Christmas is coming to London – and more

Signs of Christmas – we traveled to London for two days.  It was a belated birthday present for Heather – but I received the fringe benefit of attending a play, The Ferryman.   The play portrays the impact on an Irish family of ‘the troubles’, a time when Northern Ireland saw deep and violent divisions between Protestants and Catholics.

We also had a visit to the Tate Modern Gallery – a retrospective on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Gielgud Theatre

Continue reading “Christmas is coming to London – and more”

Musings on Working in Bournemouth

I have been working at Steamer Trading Cookshop for three weeks now.  Going in, I had  a somewhat romantic view of what it would be like to work in the British service industry.  What I have learned is that work is work, no matter where you are.  Duh!

Being on my feet for four to six hours to be quite exhausting, followed by a fifteen minute uphill walk to get home.  We work hard in this store.  Well managed with a huge inventory there’s always lots to do.  It’s been a steady learning curve, especially on the tills, but I am now over the hump and enjoying things more.

I am looking forward to December first when we have a modest staff party at an event called the “Christmas Meal” at a local restaurant.

The people I work with are lovely, ranging in age from 17 to about 40. I do have one work mate, Tracy, who is a bit younger than me.  I’m the oldest in the store, by a long shot.

I have my eye on several items in the store where I can get a staff discount.  I just need to make sure not to spend all of my hard earned cash.  Garry is quick to remind me (more often since I have started there) of the high expense of shipping items to Canada.   I was reminded of this when I last sent a parcel which was one gram over the 2 kg limit.

The weight was 2.001 instead of 2.000.  For two kilograms the price was £13.35 but because I was over the limit at 2.001 kg  [.0005%] the clerk insisted that I pay £41.25.  So one gram, cost me an extra £27.90.  From her perspective she was ‘just applying the rules’!  Of course I was on my feet having stood in line, with some adrenalin coursing my veins.  I should have shaved a tiny corner off the box. 

My coworkers hate Royal Mail – and now I see why.

Although a part of me misses being in full retirement, I must admit my days off feel sweeter.  My part time work serves as a benchmark and I truly enjoy getting to know my coworkers, not as a tourist but as a local.


The Domesday Book – Mill in Christchurch – and the Miraculous Beam

The above photo is the local mill in Christchurch, mentioned in the DomesdayBook of 1086 and was valued at 30 shillings a year.  Some stonework is from the middle ages, some brickwork from the 18th century.  It was used until 1908.

The Domesday Book was a census of England carried out at the direction of King William the Conqueror.  It served as the first great survey of England, and its purpose was to serve as an assessment for taxation purposes for the king.   It was not until 1873 that there was such an extensive survey of English property ownership.

The Miraculous Beam – Christchurch

“The story is that a beam was found to have been cut too short when it was hoisted into place. This would have been embarrassing for the carpenters since the wood was expensive and would be difficult to replace. There was however a mysterious carpenter who had worked and ate alone. The day following the discovery, when the carpenters returned they found the beam was in place and it now fitted. The unknown carpenter was never seen again, and the story came to be that it was Jesus Christ who had intervened. The church became Christ’s Church of Twynham in commemoration of the event. In time the town became Twynham Christchurch and eventually shortened to Christchurch. The beam can be seen today and is located in the Priory’s Ambulatory.”

 — from site of Geoff Knowles




A Visit to Christchurch and a Ducking Stool?

On our visit to Christchurch, the next town over from Bournemouth in this conurbation, we came across this sign:  “Ducking Stool” – with an arrow.

This way to the Ducking Stool

We wondered — what the heck is a ducking stool?

It is referred to in the late 17th century.  It was particularly used for women who were argumentative, or were witches, or prostitutes or bore children out of wedlock.

An oscillating stool, e.g. a teeter totter type fulcrum, would allow the woman to be held over the water, then dunked into it.

– wikipedia








Note it did not apply to men – and sure enough in this illustration it is men ensuring justice is carried out.

The punishment could be light – i.e. simply dunking in the water, or if the townsfolk were particularly vengeful that day, it led to death.

Ducking was also useful to determine if someone was a witch:

“In medieval times until the early 18th century, ducking was a way used to establish whether a suspect was a witch. The ducking stools were first used for this purpose but ducking was later inflicted without the chair. In this instance the victim’s right thumb was bound to her left big toe. A rope was attached to her waist and the “witch” was thrown into a river or deep pond. If the “witch” floated it was deemed that she was in league with the devil, rejecting the “baptismal water”. If the “witch” sank she was deemed innocent.”  — Wikipedia

Fortunately it was removed from the laws in 1967 [no doubt because we have improved our method of determining if someone is a witch].

We are never too far away from going back to those days – take a look at Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ written during the McCarthy era, and I expect the good folks in Alabama will soon use this method to confirm that those women coming forward to accuse Roy Moore are all witches.



Working in the UK

Three shifts in,  my experience working at a gourmet kitchenware store in Bournemouth is generally positive.  Lots to learn, and it’s clear I will be earning every penny of my hourly wage, once I am fully trained.

I am being paid £7.50 per hour, a pretty standard rate for a retail assistant (equivalent to $12.60 per hour CDN).

Of the twelve employees, the manager and assistant manager are the only full time employees.  This appears to be standard in the retail sector here.  With the exception of students, people who work in the retail sector have two or more part time jobs to make ends meet.

My work mates are great, though I find myself no match for the quickness of a couple of under twenties with whom I am working.  I can only hope there will be moments when I will trump them with my wisdom, judgement and salesmanship…haha!

The store sells a wide range of high end cooking knives that are under lock and key.  Once I am trained to sell them, I have been advised of the importance of checking ID to make sure these products are not sold to anyone under 18.  Consequences for me could be a five thousand pound fine or six months in prison!

One thing that surprised me was the break policy….very different than anywhere I have worked in Canada.  With this employer, there are no breaks for shifts of up to six hours.  If you work over six hours you are given a thirty minute meal break.  Coffee breaks seem to be non existent.  With few exceptions, I am scheduled for four hour shifts, and I find that’s more than enough time on my feet without a break!

The store is beautiful with a wide range of cooking, giftware and entertaining products.  It’s fun to observe customers enjoying a browse through the store and I am looking forward to becoming more proficient with assisting them.

Armistice Day

Christchurch Remembrance

The United Kingdom marks two days, first is Armistice Day, then tomorrow is Remembrance Day.  It was gratifying to see at Nero’s, our nearby coffee location, a sign that read staff will observe two minutes silence at 11 a.m.

Nice to see shopkeepers recognize the importance of the day.

Tomorrow we will go to Christchurch for the Remembrance Day ceremony.

A Quiet Period in Bournemouth

A period of quiet for our postings.  The editor-in-chief said the stories were not compelling enough.  Hrrmpph!

We have traveled through Guy Fawkes day with lots of fireworks, now we are headed for Christmas.  First comes observance of Armistice Day and Remembrance Day.

Heather continues her work at the local gourmet cook shop, and I am continuing my work at the Oxfam store.

Sean and Jessica paid us a welcome visit, flying into Southampton from Dusseldorf.  Southampton Airport is a treat because there is not a mob of people headed every which way.

We made a quick drive to Exeter which was about 10x the size I thought it would be.  There we attended the comedy ‘Festival of the Spoken Nerd‘ a comedy group that combines science with comedy.    They are widely known on youtube and a tiny sample of some of their work  can be seen on the video,  laser+mirror+sound — lots of cool stuff.  And this one creating shapes from sounds

Near Exeter is a Fish and Chip shop that was being considered for a Michelin star, so we had to try it out.  Hmmm – we could not figure out why?

We then went on to Plymouth which included a few of those one lane two direction roadways.

Shortly after their return to Cologne, Sean was off with friends to Portugal whilst [as the English say] Jessica went back to work at the Forschungszentrum Jülich.

We do not yet know where we will be for Christmas – it depends on what is happening in Cologne and Heather`s schedule at work.

At the Oxfam Store I was treated to seeing a customer`s pet.  She came in with her pet praying mantis.  About half the length of an index finger it was fascinating to watch.  Most of the time it was attempting to hide by appearing as a stick and a very good one.  Perhaps a bit eccentric to have a pet praying mantis but aren’t we all – especially the ones who appear normal.

Brexit continues to occupy 98% of newscasts but it is better than trump -usa, or  trump -na-usea.  Apparently the U.S. delegation to the climate talks this week in Bonn includes several coal company executives.  Nothing like fiddling while Rome burns – the problem we have is that it is not just Rome but the entire planet.

Our weather has been spectacular with little rain some wind and a really great autumn.

Today I visited Christchurch, a wonderful community next to us.  It was beautiful to hear the cathedral bells chiming as wedding guests arrived in a 1950s London double-decker bus.  The sun was shining, and the grass was a rich green.

In the coming weeks we have a trip to London, so we can finally celebrate Heather`s birthday by going to a play fortunately not with Kevin Spacey.  Following that we will have one more trip to London before Christmas.

We are also giving some serious thought to New Year’s Eve in London.

I await the results of my UK driver`s license application – so our planning for the new year depends on a license, given a license is essential if we are to visit rural Ireland, and Heather`s place of birth in France.

We expect to visit warmer climes in the new year  – Morocco? and/or Goa?

Tomorrow night is the all important movie Paddington Bear 2!

Does your dryer have a refrigerator?

One aside – we had been perplexed at the poor performance of our clothes dryer.  It was beyond poor – that is until we found a drawer.   That drawer contained several litres of water – and was full.  So first the dryer heats the clothes, the water evaporates, then a built in condenser [refrigerator] turns it back to water.  Sounds like Sisyphus to me.  Who’d have thought!