Category Archives: shopping

Debatable eating

I’m watching this thing on BBC about how a celeb chef is fighting obesity in Britain. He was going on about how the major cereal companies don’t put a traffic light system onto their products like supermarkets here do to warn you if an unhealthy element is in high concentration in the food. Lots of the parents with him said they used the traffic lights. I made pfff pfff sounds in the background. I tried to use it once. I landed up substituting a traffic light that said high in sugars for a ‘healthy eating’ yogurt only to discover it was stuffed full of colourants and that funny taste in my mouth was artificial sweetener. The ‘better’ product was far worse than the original. I switched instead to a low fat natural yogurt and started adding my own fruit into the mix instead.

So I was in Holland and Barratts and looking for a snack or two. This is the ultimate in ‘health food store chain’. It is the perfect one stop for vitamin supplements, wholegrain wheatgerm and manuka honey. It is also the place a sales assistant once chased me down the aisle with the enthusiasm of a true evangelist that I should eat according to my blood group to be healthy. The assistant claimed the store had trained them for this. I’m highly dubious of that. It felt more like a hari krishna had got into a Baptist church and was looking for converts- I do not mean that sacrilegiously but the guy was seriously converted to this blood group thing. Personally I refuse to follow a system that says my blood cells dictate I can’t have steak or peas or something because I’m not an O positive or whatever.

The fact of the matter is I can’t really call H&B a ‘health food’ store either. Who’s kidding who? Raisins, which I believe some Americans call ‘natures goodness in a box’ – who puts them in a box for petes’ sake! – are full of sugar. Bombay snacks are full of salt and fat…

Basically everything in moderation. Unless like me you aren’t too sure where the off switch is.




Filed under Fitness, Food, modern living, shopping

Bit of paranoia

Time for me to renew my travel insurance. I tend to keep an annual multi trip policy that I let expire and then randomly renew before I think I’m going to step into international waters again for whatever reason.

I HATE going through this. A friend told me to just buy and stop overthinking as it probably won’t make a blind difference what I do, the policy holders will wriggle out irrespective of who they are if I try claim. Why is it we assume insurers are part of the rings to hell and out to screw us all over? Possibly because I have never once successfully managed an insurance claim for anything I’ve ever been insured for.

Nevertheless it doesn’t stop me on a paranoid mission to scour the comparison websites, the ‘unbiased’ reviews of people who have purchased policies I have an eye on and ultimately, the greatest penance of all, trying to work out how much of the small print has shot me dead in the water before I’ve even begun the doggy paddle.

I’m actually quite indifferent to baggage or money loss being insured. I figure that’s why you should probably not travel with anything too valuable and these claims are near impossible to prove anyways. WHO still has the receipts to all their electronic goods and valuable luggage items? (Even as I write this I can tell someone is putting up their hands proudly, looking at their neatly indexed and filed folder of expenses.)

I’m more concerned about a policy paying out for medical bills. Not ‘serious’ ones like an emergency tooth filling or a bout of food poisoning or a few stitches. But actual serious ones. Ones that require a stint in hospital and the sinking feeling (literally) you are too ill to deal with the bills of the hospital and travelling back to wherever ‘home’ is. And the repatriation of my body and maybe someone to accompany me, dead or alive. These claims are hard to test without actually claiming on them though.

In the meanwhile I searched for five star reviews. HOW is it possible an insurance policy with only three stars has over 95 activities covered? While one with five stars has only 31? (Which, incidentally, exclude all sorts of things like safaris, motorcycles and kayaking (even on water like glass, limiting you pretty much to walking.)

I’m telling you it’s all rigged.

But they know that I know that to travel without anything is really asking for it. Like jumping out a plane without anything strapped to your back. As opposed to jumping with a heavy pack that MIGHT be a parachute that MIGHT open before you impact on the earth. (And MIGHT even be covered in insurance!)

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Filed under Holidays, shopping, travel

Places starting with a D

I have a general rule. If you can pay to fly direct, generally fly direct. There will be a time when you are very young and very old where you have the luxury of time but no financial ooph. Then you fly via via via but otherwise, try go direct.

So I had to fund a holiday for two and I had to break the cardinal rule. I had to go via via via.

I refused to go via Charles de Gaulle because that airport is infamous at losing either me or my luggage or both. It is impossible to get round that squashed doughnut shape quickly enough to make connecting flights (or have your luggage moved onto them) if you are even slightly delayed from your start point.

So we went via Dubai. I generally avoid anywhere connecting that is firstly in a desert and secondly starts with a D (and thirdly but not exclusively usually hosted in a place where they cut your hands off for theft and women are lesser citizens). So for me that means I generally don’t go via Dubai, Doha, Dakar and Abu Dhabi (I know the D is in the wrong place) – or Accra for that matter (A apparently being the other letter to avoid.)

Airflight was fine. Good in fact. But I remembered why I don’t do via. You land in a timezone that is in the middle of the night EVERYWHERE, including the place you are in, which just adds to the jetlag.

Bits of the airport smell like curry for some inexplicable reason and you can’t tell if it’s due to other weary passengers or a food house. Despite ‘duty free’ and ‘tax free’, many things are not particularly cheap. And noone really needs to own a giant Toblerone. Or, for some very strange reason, plastic containers making up jumbo litres of flavoured water when diluted out and mixed up. Or dates. (not the fun other half kind, the fruit type) Or alcohol. Or luxury brands you couldn’t afford BEFORE you went on holiday – and which don’t become MORE affordable just because you are in an airport.

The edges of the building, near glass doors or escalators onto atriums, are very hot. Because outside even in the middle of the night it’s over 30 degrees Celsius. But don’t worry. The inside areas are very cold. So you wish you had stolen the airplane blanky, such is the airconditioning.

Over half the restaurants, aesthetics AND branding looking like they have escaped from a mall in London. With excessive tourist prices to boot. Due to the jet lag/time lag issue, these restaurants live in some twilight limbo and serve breakfast next to supper according to diners needs.

Staff all clearly never see sunlight, working these strange graveyard shifts, and mostly appear Filipino, Indian, the odd Caucasian, the so called ‘locals’ clearly have better things to do, like SLEEP.

I’ve heard if you actually exit the airport prices drop (temperatures no doubt rise unless you are in airconditioning.)

Whatever. Personally, so far, that is another step too far for me.


Filed under anecdote, modern living, shopping, travel

Work secrets


So there is this guy that has been doing my head in the last few months in our office. The type who makes this funny slurping noise before he speaks, looks permanently ungroomed but is geared for greatness to the frustration of his equals (minions) and undying support of his managers (equals). I can see he has some very good points but not really good enough for his role.
Currently I’m trying to be the bigger person – yes, me, and its working because I put on weight on holiday so I AM bigger…
So on Friday he went for coffee for half an hour then came back and crashed around cleaning his desk for an hour then left to go on a long weekend at 11am. I probably wouldn’t really have noticed except he really WAS crashing around.
Open desk. Shut desk. Lock desk. Open desk. Shut desk. Lock desk.
He did this about ten times and the office was a tomb at the time so after the fourth time I realised something was up.
WHO locks their desk anyways? If you lose the key you have to break it open to get back in and its not exactly the best security system. I only do this when I go running and I don’t know who the cleaning staff/security are after hours and my purse is full of money. Which isn’t often to be fair. The running or the money thing.
So I asked, what is in his desk (natch at the pub at lunch).
‘I’ll give you three guesses’ says my colleague, ‘because I know what is in there’
It turns out the answer is SHOES. SHOES!!!
When he was made permanent and promoted, he bought a pair of shoes worth £500 and for some inexplicable reason stores them at work in his drawer and then locks them in…. even when he goes to the toilet. I’m unsure what shoes we are talking about as I would guess his most expensive pair to have cost maybe £120 at the most but hey. We dispute if its the blue suede ones or the 90s Freedom looking ones. Or the brown brogues. None of them look that expensive.
I think an iron and a haircut and shave would have been a better investment.


Filed under anecdote, shopping, social

Budgeting tips

I want to smack plus one. He owes me some money, which is not really a big deal. I don’t really mind that so much as he then spends money in the most inconceivable places instead of thinking about it.

I’d like him to consider:

  • Bringing lunch to work. It’s considered ‘uncool’ for the most part in the UK but I reckon the average person wastes at least £200 on lunches in a working month instead of about £30 (or less – a friend worked out he could manage on 50p a day if he brought spaghetti and premade sauce in). If only he could see all the people climbing off the Gautrain with their little cooler bags!
  • That for non-perishables it counts to buy the cheaper bulk volume sometimes.
  • Having said that, you have to compare against promotions and offers and if it will spoil before you consume it all because bulk may not be cheapest or best choice.
  • That you CAN eat no name brand food on occasion and it might be almost the same – you could at least try it!
  • Water does not have to come out a bottle and be fizzy, it is sometimes drinkable out a tap.
  • Premix spices and flavouring sachets for say spaghetti bolognaise are far less economical than just mixing it off the spice rack yourself – and you can customise.
  • Get a credit card with a lower interest rate if you MUST owe the bank money – and that having said that, I’d rather you owe me interest free than the bank because in the long run if we are together, you are messing with both our futures.
  • You CAN wear a sweater in the house in the winter, the heating does not have to be cranked up to tropical, it is normal to be cold in SA in the winter indoors (which is why I try not to visit in winter).
  • Switch off the lights if you plan on being in another room for over half an hour, even with energy saving bulbs, it’s a bit pointless when noone is in the room.
  • If you do have store cards/discount cards etc and are shopping in the area, take them with and ask for the discount!
  • Know your pricing when you shop and then try hold out if there is a largish price difference to buy where it’s cheaper. Don’t just throw things willy nilly into the basket because you like them. I can’t even say it’s a man thing because standing in the Pick ‘n Pay a middle aged man grumbled to me ‘the Lays have gone up since last week, what is wrong with this place’. I think South Africans are just more aware of these things.
  • Price match is a big thing in the UK although it does require some research. It’s not really worth it for a can of soup but it’s worth considering for big things like holidays or specialised equipment – expensive items basically. It allows you to buy from the most reputable retailer at the lower cost – or just lock the lower cost.

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Filed under modern living, shopping

Weirdest Sports Find

I went to John Lewis yesterday.

I like John Lewis. It’s sort of what Stutterfords used to be. It has the tagline ‘Never knowingly undersold’ and the shop has been known to pricematch against competitors before. The bonus to this is you get the reliability of their heavyweight name as well as the manufacturer guarantee when you buy through them.

They stock everything from clothing to vacuum cleaners to haberdashery to children’s cribs to perfumes.

We went to look at home furnishings. A slightly depressing exercise because it was not the cheapest selection of sofas or curtains or kitchenware. There was little innovative but it was all very safe and quality and in some cases pretty good value for money but the truth is some things, like curtains, (a totally overrated but necessary concept) which are properly lined and heavy duty, just don’t come cheap.

Bored of this we went to the top floor where they stock sports and fitness wear. You had to see it to believe it. The second mannequin in was wearing the Springbok jersey. There was a stack of them hanging against the back wall. Next to the All Blacks and the Aussie team (whatever they are called, Wallabies doesn’t sound right). The three rivals were almost equally represented against England, despite the fact this was an English shop. Although, in all fairness, it may be time to start discounting the English stock.

I felt strangely proud about this. And a bit confused. I know the airports sometimes stock rival teams but it’s unusual for shops to knowingly place rival countries so obviously on display. Or do I just not shop often enough for patriotic sporting gear?

The shirts were still £60 each so my eyes watered a bit and I went away…


Filed under rugby, shopping