Thursday, 7 November 2013

Unexpected item in the bagging area

I popped in to the supermarket last night after work.

Scene: The checkout.

Cashier:  Hello!  Can I help you with your packing?

Me:  No, I'm fine thanks.  (Loads shopping onto conveyor belt.)

Cashier:  Ooh, sprats.  We don't see those often.

Me:  No?

Cashier:  Ooh, Ciabatta.  I love Ciabatta.

Me: Yes, me too.

Cashier:  Monkey nuts!  It's funny.  I never really thought of monkey nuts being a Halloween food thing.

Me: .....

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Dogs, Mice, People

This week I have mostly been making some biggish life decisions.  Well, one decision.  The last few weeks have been sad and stressful and strange, and I know that's not a good time to decide stuff which may impact on your future.  Best to wait until things are more settled and less emotional.   Despite knowing that, though, I did it anyway.

About 18 months ago I found a part time job as a cook at the care home in our village. Only for a few hours a week, and in the early evenings, so it fitted handily around other stuff I do.  Occasionally they asked me to come and cook lunch on the days when the full-time cooks were away, which I really enjoyed, as it is "proper" cooking.  Lots of home-made soups, cakes, puddings and meat and vegetable main courses.

It was all useful professional catering experience in a comparatively safe environment, as the menu is planned days in advance and there aren't huge numbers of people to feed.  The scope for failure is limited to service being a few minutes late if (for example) you forgot to make gravy. Getting positive feedback from the residents is lovely, and knowing that my apple cake, or cottage pie, or pea and ham soup has made them enjoy their day a bit more than they might have otherwise is a great feeling.

The experience we've had with father in law WithaY living in residential accommodation has really brought it home to me how important the food is in someone's day.  Sometimes lunch is a really big deal.

During the time I worked there, they built the huge new nursing home behind the old house. This was the place we moved Mr WithaY's dad to in May this year, and where he was able to enjoy the views, the top-of-the-range accommodation - he loved the hydro bath - and the interesting and well-made food.  I would say that, of course, but the team of chefs and cooks there are genuinely very good, and the quality of the food is brilliant.

Anyhoo, as a result of father in law's death, it now makes me very sad to go to work.  Walking up the drive, looking at his old home, it's a forcible reminder which means I go into work with a heavy heart.  I know it will pass, as everything does, but even so.

This is in itself not really enough of a reason to quit, but there have been a few other issues.  My upcoming surgery will mean I will have to take at least 3 months off work, which will be a nuisance.  The catering business is ramping up for Christmas, and a lot of the bookings are on days when I would be working at the care home.

Add to this the feeling I now have that the time I am at work is impinging on my life annoyingly - yes, it's only a few hours, but if Mr WithaY has been out all day, he arrives home almost exactly as I leave for work, and I value the "cup of tea and how was your day?" ritual we have - so I thought I'd hand in my notice.

If nothing else, it's a good incentive to make sure the Christmas fĂȘtes and bazaars we are taking part in with the catering company are a success.

It's surprising how easy it was to give notice.  I think over the last few years I have got better at major change. Leaving the MoD, then the Civil Service, starting a small business, learning to work in an entirely different profession, managing my time when I have so much more of it free than I have ever done in my life.  It's all good.

I think I'm going to find a course at the local college and learn something new this winter.  When we first moved here I went to Frome college and did an evening course in stained glass making, which was great fun.  I never managed anything really huge, like a window, but I made some nice smaller pieces for the house and for friends and family, and I still like looking at them and thinking "I did that."

Time to do something new.  I rather fancy learning how to make hats.

In other news, has anyone else been driven to FURY by those awful mini adverts that Channel 4 are showing around the Simpsons?  They're for some shop or other, I can't remember who, and feature a variety of pretend families. The plot runs thus:

Child (who looks at least 25, and who is seen lying on the sofa, or on their bed with a laptop) screams the word "Mum" or "Dad" continuously for the length of the snippet.  This in itself is fucking irritating.

Parent (dopey looking simpering doormat) then appears at the door of the room, summoned by the bellowing slightly younger person.

Child then demands a new item of clothing, presumably seen on a website on their laptop. No use of the word "please" is made. Not once.

Parent agrees. WITH A SMILE.

NOTHING about those adverts makes me want to use the product they are advertising. And whilst I understand the concept of targeted adverts - if you don't understand it, you're not the target market - I genuinely struggle to see who their target market is.  Is it the parents?  If so, portraying them as spineless walking wallets at the beck and call of their appalling offspring seems like a peculiar way to get them to buy into the concept.

If it's the children, why are they shown as being so old? My reaction to the bloody things (and this may be the point of course, some smart advertising concept person has come up with a way to make people sit up and take notice, even if it's only in fury) is to ask:

"Why doesn't that mother give that squawking great oaf of a son a clip around the ear for being such a bone idle, demanding, obnoxious bastard, instead of saying "Oh alright then..." with a simpering smile when he bellows at her and then orders her to get him new trainers?"


The obvious answer is to stop watching TV, of course.

What else has been going on?  Well, Mr WithaY and I went to the excellent Frome Super Market on Sunday. This is a monthly event held in the town centre, with all sorts of stalls selling foods, coffee, sausages inna bun, arty crafty stuff, dog treats, wooden doorstops, bunting and enamel baths. It's eclectic.

I bought some chocolate moulds from the organic Real Chocolate stall - most of what is sold is either Organic, Artisan or Hand Crafted.  Frome is a bit like that - and have been amusing myself making chocolate mice for the upcoming Christmas fairs.  Some have been more successful than others.

I made a batch of my delicious Chinese Style Plum Sauce, and am currently working on labelling that is more interesting and gift-friendly than my current style.  Unfortunately my handwriting is readable but dull, so hand-written labels might be off the agenda.  I might ask Mr WithaY to write them, as he can do gorgeous calligraphy, but that would take a lot of time, and time is money.  Hark at me.  That's a small business person right there.

I've also made a batch of mincemeat, and am planning to make some mini mince pies to take as free samples, in the hope that it will encourage people to buy the mincemeat.  And if not, at least they'll know we make lovely mince pies if they're thinking of having a Christmas party catered.

Oh, I bought a recipe book for treats for dogs too.  I know, via certain dog owners of my acquaintance, that people like to buy their dogs treats, and so I am going to make some festive dog biscuits and see if they sell.  I will ensure they are clearly labelled FOR DOGS even though they will be safe for human consumption.  The environmental health are funny about stuff like that.

Oh, and I bought a dog bed cover for Hester, from a company called Tuffies.  It arrived before they said it would, it fits perfectly, and the dog loves it.

So well done Tuffies, and if you'd like to send me a free dog bed in return for all this advertising, I'd like a large one in flame red please.  Ta.