a school of thought I can recommend the cook at Sainbury’s in Arnold.

The bacon actually looks quite nice in the photo. But trust me, it wasn’t. And it was salty too.

So, despite the lack of cleanliness, mediocre efficiency and patchy breakfast, how was it?

Pretty good, to be honest. The good bits of the breakfast were very good, the staff are always friendly and cheerful, even if they do get behind with the cleaning and, judgingh by the way they get on with their regular ancient customers, they are providing a valuable community service.

I suspect the staff are great and the management is poor.

Would I recommend it despite my sarcasm and criticism?

Yes, though its constant failings with cleaning and detail are a bit wearing. On a good day it’s probably the best local breakfast, but the good days are, at the moment, in a minority.

A List of Things I will Probably Do

We’ve done enough today to give me the material for several posts.

We rose late, which is not unusual, and won’t be mentioned again.

After that we had breakfast at Sainsbury’s. That will provide material for a blog post.

Sainsbury's Arnold, Notts

Sainsbury’s Arnold, Notts

The journey into Derbyshire, with a detour and two queues may well rate a mention, though maybe not a post on its own. In fact I may as well mention it now.  Having a choice of routes, I decided to go via South Wingfield.

Unfortunately, someone had had an accident at the junction and the road was blocked. I ended up using a lane I’ve never used before, despite 30 years of travelling in the area. It was a pleasant diversion, though the fact that it had grass growing down the middle should have been a warning that it was going to be a bit narrow. We met eight cars coming the opposite way, probably diverted by the accident because I doubt that it sees eight cars a day on most days. Most of the drivers were women, and most of them seemed to be preserving the chariot driving traditions of Boadicea.

At Matlock we had to queue, due to weight of traffic. I hadn’t expected it to be so bad, as I was thinking that people would probably still be on holiday. Maybe they were on holiday, and had decided to spend the day in a traffic jam in a picturesque old town.

After that we joined a queue to get through Bakewell. See my comments on Matlock. The only difference was that it was market day and the queue was longer and slower.

At Brierlow Bar we visited the increasingly disappointing bookshop. People who like their reviews laced with sarcasm may like this one.

Grim view from the Bookshop

Grim view from the Bookshop

The third visit of the day was to Tagg Lane Dairy for raw milk. While we were there we had a cup of tea and a slice of cake. There will be a review later. I was tempted by the gelato but I thought I’d wait until the Spring.

Finally, we went home. The traffic on the outskirts of Nottingham was very light, so maybe my thoughts on people going away were correct in this case.

Sunset at Langley Mill

Sunset at Langley Mill

I also managed to get a few photographs, having read an article of landscape photography last night. I am hoping to use them for this series of posts, as I could do with some new photos. They aren’t particularly good, but you have to start somewhere.

I used one of my old cameras because I still can’t remember what all the buttons do on the new one.

Considerably Bigger Buns

After a holiday season of dreadful  TV I’m happy to report that last night’s viewing was Calendar Girls. It was the second time I’ve seen it and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a fantastic cast, great script and heart-warming story.

That set me up for a leisurely day.

I won four games of dominoes in the afternoon. The opposition was mainly provided by a ninety-year-old man who has trouble remembering that I’m his son, but you can only play what’s in front of you. My wife and sister both play to let him win but I think that’s discourteous, Anyway, when we played last week he wiped the floor with me despite my best efforts. He may be gradually forgetting everything he knows, but he’s successfully clinging to his domino skills.

This is the only thing of note that happened today, unless you count getting stuck in a chair.

We had a cup of tea in the newly refurbished reception area of the care home, which was very pleasant. When it was time to leave I found that the chair was clinging on, like an inappropriately affectionate koala. I really must lose weight.

We had salad and gala pie for tea on our return. Julia has just gone to the kitchen for cheese.

All in all, this has been a satisfactory sort of day.

The header picture is self-explanatory if you’ve seen the film, or mystifying if you haven’t. Same goes for the title.

 

 

Seals, Solstices and Slimming

First, and last, day back at work after Christmas. I’ve been given Monday and Tuesday off, so I don’t return to work until next year.

I just had a look at the weekly seal update from Donna Nook, as we have failed to get there so far this year, and the news is not good. Numbers decreased by 90% over the previous week, so I suspect they will all be gone by now. With various things, we just couldn’t get to the coast this year. This included being asked to change days at work, meetings for Julia, and floods. It seems like everything stacked up to prevent us going.

I will use some of last year’s pictures with this post to give a flavour of what might have been.

The day was hectic, with 16 parcels to get to the Post Office before it closed at 12.30 and a constant stream of customers and phone calls. Most of the calls were about selling gold or silver but a few were about the perennial favourites – “rare” coins and “valuable” minting errors. They mainly occurred when I was already using both hands for wrapping packages.

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Last year’s seal at Donna Nook

We just got everything packed in time. Saturdays are always a bit of a rush, due to the Post Office closing at 12.30.

All the people who rang about selling gold and silver came in and sold us the stuff, as did a couple of other people who turned up on spec. We also had a group of regulars in, so things got quite busy.

Just one more Bank Holiday to work round then we can get on with work again.

Finally, after returning home in what appeared to be almost daylight compared to recent weeks (it’s the solstice effect – day length is actually only two minutes and eighteen seconds longer than it was a week ago) I found a leaflet from Slimmers World through the letter box. I’m sure it wasn’t meant personally but I do have a growing feeling that the whole world is having a laugh at my expense.

Awkward Friday

It’s one of those odd days today – the day between Boxing Day and the weekend. I’m not sure anybody knows what to do with it. I got up early to do things and get myself in gear before returning to work on Saturday. The things I ended up doing were watching TV, eating toast and ringing people instead of going to see them. It was just so relaxing sitting at home with food, fire and family. It just goes to show that some things never go out of fashion.

I always used to work Christmas Day when I worked with poultry, as it used to allow the family men to have time off with their families. Later, I used to work Boxing Day and New Year’s Day doing antiques fairs. It’s only in the last ten years that I’ve begun to relax and enjoy holidays at home. This may, of course, simply be a sign of age or idleness, rather than a sign of relaxing.

I have been catching up on some reading over the last few days, nothing heavy, just a few crime novels. I’m just finishing Death on the Canal, part of a series set in Amsterdam featuring a female detective so weighed down with personal baggage that you just want to scream “less is more!” at the author.

I may write a full review later, but as it stands, with a Goodreads score of 3.7, it’s good , and I’d read more if they were given to me, as this one was, but I’m not sure I’d search them out and pass money over. Well written, great sense of place but too much baggage and the plotting isn’t quite crisp enough. I’m near the end and a character from the beginning has just been introduced as part of the solution. I’m not sure I’m happy with that – it’s one step beyond a red herring. I’m also starting to think I’ve missed a hole in the plot, so I’m off for a quick look.

I’ll let you know after I’ve finished and double-checked.

Meanwhile, I’ll slip in another library photograph. It’s a canal at Stoke on Trent. It’s a very vague link to Amsterdam, but it’s the best I’ve got.

 

 

Boxing Day

Number One Son cooked sausages for brunch and Julia cooked in the evening – gammon, bread sauce, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, brocolli and stir-fried red cabbage with apple, for those of you who like to know these things (and future researchers looking into the diet of 21st century Britain). We snacked on a few nuts, ate some Turkish Delight and I’m thinking of serving coffee and cake when I finish this post.

This evening I’ve written part of the post I keep promising about the Gibraltar £20 coin, but kept getting diverted by other things. I’m good at finding diversions.

That, apart from reading, playing Candy Crush, watching TV and pondering eternal questions like “Why am I so lazy?” has been my day.

In keeping with my theme of laziness I am now going to make the coffee, eat the cake and watch TV. Tomorrow I may well be a bit more active and open the cheese I bought for Christmas. So far, as we try to limit our over-eating, we haven’t actually had any cheese.

On Saturday I will return to work. I’m hoping that many regular customers will come to see us clutching money they have been given for Christmas.