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Annual Retail Therapy

I’ve been so busy lately, that it had pretty much slipped my mind that it was time for the annual Pudding Club outing, and its associated retail extravaganza. Fortunately my ex-colleague who organises our participation in the event sent me an email saying I’d be picked up from home at 09:15 last Saturday. It was a smaller party than previously this year – just five of us travelling from Malvern, and meeting up with a sixth for lunch in Stratford. We had coffee in our usual cafe on the waterfront, and then hit the shops.

Last year, my bank registered the extremely unusual activity on my credit card and blocked it. This year, I got away with it – partly I suspect because there really wasn’t that much that tempted me. The shop that sells very expensive hand creme had shut down, so that saved me £50. I always find that Lakeland has stuff I didn’t realise I needed, but this year I managed to escape from there at the relatively trifling cost of a set of wooden spoons and an insulated jacket for my outside tap. I did however succumb to buying my annual cashmere jumper from the closing down sale at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. The same closing down sale, in fact, that they had on this time last year. Apparently, they are still in lease negotiations with their landlord, and waiting to see who blinks first. I imagine at this rate I’ll be buying a sweater from them in the closing down sale next year too….

We all met up for lunch at our usual pub. We’ve all learned from experience the importance of having the right amount of lunch before the Pudding Club. Too much, and we’re too full to do it justice. However, too little lunch is also bad, as it leaves you so hungry by the evening that you fill up on vegetables and potatoes with the main course, to the detriment of the puddings. I decided on a Croque Monsieur with a side order of chips to keep me going until dinner time. I think that the waiter seemed disappointed that his table of six all just ate from the “light bites” menu, and couldn’t be tempted to have any profit-enhancing main meals or desserts!

After lunch, the others all went off to do some more shopping, but I was pretty much All Shopped Out by then. Instead, I decided I’d have a look around the Shakespeare Birthplace museum in the centre of Stratford. I’ve not been there for many decades – I remember visiting all the Shakespeare museums in Stratford with my father the summer before I left home. That was about 35 years ago. Since then, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has got extremely commercial and is clearly setting its prices to rip off as many foreign visitors as they possibly can. It was £18 just to visit the Birthplace – though when I looked as if I was about to baulk at that, the chap in the ticket office assured me that the ticket would be valid for a whole year. That is possibly just about of some use to me – next year’s pudding club will be in a year’s time, and may or may not fall on the right side of the ticket validity cut-off. But it’s no use to a foreign tourist on a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Merrie England.

The museum was quite interesting. Not £18-worth interesting, but nevertheless quite interesting. If my ticket does turn out to still be valid on the date of next years Pudding Club, I’d certainly make use of it and think I’d got adequate value for money. But I won’t be shelling out for a new ticket for probably another 35 years!

Shakespeare’s Birthplace