Confessions of a Yellow Sticker Shopper

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Sweet and Crunchy Stir Fry tonight, reduced from £1.27 to just 9 pence. © Southampton Old Lady
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Supermarket own brand essentials are cheap. Many products these days taste almost as good and sometimes even better than high-brand labelled foods.

I am a yellow sticker shopper. I haven’t always been. I have been almost rich; I have been almost poor. When I am on a limited budget, I become a strict Budgetarian, surviving on very little money, but eating quite well on a mixture of in-season vegetables and supermarket brand basics, coupled with reduced-price meal packs with yellow stickers because they are at the sell-by or best-before date.

When I was a student, I worked as a waitress for Southampton’s Top Rank Bannister Ballroom in the evenings which included a free burger each shift and weekly cinema tickets.

My College provided cheap lunches during the week; On Saturdays, I would take it turns with five other students to cook a meal for all six of us. I would always look for these yellow-stickerred food packs on the day to decide what we were having and shop late at the vegetable market (Kingsland Square), buying bruised fruit and veg. The menu each weekend was interesting.

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Chicken, chargrilled peppers with Moroccan Style Cous Cous. A healthy take-away Snack Pot reduced from £1.60 to 15 pence. And you don’t even need to do the washing up after.

 

One pot stews and curries were common because they were easy, and anything could be put it them. There was an Italian student who cooked delicious pasta sauces, and once someone made a pie using a tin of dog food (Pedigree Chum) as the filling – which was awful – but I could taste the beneficial added vitamins!

Those were very happy, memorable times and very different to today whereby students seem to live on expensive take-aways delivered to the door.

I hope that with these days of student loans, I can offer this article as advice – “Throw away those pizza delivery leaflets, that bombard your letter-boxes, immediately”.

Once I had a full-time job, I ate whatever I wanted and ate out at restaurants quite often, sometimes three times a week.

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A year after my chemo I went back to work, but after a year or two, chemo brain (which is slang for a cognitive problem following certain types of Cancer and its treatment) came knocking and I was forced to give up working. So I currently have no income. My husband is paying off a £12,000 debt due to a mistake made by the DWP (pensions department) in 2007. So we are currently back to living a thrifty lifestyle.

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My husband often makes our own bread, but we often take advantage of reduced priced bread when we need extra.
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One pint of beer each at The Cowherds pub on Southampton Common – a treat not taken for granted.

We are back to yellow stickers, shopping coupons and free entertainments other than television. By free entertainments, I mean free festivals and walks – local seniors were allowed in free to Southampton Boat Show.  So we went to that last week.

Because we are careful, we are able to treat ourselves to little luxuries, such one pint of beer in a pub or perhaps a discount meal at a restaurant once a month.

My husband was brought up on war rationing, which was really difficult, so he learned many budget cooking skills and how to grow our own vegetables.

Do you have any food shopping confessions?

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Fun 2: Seniors

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Second from the right is my husband
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Yes that’s him with Emily – their boots in the air

About an hour drive from Southampton towards London on the M3 is the giant funfair Thorpe Park, making it the nearest one to London.

My husband, sporting a blue cardigan, will be 80 this year (much older than me).  He spent a joyous day on location at this attraction last week, shooting its latest commercial with Emily Barker – a character who visits on a regular basis.

Seniors have campaigned against age-discrimination with regard to special offers at funfairs. So in an effort to correct this, Thorpe Park have just launched an Old Age Coasters (OAC) Pass which provides multiple discounts for the over-65s.

My husband is a retired helicopter pilot and loves the rush. He is a bit of a dare-devil – last year he went paragliding with my daughter – she takes after him.

Are you an adrenaline junkie?  (No I am not getting paid for this)

 

Click on the links:

The actual TV commercial on YouTube

News item about the OAC Pass in London’s Evening Standard
Article from my Art So Provident  site about Derren Brown‘s macabre theme rides at Thorpe Park
Thorpe Park  website
Official Thorpe Park photographer photos first used in Evening Standard

Fun Arcade

When I saw these vintage penny arcade machines at Portsmouth’s  Historical Dockyard, it brought back so many happy childhood memories of going to the Southsea funfair with my parents. I loved the puppets so much and could remember exactly what would happen before I put my coin in. I am so happy to find that they still exist in a museum.

In response to the Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Fun

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A coin in this machine has this “Laughing Sailor” belly-laughing so infectiously that the most grumpy person ends up chuckling to it.
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The machine reveals funny things that happen to “The Drunkard” (from erotic to nightmarish) in  his dream as he crashes out in the beer cellar
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Ghosts galore in “The Haunted Churchyard”
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An art nuevo machine with crane to attempt to catch sweets.
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“The Burglar” finds himself distracted by the fire cracking, the radio pipping, the victim snoring while he tries hard to listen to the clicks of the dial of the safe.

Admiration: 101-year-old Abseiler

Amazing People N˚ 5: Doris Long

'Daring Doris' Long, 101-year-old abseils down Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower on her birthday.
‘Daring Doris’ Long, 101-year-old abseils down Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower.

This weeks WordPress photo challenge: Admiration. 

Brief: Show us someone or something you admire (and tell us about them, too)!

The world’s oldest abseiler, Doris Long, increased her record after descending almost 100m (328ft) at the grand age of 101 years, last Summer on her birthday and hopes to beat her own record this month when she will be 102.

The senior citizen, who received an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from The Queen for her services to her community, started abseiling when she was aged 85 and for her birthday in May each year, climbs down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, England.

Spinnaker Tower viewed from Gosport, Hampshire © Southampton Old Lady
Spinnaker Tower viewed from Gosport, Hampshire © Southampton Old Lady

This Solent landmark in Hampshire, is half as high as Nelson’s Column, making it one of the tallest accessible structures in the United Kingdom outside London.

The admirable stunts from “Daring Doris” as she is affectionately named locally, raises much need money for the nearby Rowans Hospice. This local charity is dedicated to improving the lives of people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.

To see others or take part in this WordPress challenge click on: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/admiration/

 

 

Southampton – a paradise for students

One of many new blocks of student apartments in Southampton's Centre, with gym, Co-op supermarket. Near all amenities. 4 mins walk to Central train station.
One of many new blocks of student apartments in Southampton’s Centre, with gym, Co-op supermarket. Near all amenities. 4 mins walk to Central train station.

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Shopping Centre will pulled down to make a large student accommodation complex of flats and maisonettes.
Shopping Centre will pulled down to make a large student accommodation complex of flats and maisonettes.

For any student thinking of taking a course at any of the universities or colleges here in Southampton, let me assure you, that this city is your oyster. It’s not just the friendliness or great night-life either.

At one time ‘digs’ were a choice of a few halls of residence or slum landlords. In an effort to improve the situation for students, council policy was implemented to register all student accommodation. Once a building block or house in multiple occupation (HMO) has been designated for students use, no-one else can live there unless declared otherwise. Tax-free building incentives were implemented and student houses are free of having to pay council tax. So now there is such a glut of apartments and shared housing for students that those from neighbouring colleges in towns such as Winchester, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, have come to live here and commute.

And yet more and more blocks of students apartments, even maisonettes, are being built on every available empty space in the centre and in desirable areas of my city.

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Listed building in town with plaque to birthplace of  John Everett Millais, is to become student flats
Listed building in town with plaque to birthplace of John Everett Millais, is to become student flats

The initial thinking was that the slum landlords, some of whom own over 100 houses with rooms for rent, will be forced to sell their empty properties and families will be able to buy them. Though, sadly, this is not proving to be the case. The high taxes second home owners would have to pay if they sold-up, has meant that they are now filling them up with young immigrant workers, who are earning as much as they can to send back home, whilst living in cheap, substandard conditions.

In Southampton this has increased, rather than eased off a shortage of rented accommodation for couples or families, and a shortage of housing generally for any working people who want to get on the housing ladder. Homelessness has increased steadily over the last 10 years and by 30 percent over the previous year, according to local reports. This is not party political – it is a sweet dose of reality.student sign 2

P1150544_2We ourselves live in a part-rented house which the owner wants to sell and we need to move, again. It is a problem. HMOs are not an option for us oldies, that value our privacy, and no-one wants to lend us a mortgage at our ages.

It is assumed that most retired people have settled into their comfortably off houses and expect to downsize eventually to a retirement home. Unfortunately we fall outside this net, due in part to having lived abroad (at one time in a 6-bed villa with a pool and yacht in the harbour, before we moved back to England). We have gone through a series of unfortunate events. Briefly: Cancer, stolen identity theft and an announcement from the DWP that £12,000 in overpaid pensions to my husband (needs to be repaid as they had made a mistake in 2007). It looked as though we might have to leave our beloved Southampton and head elsewhere.P1150981

Then, we realised that there were lots of cheap old boats, rotting in marinas along the Solent coastline. The Southampton Boat Show last year proved that people are after large new luxury yachts and the bottom has fallen out of the second-hand boat market. Marina fees are a hell of a lot cheaper than rent. We could live on a boat and even go on holiday by taking our ‘home’ with us.

Make yourselves at home
Make yourselves at home

So that optimistic thought is now our aim. We are dejunking, giving away or selling all our accumulated belongings (proving slow) and going to live on a boat!

We will be very busy for a while – my husband will be 80 years of age this year and we are both slower than we used to be, so please excuse me if I don’t read and comment on as many of my regular bloggers’ posts, as I normally do for a few months. I will let every one how I get on and keep up some photo challenges. I will be back

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Homeless and Hopeless in Southampton

Anyone who comes to visit any country in Europe must notice at first hand the increase in the number of its own citizens sleeping rough on the streets. Depression like this – we haven’t seen since the 1930s. Let me tell you about my City…

Homeless teenager feeling very depressed and trying to keep warm
Homeless teenager feeling very depressed and trying to keep warm in Southampton’s town centre

When I was a child, the only homeless people one would see on the streets in my town were alcoholics. These were normally Merchant Seamen, who had spent their whole 6-months pay on booze and women in one go. Every December 25th, my father, usually a bit of Scrooge all year, would invite someone off the streets in to join us for Christmas Dinner. My brother and I would be quite put out about this and thought it diverted attention away from us. Not least of all because the invited guest would hit the free booze as soon as possible. They would swear and tell tales of sexual exploits that were not suitable for children’s ears. My mother would hide herself away in the kitchen – we kids would hide under the table. Once there was a Canadian novelist, who made money from selling his books all about the sea. He told some very interesting stories – but he still drank heavily.

Homeless couple who met on the streets. He is Eastern European, He lost his 0-hours contract job after an accident and was unaware of  sickness pay. She used to have an antiques business which failed.
Homeless couple who met on the streets. He is Eastern European, He lost his 0-hours contract job after an accident and was unaware of sickness pay. She had an antiques business which failed.
This couple live permanently here and have  made a tent-like structure to gain shelter and some privacy
This couple live permanently here and have made a tent-like structure to gain shelter and some privacy
This ex-serviceman is honoured with medals. He suffers  from Post Traumatic Distress Disorder since he came back from Afghanistan. His family were evicted for non-payment of rent after benefits were stopped after a discrepancy. His two children are staying with friends and he is hoping to raise enough money today so that he can spend an evening in a hostel so that he and his wife can be together.
This ex-serviceman claims he is honoured with medals. He suffers from Post Traumatic Distress Disorder since he came back from Afghanistan. His family were evicted for non-payment of rent after benefits were stopped after a discrepancy. His two children are staying with friends and he is hoping to raise enough money today so that he can spend an evening in a hostel so that he and his wife can be together.
These two women were both evicted onto the streets from a block of flats in Portsmouth. Everyone in the block who owed rent were evicted, some have come to Southampton to try and find work.
These two women were both evicted onto the streets from a block of flats in Portsmouth. Everyone in the block who owed rent were evicted, some have come to Southampton to try and find work.

Today however, many of the homeless are just normal people, who have hit bad times. Many cannot afford to drink or smoke. I have talked to a variety of homeless people in and around Southampton. I do not offer any analysis, but here is my general observations: The youngest I spoke to was 14 years-of-age, the oldest was 82. Other vulnerable people included those with mental illnesses. I have met five couples and two families. Most are single. All of them were white. About half were British (from every country except for Wales) and the other half were from a variety of Eastern European countries. About one-quarter were ex-servicemen. Two years ago, I noticed many with dogs, now however, I notice very few with dogs.

P1130006Before I go out, I try to make up bags of sandwiches using up any leftover ingredients that we would not get through ourselves. I include fruit and unwanted chocolates. If they are sleeping in nearby streets to where I live – I take cups of tea, coffee, soup or hot-chocolate. I have also recently discovered an organisation called Curb that re-distributes food waste via pop-up shops and cafes.

My own husband has debts to pay to the Department of Work and Pensions. Last Christmas he was informed that his Pension had been over-payed for the last eight years and sent a bill for £12,000 !  We are paying this back in instalments somehow. This Government is clawing back as much money as possible from the “welfare” budget (we had no idea that pension was welfare).

A New Help The Homeless in Southampton Crowdfunder: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-the-homeless-in-southampton
A New Help The Homeless in Southampton Crowdfunder: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-the-homeless-in-southampton

We are certainly not alone, we were told that thousands were in the same situation.  The “trickle down theory’ is obviously not working here. When billionaires walk past the homeless to buy a new yacht at the marina, it is obvious to me that the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we thought of ourselves as comfortably off.

However, I am truly thankful that I am alive, with a roof over my head, I am not at war, I eat well and have a wonderful happy family.

So though I cannot hand out money, left-overs cost me next-to-nothing – and after all – “There but for the Grace of God go I”.

homeless man with his dogs in Salisbury
Homeless man with his dogs in Salisbury

So how is it where you are?

Southampton Blitz

Photo I took of inside a Spitfire at Solent Sky Museum
Photo I took of inside a Spitfire at Solent Sky Museum
Image of proposed Spitfire memorial to be built in Southampton
Image of proposed Spitfire memorial for Southampton

One could be forgiven if you live outside of Britain for thinking that the WWII  Blitz (bombing of Britain during the second World War) only happened in London. Yes. They did suffer terribly as it had a big population, but bombings happened in cities all over Britain. Photos are few or non-existent of most places that were bombed outside of the capitol as not many owned cameras and most photo-journalists worked in London.

Coventry, an important centre since medieval times was flattened. Every port city was blitzed; Hull, Liverpool, Bristol, Swansea, Plymouth to name a mere handful. The South Coast in particular was a dangerous place to be and was where most of our sea defences were.

Southampton was bombed frequently, firstly because it was an important commercial port and secondly being the home of Supermarine that had two factories here, building Spitfire aircraft. When these were both bombed, killing 100 factory workers, mainly experienced engineers, Spitfire production was spread out all over the South. Garages, laundry rooms, hotels and anywhere that still had a roof was commandeered into the design, manufacture, or storing of Spitfire parts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire

southampton blitz six dials southamptonSouthampton Blitz 1

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Southern Echo Office - Echo photo
Southern Newspapers Office – Echo photo

southampton blitz Bernard stSouthampton was grateful for so many ancient vaults to act as air-raid shelters, which saved the lives of many of its citizens and allies staying here.  http://www.sotonight.net/southampton-local-info-history/southampton-medieval-vaults/

Guided tours of these amazing undercrofts can be booked and each autumn there is a “Music in the City” festival where by unusual places like these are opened up for a variety of bands to perform in.

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After the war rationing continued but children found enormous pleasure from playing on bombed sites until the sixties. As a child I found gas masks, bits of junk; there were endless windows to throw stones at and hideouts were dugout from mounds of rubble. Unexploded bombs have been discovered frequently in Southampton since the war and have had to be deployed. The most recent  was discovered by a group of builders in a main street in 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8549256.stm

In retrospect these ‘playgrounds’ were extremely dangerous, but nothing compared to the dangers faced during the war.

Britain faced a tremendous rebuilding cost as temporary prefabricated homes were developed. Many houses were built in the 1950s, but as the population started to boom again, concrete became the main building material for quick, cheap imitations of Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture.

We looked towards the new…  (a future blog).