Tag Archives: shopping

Champagne, Laughs and Manolos

I imagine most of us have heard a variation of Hunter S Thompson’s quote:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand and chocolate in another, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming ‘WooHoo! What a ride’.

Well, with these words in mind, a friend and I have spent the last couple of days in London after we decided to slide into our pensioner-status birthdays in a memorable way.

Me and Dee at Covent Garden

Covent Garden

We booked into a lovely little hotel near London’s West End and headed for Covent Garden with its lovely markets and quirky shops just made for browsing. Soon the late afternoon chill called for a glass of mulled wine around the Christmas tree, then it was off to see Beautiful, the Carole King musical. It was fabulous, as was the pre-theatre dinner we enjoyed at The Waldorf where we treated ourselves to a glass of champagne (or two).

Cheers! At The Waldorf

Living it up at The Waldorf

Next day, following a leisurely and rather late breakfast, we headed to the shops. First stop was Liberty, where we enjoyed morning coffee and some serious lusting after Manolo Blahnik shoes.

I'll have a pair in each colour, please

“I’ll take a pair in each size, please.”


Covent Garden

Then it was Fortnum and Mason and their Christmas shop and fabulous selection of seasonal fare. So tempting, but I (mostly) managed to keep a tight hold on the purse-strings. Since all that restraint was very tiring we soon needed sustenance again. All I will say is that afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason is an experience…and necessitated a deep dig into that hitherto tightly closed purse 🙂

But we had an amazing couple of days and created some fab memories. Can’t put a price on that, right?

Sticky Fun and Games

Here in the UK we’ve had soaring temperatures and, until the last few days, almost unbroken sunshine. Glorious. Hoards of people have been out and about enjoying themselves and the shops have taken full advantage with summer sales popping up everywhere. Of course, yours truly has been indulging herself, and I’ve managed to bag a few bargains.

During my shopping sojourns, I’ve noticed a preponderance of those annoying discounted stickers that they place on sale items which advertise by what percentage the item has been discounted and/or the sale price. No amount of nudging, scraping, scratching, wetting or tugging can remove these things. They’re never unobtrusive either, but are always in loud, garish colours that stand out a mile. You may manage to dislodge a few tiny pieces around the edges, but most times the darn things refuse to budge. Persist, and you’re left with puckered or stretched areas of the material that highlights where the sale sticker once lay. The worst culprits seems to be those stickers that they place in the heel bed of shoes. They are almost always impossible to remove.

Recently, I couldn’t resist a pair of adorable strappy sandals. I didn’t need another pair of sandals, but since they were just sitting there, the only pair remaining of their kind and in my size, you know? I mean, how is a girl supposed to resist? But I digress. Positioned in the heel bed of one sandal was, you guessed it, a sticker declaring by how much percentage they had been discounted. And would it budge? No, it most definitely would not. I was tempted to leave it, but fearing it would be visible as I walked, proceeded to do the usual scraping, wetting, peeling thing. I eventually gave up. So how come, a few days later, while on a shopping trip with girlfriends and having spent what seemed like hours in changing rooms dressing and undressing as we tried on just about every dress in the high street, did the sandal’s sticker miraculously remove itself? Did it do so surreptitiously and unobtrusively? Not on your life. Unknowingly, I walked out the store proudly displaying a bright red circle with white lettering on my derriere announcing 30% off! Cue muffled, but slightly hysterical, laughter from friends as they pried the offending sticker off my jeans amid cries of “if only it were that easy, and we could pop a sticker on our backsides which would instantly reduce them by thirty percent”.

After lunch, during which they plied me with a couple of glasses of vino, purely for medicinal purposes of course (seeing as I was still pretty mortified, I think that counts as medicinal), I was able to see the funny side of it. There followed some hilarious conversation about if we could place a sticker on any particular part of our bodies and instantly remove some of it, which part would we choose. After some animated discussion (you can see that when we get together the conversation is pretty intellectual), it was decided that we were only allowed to have one sticker.

For my sticker I think I’d chose my tummy, but then my thighs could do with a bit of trimming as well. Hmm. Would have to give this some serious thought before finally deciding.  Which part would you choose?

The Floozie in the Jacuzzi

During our married life, AJ and I have moved house ten times and lived in six different parts of the UK. One of our moves was to the Midlands where we lived a few miles from Birmingham. This is a city of great cultural diversity and we have always loved it. Even though we now live in the south west, we often travel up to the city and enjoy visiting some of our old haunts. Things have changed a great deal in the twenty five years since we lived there, but we still love the vibrancy and the energy of the city.

Birmingham Town HallBirmingham has some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the UK. The Council House, built in the 1870s, is the home of Birmingham City Council and houses the council chamber, the Lord Mayor’s suite, committee rooms and an ornate banqueting suite with minstrels’ gallery. The exterior balcony on the first floor is now often used by winning sports teams to address the celebrating crowds who gather below in Victoria Square.

Victoria square is considered the centre of the city and the point from where road sign distances are measured. The central water feature in the square, The River, was designed by Dhruva Mistry who won an international design competition. It depicts a bronze statue of a reclining woman basking in the surrounding water.The RiverThis is the largest sculpture in the square, and is now more affectionately known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

But a visit to Birmingham isn’t complete without a little retail therapy and a trip to the commercial centre called The Bull Ring. This has been an important part of Birmingham since the Middle Ages when, in 1159, a local landowner obtained a charter to run a textile market there. Today The Bull Ring shopping centre is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom. BullringAt the main entrance stands The Guardian, a nearly two and a half metre tall bronze sculpture of a turning bull, created by Laurence Broderick. The Guardian, or more commonly known as Brummie the Bull, has become a very popular photographic feature for visitors to Birmingham, and every time I visit the Bull Ring there are always hoards of people surrounding the sculpture. It is strangely beautiful and rather cute.

After a busy morning’s shopping, I’m ready for a bit of peace and quiet. One of the nicest places to relax is at the Edwardian Tea Room, housed in the nearby Museum and Art Gallery. The tea room not only offers some delicious cakes to go with a nice refreshing cup of tea, but original paintings adorn the walls and offer some food for the soul. We never visit the city without wandering the hallowed halls of the Art Gallery and taking a look at their wonderful Pre-Raphaelite collection. They have a large collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones, but it’s a painting by another Edward I’m always interested in viewing. Night Leading the Stars HomeNight Leading the Stars Home, by Edward Robert Hughes, is one of my all time favourite paintings and I have a poster of it in my bedroom. Sadly, this trip the painting was in the archives, but I was able to leave my contact details with the information desk who will inform me when the painting is on display again. Ah well, any excuse for another visit 🙂


Little Lodgers

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As some of you know, our second guide dog puppy, Vinnie, went into early training in February because he was a particularly challenging little boy who was actually diagnosed by a vet as being hyperactive (well, we could have told … Continue reading

It’s August! Can You Believe It?

I spent the day recently in Havana, Florida a quaint little town near Tallahassee (and it’s pronounced Hay-vana- Weird, I know). It has a lot of antique malls and little shops. One of my favorite ones is a ribbon, button, jewelry and all kinds of goodies, shop. It’s called Cindy’s Chapeaux and is very like French boutiques where you can get ribbon cut by the inch and lace among other things. I scored some great things there, including a 1940s brooch.

I also got some great books at one of the shops. An illustrated middle grade Pride and Prejudice, a 365 things to do in Britain book (great for research for my novels), a dictionary of Ireland and a book of World Proverbs- I like to put quotes as headers on my chapters in my novels so this book will be added to my research library. I’m a quote hound and have a treasure trove of those kind of publications.

I also got a couple of scarves. One for my neck, a lace one for an end table in my office and an embroidered one for my table between my chairs in the den at home. Got a pretty barrette, too.

The best deal of the day was a new sink for my office bathroom. It’s so pretty, I fell in love with it instantly.

I’m attaching pictures of some of my haul. Come on over/down to Florida and we’ll go to Havana. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Happy August!!

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Shopping till I drop…

Spotted on a recent trip to Devon, this pub sign in Axminster prompted hubby to go on a sulk because I wouldn’t let him try out the creche. Despite tempting him with a fish and chip lunch and the promise of uninterrupted viewing of the England International rugby match on TV the next day, he couldn’t be consoled and dragged around after me while I happily browsed around the shops.

Now, I’m not a great shopper but when visiting a new place I love checking out quirky little gift shops and thrift stores – you never quite know what treasures you’ll find. But poor hubby loathes shopping, so on this trip I eventually gave in and he went off happily in search of a beer while I indulged my credit card.

This week, my mum is visiting us as part of her 80th birthday celebrations. She has really bad legs and some days finds walking difficult, but does it stop her shopping? No way. My mum loves to shop. Her stamina is amazing and a couple of times this week, she’s put me to shame. She’s inexhaustible! She might flag, but a stop at a tea shop for a reviving cuppa and tasty pastry, and she’s off again. She has an amazing creative streak and can suggest a cushion or plant which is exactly the right thing for the right spot, and often the very last thing I think would work. Plus, if I see something I like but can’t really justify buying it, she always persuades me to treat myself by saying that I deserve it, or more likely I have to fight her all the way to the till before she can treat me herself.

So, this week I feel like I’ve shopped till I’ve virtually dropped, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But that will do me for a few months. I’m sure my energy and wallet will thank me for it 🙂

The Scary Season

Well, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass and not mention Halloween, could I? Love it or hate it, we can’t seem to ignore it these days. Over the past few years, here in the UK, we’ve seen a huge surge of interest in the event, with stores leading the charge by selling specially packaged toys, sweets, outfits and generally cashing in on another opportunity to get our money.

As far as Halloween goes, I’ve largely ignored it, although secretly admit to enjoying the little ones calling round with their trick or treats. So cute. I buy sweets and chocolate and instruct AJ to be nice when the doorbell rings. Last year, the weather was really bad and not many children called, which meant we were left with mountains of sweeties and were still munching our way through the leftovers when Christmas hit.

So this year, with more bad weather predicted, I’ve downsized a little with the treat buying (my figure thanks me for it) but couldn’t resist buying Zorro, our lab puppy, some Halloween doggie chocs and a scarily packaged bubble blower. And I’ve already ordered him his doggie advent calendar. I know, I know … but where that boy is concerned I’m a complete sucker.

What about you? Do you like or loathe Halloween?