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Out and About on Friday

I wanted to start with this lovely bunch of alstromeria which we bought this morning in Sainsbury’s – the Sainsbury’s which is closest to our home even though there are continuing road works along that road.

There are several Sainsbury’s stores in our area, both large and small, and although I would’ve preferred to have shopped in Waitrose this morning, I thought we might as well just get used to Sainsbury’s because with Waitrose closing in June, it’s either Sainsbury or one of the other supermarkets and I don’t really want to drop still further down the ‘food chain’.

What can I say that is complimentary about Sainsbury’s?  I am finding it difficult to think of anything.   Perhaps just two things:  we had to ask several members of staff where we could find things because it’s a large store – well, it is to us although medium-sized compared with the huge Torquay store – and although we were trying to think logically where products might be, some of them defeated us, and each member of staff was polite and showed us where we could find things.  The other point in its favour was the bill for what was to us a reasonably large amount of goods, knocking about £20 off what we’d have paid at Waitrose, and I’m not exaggerating.  So that can’t be bad, can it?

I wanted to compare like with like when I got home as I have an old Waitrose food bill for a week’s shopping, but somehow – the first of a few mistakes today – I’ve lost it.   Or perhaps the check-out assistant didn’t hand it to me, I have no idea, but I’m not usually careless with such things. I make sure I have my Visa card from the machine and my bag over my arm and then take the receipt from whoever is serving me.  But today it’s AWOL.  But, as I say, it was a large shop (to us) and the bill was about £20 less than what we’d normally pay.

But … I just don’t like the place!  There is nothing actually wrong with it, but it’s just so prosaic.  There are no pleasing displays, things are simply piled up.  Even the staff uniforms are a horrible maroon and orange.  Whoever chose such colours?  Also, and I know it is Friday and perhaps the store had seen loads of shoppers before we arrived,  the fruit and veg areas looked not only rather empty in places, but a mess.  Isn’t anyone available to tidy them up?

And also, we noticed that the quality wasn’t what we were used to in Waitrose.  We wanted some pears but they only had Conference pears, not our favourite. There might’ve been other varieties but we couldn’t see any.  Conference loose in a big box or gynormous ones pre-packed in groups of four.  Neither appealed.  No Green Williams, no Rocha, no Comice.  We looked at the spring onions and they looked like the needed removing from sale they were so dried out.

OK, I’m picking just two things, but then I saw the leeks and they were huge ones, leeks that have been allowed to grow too large before harvesting. All vegetables become more fibrous, more wooden, as they grow bigger, they are simply not as nice and tender as the younger plants.  We managed to find a couple of loose leeks that were just about acceptable, but are nearly all green leaves at the top and little of the white leek part at the bottom, the tender part of the plant.

I managed to find some flowers though (alstromeria and roses) but although there were plenty of them, few appealed.  These supermarkets do so love their huge bunches of mixed flowers in mixed colours together, don’t they?  There is nothing classy about those.  And while I’m on about flowers, I saw the most awful ones in the Torquay Sainsbury’s this week, they looked like orchids that had been dyed …

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen orchids in these lurid colours before.  Are they natural or dyed?  If they’ve been dyed, it’s an insult to a glorious flower.  I didn’t stop to examine them, I thought them so vile.  Of course, others will disagree – they wouldn’t sell them if people didn’t buy them!

But I did find the lovely alstromeria (£3 for 6 lovely stems) and roses (£3 for 10 stems) and a bunch of daffodils still in the pencil stage (£1).

 

I still have the daffodils I bought in the large Torquay branch of Sainsbury’s a couple of days ago, and they have now opened up and look lovely.

But, as I say, I can’t find anything to enjoy or even like about Sainsbury’s. The food is OK, not top notch, but OK.  The trouble is, I’ve become used to better than just OK, and for close to £100 I expect better than OK.  I know this is a first world problem, and I’m being fussy and I do know others will be counting the pennies and buying the cheapest food they can find simply because they have to.

After spending a very long time with my rather long shopping list, we decided to have lunch at the golf club.  There was a good specials board today but they were all full-size meals and our experience last week taught us we simply can’t eat a huge plateful of food, so we had our usual small portion of fish and chips.

This really is a small portion and I still could only eat about half of the chips and I left some of the batter from the cod (and still felt very full.)

The view from our seat of the course was a pleasant one, but much nicer in summer of course …

I look forward to sitting outside for a lunch or even coffee and cake or even a G&T in summer.

Sorry to harp on about the shortcomings of Sainsbury’s (it can’t help looking like an aircraft hangar, can it, and rather bleak regardless of all the colours of the products on sale) but another point is that the magazine section is a bit meagre.  Well, it is to me.  Lots of those awful weekly women’s magazines (those that used to thrive on the three Rs in the magazine world:  recipes, royalty and romance, and now focus on ‘celebs’ or those who are famous for being famous) and cheap TV guides;  certainly no World of Interiors!  I picked up next week’s Radio Times and am delighted to see that the wonderful police drama, Line of Duty is returning next week!

As a treat (mainly for putting up with having to shop in Sainsbury’s ha ha!) husband saw some little fruit and custard tarts and suggested we had one each.  Unfortunately, as I put mine onto a plate it began to disintegrate, but it tasted OK.

By the time we arrived home, my M&S postal delivery had been, and I now have another pair of their Per Una High Rise indigo straight leg jeans.  They are simple, inexpensive, and look OK with most of my jumpers and T-shirts.  I photographed them with my favourite silk Joules scarf which I wore today (with my new lime jumper) hence a few creases, but they will soon drop out.

The only problem with these inexpensive jeans, even washing them inside out on a 30C wash on a short cycle using coloured washing liquid, is that they have a tendency to fade quite quickly.  Therefore, I like to keep a new pair in the wardrobe for when I need to look a bit *smarter than usual, and the other pairs are past their best (*if one can ever look smart in jeans, ha ha!)

I am now going to make a cup of tea and perhaps watch some more of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. What a lovely cheering series this is. I need that, not only because of the tooth saga this week, and shopping in Sainsbury’s, but also my attempts to get a ring-back from one of the doctor’s in ‘our’ practice.  You have to have a ring-back before you can see a doctor, this is common procedure now. YOu explain what is the matter and they decide whether to see you or not.  But apparently you can only have a ring-back on the day you phone and I wanted to book it for Monday as we were going out, so I will have to try and get through again on Monday, which I know will be nigh on impossible.

It was suggested to me by the receptionist that I looked at e-consult on their website!  I nearly lost my rag then.  When you phone up and eventually get through, all the info about their website takes two and a half minutes before you actually speak to someone.  By the time the recording has finished about prescriptions on another number, about test results only after 11 am, and how all the staff have been trained to put you in touch with the right person for the right problem at the right time, you could well be dead. Oh for the days when you could simply phone up and make an appointment to see your own GP.  Just like that.

So I need Mrs Maisel to cheer me up!

Until next time.

About Margaret

Margaret
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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26 comments

  1. Your flowers are, as always, beautiful but those dyed orchids …….. cruelty to flowers I say!

  2. Good Evening Margaret, I was just about to comment on your previous blog post when I see you posted a new one. I know how you’re feeling about your grocery store. We loved visiting a unique market where we used to live. It not only had all the wonderful food items but they even had fresh bread flown in from France each Wednesday! The big box stores have no ambiance today. Hence, our Costco where we can find excellent items but it’s basically a big warehouse. I remember one year when my daughter’s classmate at the University of Bath came to visit. She was appalled, to say the least! I explained to her that that’s America. Hopefully your toothache is getting better. We’re off to the dentist today. Luckily, we found a excellent dentist with a very modern office who does business the old way and is trustworthy. Hopefully, your medical appointment can be straightened out. We still call for appointments here but we do have an “online” health chart where we can contact the doctor and nurse for questions or other items. Your new jeans look great with that beautiful scarf. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Sending you my best wishes, Pat

    • Margaret

      Hello, Pat, and I’m glad you understand how we feel about our grocery store. There are other supermarkets in the area, indeed, unlike some areas (in particular the north west where my cousin lives) we have a superabundance of them. She doesn’t even have a Sainsbury’s in her area, so at least we have a wide variety from which to choose. But apart from the discount stores, there’s not a lot to choose between them (and I remove Waitrose from this equation, of course.)
      I hope all goes well at the dentist for you. We sailed through our check-ups and hygienist, even though husband had to have a small filling renewed, but it was done very quickly. Glad you approve of the dark jeans, they are very ordinary straight-leg jeans, I think I’d look a bit silly in those tightly fitting jeans, and my bum would certainly look big in them!
      Yes, our medical practice’s website is, I am sure, helpful but if you’re feeling ill or you know you need medical attention for some reason, it would be beneficial to be able to bypass all these things they now say at the beginning of a phone call (even assuming you don’t get the engaged tone all the time) and just speak to a medical practitioner right away. We’re not time wasters. We only go for the big ones! I’ve had an hysterectomy, breast cancer. and my gall bladder removed, not to mention osteo arthritis since my 20s. Husband has had sepsis (for which he was in hospital 6 weeks), open heart surgery, and now has prostate cancer. Surely, they should be able to mark the notes of some people so that those people could speak to someone without all the preamble nonsense that those who seek attention for a splinter in a finger or a cold and they say it’s ‘flu? When I wish to see a doctor, there is a real reason for it. So I think I shall present myself at the surgery on Monday, I think, as getting through on the phone is so hopeless, and request that a doctor phones me – but allows me time to return home before making the call!

  3. I agree with you that change is inevitable but not always for the common good. Yes there are swings and roundabouts, give and take, can’t have it all, but not if they leave a bad taste (lol pun) in the mouth. Is it a long drive to your nearest Waitrose, perhaps larger ‘shops’ less frequently are the way to go – with no top ups needed.

    It’s possible you have answered this previously Margaret but are there no fruit and veg shops (greengrocers) local to you where you are able to select what you want? Butchers and Fishmongers – are they a thing of the past?
    Take care
    Cathy

    • Margaret

      The nearest Waitrose, Cathy, is at Exeter and we’d not want to drive to the city, about 25 miles away for our weekly shop. The idea of shopping less frequently is a good one, but not workable for us as we can’t store that much fruit and veg in our fridge, it’s not the large American-style fridge but just a single door fridge/freezer. There are butchers in our local town and a small greengrocer, selling fruit and veg, and I feel guilty as we seldom visit our town as most of the nice shops have gone to be replaced by betting shops, those selling mobile phones, estate agents and pound shops. Time was, in the 1960s and 1970s when there were such shops as Hepworth’s and Burton’s, both men’s tailors, and even lovely clothes shops for women, but sadly no longer. There is, I think, a Clinton’s for cards, but they don’t sell the kinds of cards I like anyway. And there is a W H Smith and a Boots the chemist. We cold shop in Totnes for meat, there is an excellent butcher there – that is where we bought venison in the winter. And, of course, Brixham is the place to buy fresh fish, straight off the boats coming in (well, almost). But we could spend our lives searching for these things, as they are all in different directions in different towns and husband, I know, simply hasn’t the energy. Yes, I could shop on my own, but it wouldn’t be as much fun, we do like to do things together while we can. Perhaps when the weather warms up and spring is really here, we might go further afield now and again for such things.

  4. Thoseblue orchids are vile. How could they do that to such an elegant plant ?? Your new jeans look very nice and I like the scarf very much. I don’t wash my jeans very often. I find that they don’t need it and they are generally too tight immediately after a wash and need to give a bit. I love jeans and think that you can look smart in them when worn with nice accessories, etc. The other day Mum and I were watching ‘The Supervet’ and a young woman was seeking his specialist advice for her dog’s lameness. The woman was wearing black jeans but both knees had massive holes, at least 20cm x 20cm. I said she must have been poor as she couldn’t afford the full fabric and we both made disparaging remarks as we both dislike that ‘look’. Towards the end of the show they were showing footage of each animal fully recovered and at home. The woman with the holey jeans was wearing the posh gum boots which sell here for about $200 (Hunters ?) and when the camera panned out her home was like a castle !! Mum and I burst out laughing – all that money and she couldn’t afford proper jeans with knees. Ha ha. I’m in the camp of loathing grocery shopping so it would take a miracle to make me enjoy it. I’d rather do laundry, or cook, or wash the car anyday. Unfortunately it’s one of those chores that must be done. Regularly.

    • Margaret

      I know how you feel about holey-knee jeans, Lara. I think they look ridiculous, too. AS if you’d put holes into a perfectly good pair of jeans just to look fashionable. People wearing them are fashion victims, I think; trying hard to look young, but our elder son said, when he knew a friend had a bought a pair like that, already holed, that by the time someone had grown out of their teens, they looked silly in them, and I tend to agree. They must be uncomfortable, too, I’d think, the knees being exposed all the time, and chilly in our climate!
      I do wear denim jeans on occasion, but I like these soft cotton ones in indigo. I also have them in black but I prefer indigo.
      I think you would enjoy food shopping in Waitrose, Lara, it’s such a lovely store with excellent staff, and things are so beautifully displayed. Well, they are in the one that is closing down in Torquay! I used to look forward to going there but it will take a miracle for me to look forward to shopping in Sainsbury’s, and that is a store that we used to love when it first came to our area about 30 years ago!

  5. I’m wondering whether you have any good farm shops near you which might make an alternative to Sainsbury’s for your fresh goods sometimes? There are a few round here and quite often they have a good coffee shop too …… Visits to very large supermarkets are not an uplifting experience I find.

    • Margaret

      WE have lovely shops in Totnes about five miles away, Margaret L, we used to go there often, and we can get meat there (not that we eat much meat these days. But now we’re older we don’t want to go around, shop to shop, as once we might’ve done, hence the ease for us of shopping in a supermarket. But we can ring the changes and we’ll get used to Sainsbury’s … after all we shopped there before Waitrose arrived in Torquay. It’s just a case of getting used to it again.

      • Ah, I quite understand! As we get older our energies need to be conserved for enjoyable pursuits!

        • Margaret

          Too right, Margaret L! Such as this afternoon … I’ve been binge watching The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Oh, I just love it. One of the best things I’ve watched in ages and better than any of the films I’ve seen in the past few months.

  6. I wonder what will happen when Saintsbury’s and Asda merge? Hope you’ll keep looking Margaret if you don’t feel happy with such a big shop. I quite like Morrison’s in Totnes if we’re visiting. plus a coffee and cake at Saveurs. Is the Farm Shop at Stoke Gabriel any good?(Broadleigh.) Anyway no doubt you’ll find something you like in the end.
    By the way I think you’ll always have an eye for flowers and I agree dyed ones are unpleasant, why do they do it?!

    • Margaret

      Morrisons in Totnes used to be great Heather, but suddenly it seems to have changed and is more like a pound store, goodness knows why. Saveurs has changed hands yet again, or it looks to have changed hands. It used to be a lovely little tea room before it became Saveurs and now it’s something else, can’t remember the name. I don’t know of a farm shop in Stoke Gabriel but there is on in Churston, but our local farm shop has closed down although, as far as I know, the cafe is still up and running. I just hope there isn’t a merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda, I can’t imagine things would then miraculously improve. As for dyed flowers, it just seems so pointless and ridiculous. And an insult to beautiful flowers, as if we know better than Nature.

  7. I know that, like me, you enjoy food shopping, but just a thought….could you have your main shop delivered by WItrose (if they deliver in your area), or perhaps by Ocado and just top up at Sainsburys as and when? Having just typed that, I’ve remembered that Waitrose is no longer working with Ocado after the Autumn.
    I don’t like our local Sainsburys and agree with regard to their awful colour scheme. It’s not all about cost either. If it was, I’d shop in Aldi. I can’t stand it! I ‘treat’ myself to Waitrose from time to time but it means a 20 mile drive to a decent sized one. I don’t like little supermarkets, but we’re all different. Those orchids are an outrage! Horrible.
    Dylon machine dyes do a navy which is great for darkening faded denim. I’ve used various colours in these dyes and they work really well. Also, it’s permanent and doesn’t fade.

    • Margaret

      I think it might be possible to have the main shop delivered, Eloise, as my friend asked in the Exeter store on my behalf, but I understand food comes from your most local store and if that’s closed, then I thought it wasn’t possible. Ocado have now teamed up with Marks & Spencer, they will no longer be delivering for Waitrose, that’s one of the reasons I think that Waitrose are cutting back on their stores (although I could be wrong.) But it’s the physicality of shopping that I enjoy, I enjoy food shopping and I don’t really want someone else to choose my bananas and apples for me, even if they are the right variety. Yes, it’s not always about cost; we went to the new Aldi and the new Lidl in our area, and gave them both the big thumbs down. They are large and they are trying to emulate the main supermarkets, but I don’t want to shop in what is basically a large warehouse. And again, I’m not keen on the smaller, convenience supermarkets as they seldom have what I’m looking for.
      I think I’d be frightened of using Dylon in my washing machine in case I didn’t remove it all and it dyed our white bed linen sky blue! It would be just my luck, ha ha!

      • Haha, I’ve used Dylon lots of times over the years with no problems at all, but I’d definitely do a dark wash after using it and not go straight for a white one!!
        I hate warehouse-type supermarkets, and agree with you – I like to choose my own. In support of Ocado though, I’ve had excellent service and top quality fruit and veg on the few occasions I’ve used them.

        • Margaret

          It wold be just my luck to forget that I’ve used Dylon and do a light wash, Eloise!
          You would not like the new Lidl in our area (or the Aldi which hasn’t been open for much longer, they are both new) as they are also like aircraft hangars. I’ve never bought from Ocado as I’ve had no need to, and I don’t know whether they deliver in this area anyway.

  8. So sorry for your loss of your local Waitrose. I can imagine how upsetting it must be. Shopping in Waitrose is one of those small pleasures in life ; they are so much better than the competition. I do think they did not need to do that free coffee promotion, there were a lot of people who signed up and got a free daily drink without spending any significant amount there. I believe it cost the company a lot of money.
    We discovered their Colombian coffee ice cream a couple of years ago and it is deliciously addictive! Have tried other brands but they are usually awful. On offer at the moment!

    • Margaret

      It isn’t the end of the world that Waitrose is packing up and leaving Torbay and Teignmouth, Shenley, but I think it’s short-sighted of such a large and well-thought-of brand. There is a large building sight right now where my husband’s factory (where he worked, I mean, where he was a senior engineer) was, ideally situated because it’s close to South Devon College, part of Plymouth University, and also some brand new housing estates. Much investment is going on within Torbay right now, new hotels being built, including a new 5* hotel where the Palace Hotel at Babbacombe (formerly a 5*) is now standing empty. I know holidaymakers aren’t Waitrose’s target customer, but I know (having lived here most of my life) that holidaymakers enjoy going to a supermarket that is different from their own at home. Anyway, the site of the old factory has been earmarked for a new out-of-town Marks & Spencer food hall. Now, M&S have also seen profits dwindle but they are looking ahead, and speculating to accumulate. Waitrose has missed a fine opportunity here. If they had bought that land and built a purpose-built new food hall with cafe and all the facilities that people now demand, it would be the pride of Torbay and could be a flagship store for them. I find it hard to believe that a company the size of John Lewis/Waitrose could not afford this investment or hasn’t had the foresight to have at least considered this option rather than pulling out of the Bay altogether. Torbay is now so large it is its own Borough; three large towns, Torquay, Paignton and Brixham and all the surrounding area as far as the South Hams in one direction and Teignbridge in another, and Waitrose doesn’t seem to think there would be sufficient customers to support a single store. Shame on them.
      Yes, it’s the Colombian coffee ice cream we love so much! I looked coffee ice cream up on Sainsbury’s online shopping site and there is a Carte d’or coffee ice cream (although we didn’t see any in the supermarket) but we tried this brand and dislike it; yes, other brands are usually awful!

  9. Is Oakhampton to far for you to use a Waitrose store? I see they have one there.

  10. Margaret, if M&S do a new food hall within reach I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at their efforts so it will be worth a try. Even more so if they attach a coffee shop.

    • Margaret

      Yes, there is a lovely M&S food hall within easy reach, right opposite the large Sainsbury’s at The Willows in Torquay We do go there, but very occasionally. If they have upped their game recently, with fewer ready meals and more proper food, then we will certainly give them a try. The upside of shopping in Sainsbury’s though, regardless of the ugly store and the vile maroon and orange livery, was that we lopped around £20 off our usually weekly bill. That’s £100 a month I could spend on books! (Only joking!) We’ve been in the M&S coffee shop and while the coffee & food is fine, it is large and very, very noisy.

  11. I enjoy Marks and Spencer’s coffee and the food, but the atmosphere in most of their coffee shops is like an old-fashioned works canteen!

    • Margaret

      Oh, how funny, Margaret L! Yes, like a works canteen! I shouldn’t be put off by just two visits, a few years apart, but on both occasions I just wanted to leave even before I’d been served in the queue with my tray!

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