Little wonder

On a recent visit to the old country, lost in a strange town, I asked directions of a passing local.

“You see Woolworths, over there?” She pointed at the familiar facade. “Well, just walk straight through, and you’ll come out onto the High Street.” And that’s exactly what I did. Walked straight through. In one door and out of another. And that’s all I’ve been doing for many years now, using the store as a short-cut to somewhere else, as my childhood Emporium of Dreams gradually lost its magic.

How did they get it so wrong? As a small girl I spent many happy hours trudging around Woollies with my grandmother as she shopped for knitting wool and soap, a new broom, Glymiel jelly for her poor old hands, razor blades for her miserable old husband, and all the while my eyes turned hopefully to the pick-and-mix counter from where, if Granny had a spare 6d., she’d buy a few ounces of sweets for us to share as we made our way home. A visit to Woollies in those days was an utterly satisfying experience.

Not any more, though. Depressing , disorganised, dull. Rows of shelving laid out in an awkward herringbone design, with a higgledy-piggledy, haphazard mixture of items that look as if nobody has had time to arrange them logically, but simply dumped them on the nearest available space.  Why would anybody go there, when there are so many more attractive alternatives? Oh Woollies, where did your Wonder go?

Something a little different

If the housekeeping no longer stretches to filet mignon or lobster, there are alternatives. Crispy fried spider, f’rinstance, particularly succulent at this time of the year as the females are full of eggs, according to Shoichi Uchiyama, an advocate of insect-eating.  Whether your taste is for maggot or mantis, Mr Uchiyama has devised imaginative ideas for preparing them.  Insect sushi

Cockroach sushi –  Photograph courtesy of

On an entirely different track, we went with a friend to the cinema last night, to see “Changeling”. A great performance by Angelina Jolie. Instead of the multi-screen in the centre of town, we went to a cute and artsy theatre where they show mainly foreign-language (as in any language that is not French) films. Tucked away in an unlikely location, there are no vats of sweets, tanks of popcorn, or cabinets of chilled drinks. But, for those who need a nibble, the lady who sells the tickets produces a cardboard box with a small selection of chocolate bars and lollipops; and if you want a drink, she’ll happily brew a cup of coffee or tea. A pleasant contrast to the impersonal multi-screen experience.

Christmas – all wrapped up

If Christmas didn’t come so close to New Year, it wouldn’t be so bad, but with the two almost conjoined, there’s just too much merriment in one lump.  One or other of them ought to be rescheduled.

Uncle Ratty’s famous tantrum in 1960 put me off Christmas lunch for life, apart from which my conscience kicks in at the thought of overeating when too many people will remain hungry. So this year I have devised a guilt-free menu embodying the Christmas spirit, incorporating those elements of the meal which we most enjoy, and not requiring 24 hours of hard labour in the kitchen.

Christmas menu

Roast potatoes; roast parsnips; bread sauce and the pièce de résistancebrussel sprout cake, for which the recipe is available here.

Photo borrowed from thecakedcrusader

I’ve found the perfect Christmas gift, too.  Suitable for children and adults, regardless of gender, reasonably priced, both fun and practical:

The condiment gun from

This device is sold as a  means of squirting sauces onto food instead of shaking or squeezing them from a bottle. However, imagine the fun to be had from using it for paint-ball parties! What could be more hilarious on a cold wet day than chasing friends and family around the house and shooting them with ketchup, mayonnaise or brown sauce?

Or for people who feel like shooting themselves in the head, but don’t really want to die. Fill it with ketchup, point at temple, pull trigger. Bang! You’re not dead, but there’s loads of gore and spectators faint.

Another idea I have is using it as as a pet trainer. A well-aimed blast of mustard could discourage the cat from scratching the wallpaper, or the dog chewing the carpet. 🙂

Yes, I really do believe that this could be the most versatile gift ever.

PS  Artificial insemination?

Will the real James Bond please stand up

Suave, witty, seductive, gadget-festooned, tongue-in-cheek, eyebrow-lifting Sean Connery.

Or gritty, brutal, pitiless Daniel Craig.

If your life depended on James Bond, which one would you choose?