Tag Archives: Sainsburys

Yule it like a Dude

wifecard22_3128762bHow are your Christmas preparations going so far this year?  I address this to female readers in particular.  Does fraught, expensive and never-ending ring any sleigh bells?  Mine certainly have been.  I have had a costume crisis for my little Shepard at 7.40 am on a Monday morning,  just as we were about to step out of the door for work.  I would like to say that I took it all in my stride, sorting it all out in a calm, efficient manner, the very model of modern motherhood, not sobbing on the shoulder of the staff in Sainsburys as I spied the very last costume behind the galaxy of golden stars hanging from the shelves,  and then on my boss when I arrived to work, guilt ridden that my child could have been the only one standing up without her tea towel on her head in front of all the other parents (and yes on the day it was being filmed for the DVD, oh potential for guilt memorialised in perpetuity makes my blood run cold still).   That crisis had come after we had been busy all weekend of putting up Christmas trees and decorations, manning a stall at the Christmas School fair, baking Christmas Tree biscuits for said Christmas School Fair, pantomimes in Harrogate (oh yes there was), baby group reunions (all of these carried out on SAME afternoon and evening) and carols on the green.  All lovely, joyful, festive things to do and that I WANT to do, but  still needing to be crow-barred into a weekend already full with all the cooking, cleaning , washing and homework jobs you need to do to get ready for another week of school and work.

Christmas was starting to become a C word to me, every time I thought about my never-ending to-do list, I felt sicker than a doctor’s surgery during an outbreak of the Noro virus, looking around I saw  women making ther lists and checking them a hundred fold.  In our modern, more secular days who is really benefiting from Christmas?  To my wandering eye it would appear it was only the retailers, no wonder they put so much  effort into those shiny baubled ads.   Could it be that Christmas is just slave labour for women?  Or an even more revolutionary thought was rising up in my mind… do we do it to ourselves?   Time and again people say the same thing, “she is off to the shops panicking she has forgotten someone, but as far as I see we all just swap presents around.”  Texts from friends would be along the lines “have just spent £300 in Sainsburys and I am not done yet.”  One lady who clearly had so many other things on her mind she had no left no time for parking, as she abandoned her car diagonally across two spaces, came out of the supermarket pushing a shopping trolley full of poinsettias muttering “I don’t know if I am an Arthur or a Martha but at Christmas I wish I was an Arthur.”

Then there is the ridiculous but inescapable pressure to make Christmas perfect.  The expectation is so intense, we want everyone to have the perfect present, original and so thoughtful (and on budget), with the perfectly coordinated paper, table settings, and lets be honest we probably even think we should be trying to make it snow on Christmas Eve. (I blame Richard Curtis for this one).   All this before reading blogs from Mumsnet berating parents for not having the vigilance of CIA Carrie from Homeland when keeping the Official Secrets Act about the Big Fellow from the North Pole.  I know the blogs were meant to be light-hearted but in all the stress of  having to decide whether it is more environmentally friendly to have a real tree or a fake one, should you pancetta your sprouts, how the hell does everyone else have a beautifully  themed new holiday decor of Nordic reds and whites, or cool Copenhagen silvers and metallics whilst our decorations are every colour known to mankind?  That is before contemplating the big questions, how and why has Christmas become this  monster of consumerism? And the final kicker, how the devil are you really meant to afford all of this anyway?  My sense of humour seems to vanished quicker than this year’s most wanted toy from the shelves of Argos.

Meanwhile my husband tells me he has had a lovely week watching all the Christmas TV in Nottingham.  Giles Coren and Alexander Armstrong have been delightfully advising on wines for the Big Day, Val Doonican’s warbling from his 1986 Christmas Eve special and Nigella seducing us with her Christmas goodies (although don’t try and put boiled sweets into her Christmas Tree biscuits as stained glass windows, they are not robust enough… yes I did learn this the hard way one hour before having to take said biscuits to the Christmas School Fair).

So I think there needs to be radical revision of Christmas, it needs to be simplified and how.  My idea is to let the boys have a go.  There would be instant changes:

1.  Profits for the Post Office would plummet, there would be no cards sent by mail.  This would also result in the drop in sales of ribbon and those tiny pegs to hang up cards in the house.  There would also be a very positive knock on effect for the environment too with less trees being felled to make the cards in the first place.  Win.

2.   There would be very little wrapping at all as all presents would be sent as electronic gift cards.  What wrapping needed to be done would be supplemented with pages of the weekend supplements.   There would be no bows or ribbons on any presents.

3.    There would be plenty of alcohol in the  house, but Baileys would not have been invented.

4.    The turkey would be cooked to perfection as per Jamie Oliver’s instructions.  There would be roasties, sprouts and carrots but there wouldn’t be any bread or cranberry sauces. Pigs in blankets would be in abundance and we would be eating pork pies and crisps until we return to work.

5.  There would be Christmas Pud, the setting alight  of with industrial quantities of brandy  would probably the highlight of everyone’s day.

6.   There would a lot more time spent in the pub.

7.   It would be a lot less expensive.

So far so very appealing.   But then my sister and her family came round yesterday for our mini Christmas Day, and it was gorgeous.  It was everything I love about Christmas, delicious food and your nearest and dearest  around a table, eating and chatting and drinking.  Balancing a slippery paper crown on your head whilst listening to your adorable 5 year old niece telling the same cracker joke over and over again because she has it memorised.  Christmas lights a-twinkling and Christmas songs crooning in the background whilst presents are handed out, unwrapped and loved.  Really, its worth all the stress isn’t it?  But can you just remind me of that if some sharp-elbowed so and so gets their hands on the last bag of sprouts in two days time!

Merry Christmas Everyone, as Shakin’ Stevens once said.  Hope you all have a good ‘un, peaceful and serene.

Every Little Helps….

I was delighted to read the Labour Party are prepared to tackle, in their words, “the almighty conglomerate” Tescos and are asking the government to deal with the problem of the supermarket’s huge market share, gained at the expense of small retailers, farmers, suppliers and customers.

Even before the global downturn, in those halcyon days when credit was easy, I found pronouncements of Tesco’s pre-tax profits staggeringly large.  Billions of pounds return every year seemed obscene.  News that Tescos took £1 in every £7 in the UK strengthened my resolve not to put my money into their tills.  The practice of squeezing farmers and suppliers just to satisfy the shareholders seemed completely immoral.  Who were these insatiable shareholders who demand year on year increases regardless of the effect it had on everyone else?

It really made me question, for the first time, capitalism; everyone else has to pay just so shareholders get better dividends.  It felt wrong and deeply unfair.  I have since learnt about the John Lewis business model based on Quaker principles.  No-one in the company is allowed to earn more than 80 times the wage of the lowest paid worker.  It feels to our detriment that this did not become standard business practice, imagine the effects it could have had, helping to make our society a more equal one.

It felt as if I was shouting into the wind, a one-woman-losing-battle as friends would proudly tell me about all the deals they had got with their Teso Clubcard points.  But then I heard about the protests in Stokes Croft, Bristol over the opening of a new store, and everything changed.  I wasn’t a lone voice, there were other people who felt exactly the same way as me about Tescos.

The Bristol experience, where Tescos managed to open in an area despite strong local objection, is because the planning permission for change of use was acquired before the property was sold to the supermarket.  This happened in our local area too.  Leeds Halton could not be described as a bohemian area, but it was still a high street that contained plenty of grocery shops, Co-Op, Jack Fultons (discount frozen foods, think Iceland without the advertising budget or own store ranges) and a Lidl.   The Tesco site had previously been a pub and the effects have been very noticeable.  The Co-Op (almost directly opposite the new store) has been decimated, takings down 75%.  It is looking very likely the store will close.  If this is happening in Leeds and Bristol it must be happening all over the country.  There must be a way to prevent these stealth openings.

I know that the big four supermarkets are all guilty of these practices but Tesco is the giant, the far and away market-leader, a would-be monopoly.  It’s as big as Sainsburys and Asda combined.  If we don’t stand up to them now I worry there will be no come back for the high street in a couple of years.

Tescos often defend their actions stating that they provide much-needed jobs to the area, but recent calculations show that there are 276 net job losses (British Planning Retail Forum) due to smaller shops closing within a 7 mile radius of the new supermarket opening because they cannot compete.

I must confess I am swayed by the convenience of the one-stop shop, especially when pressed for time.  My most local shop IS a Sainsburys.  I convince myself  that with their wings at both the National Gallery and British Museum, Sainsburys are doing good, adding to the cultural wealth of the country.  That Sainsburys is a more ethically run company. That for me it is marginally greener.  That it isn’t Tescos.

But I know this is collusion, I should support our high street more.  We all need to, this is something where every single one of us can do our bit.  Support the local butcher or green grocer, ‘every little helps’… cuts both ways.

The Labour opposition minister is looking to Mary Portas as head of the government commissioned review into the future of the high street to bring in a competition test to prevent dominance by one grocery store.  Especially when they are trying to diversify into every area of our lives.  We now have a chance to halt the decline of our high street, to be a nation of shopkeepers once again, not a nation of empty shop fronts.

It is imperative this goes through, because as we have seen time and time again and most recently with Murdoch and News International, when one company dominates, none of us benefits.