Skip to content

The Annual Shopping Experience

It’s a full year since the last time a group of us loosely associated with work went on the annual Civil Service Sports & Social Club “Pudding Club” weekend away. I’ve been so busy at work recently that the date rather crept up on me, and I suddenly realised mid-week that it was imminent. So that was a nice surprise!

As usual, I was picked up on the Saturday morning and we drove to Stratford for the first act of the weekend, Recreational Shopping at the tail end of the winter sales. The group have done this for so many years that they’ve got the timings down to a fine art, so six of us met up within five minutes of each other at the first rendezvous, a coffee shop by the river. We had tea / coffee / hot chocolate and toast with butter and jam to fortify ourselves before hitting the shops.

We’ve all got our favourite shops to visit, so we split up and headed out to do some serious browsing before lunch. As with each of the last few years, I was particularly keen to get myself a new cashmere jumper, to replace one that the moths have been eating. I like wearing cashmere jumpers to work, as they’re warm and fairly smart, but I really do not like paying full price for them. But at the end of the sales, there were very few sweaters left in my size. There were plenty in XS, but I’ve not been able to fit into that for years! Fortunately, I found the last M sized sweater in the sales, in a very pleasant deep blue-green, that was a very acceptable price. I was wearing it today to work, and it is very warm and soft.

I also spent an age in Lakeland, looking at tons of solutions to problems I didn’t know I had! They have a gadget for anything kitchen or home-related that you can possibly imagine. I suddenly realised that I’d just spent the past five minutes comparing the merits of three different mould and mildew remover sprays for the bathroom! I had to forcibly remind myself that I already have two bottles of something similar under the kitchen sink, and that buying more isn’t going to magically make the mould in the bathroom go away – the problem isn’t a lack of bleach spray, it’s my lack of willingness to get the ladder out to reach the awkward bits behind the shower!

I considered myself lucky to escape from Lakeland at the relatively trifling cost of some mini ice-packs for my lunch-box and a pie tin in a size I hadn’t already got. I didn’t get off so lightly at the next shop I went to, which sells eyewateringly expensive hand cream. I’m at the age where cheap hand cream isn’t worth the bother, and this stuff is very good, but even so I felt as if I’d been mugged! The cashier gave me her card and said that if I ran out before my next scheduled trip to Stratford, to give her a call and she’d get some couriered to me. At that price, so I should hope!

We all met up for lunch at the usual pub, together with another colleague who had further to travel, and compared notes. We’d all had a pretty successful morning shopping, and were ready for lunch. But in view of what we knew we had coming that evening, we didn’t want too much food, or we’d be unable to maximise the gluttonous opportunity later on. I think the pub staff must have been very disappointed in us – they were clearly hoping to sell us seven lots of three-course lunches with drinks. Instead, it was seven small starters, two jugs of tap water, and some lime-and-sodas. Not as profitable for them as they would have hoped! But it left us all with enough room to do justice to the Upcoming Event, and with more money to blow on further shopping before our next rendezvous later that afternoon in the residents’ lounge of the Three Ways House Hotel in Mickleton, home of the Pudding Club.