‘Tis the Season to be Poorly

Okay, so a bit of an over-reaction, but there’s ‘alot of it going round at the moment’ and no-one likes to be off sick this time of the year. It mucks up your best-laid plans, gets in the way of fun stuff and generally ruins your festive spirit.

Last week, daughter #2 started off with a cough, which manifested itself as croup. I remember first time heard the seal-like cough from her bedroom – she was about 3 years old and it was 3am.

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The other seal

Luckily Google was wide awake and gave the advice to get cold, fresh air into her, so we stood shivering by her open window with me pretending to be all calm and parental. Luckily it did the trick.

In my day (yes, I’m that old), I had a Wrights Vapouriser in my bedroom for this type of thing. It was a metal lantern with an absorbent block nestled inside the lid, onto which you’d pour this magical vapourising liquid. You’d pop a tea light underneath and the heat would warm the block, releasing this potent whiff that eased all kinds of breathing difficulties.

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Would never pass Health & Safety today

It smelled a bit like coal tar and filled your room entire house with the fumes, but boy did it help. I still wind down my window and inhale when driving past freshly laid tarmacadam. (Yes, that’s the full name for tarmac.)

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Dream job

In my family, everyone copes differently when they’re ill:

Daughter #1 – gets a bit narky if I ask her how she’s feeling. Allergic to Penicillin. Refusal to take medicine in pill form.

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Just one sodding spoonful is all I ask…

Daughter #2 – goes through a drama of epic proportions each time a medicine syringe goes anywhere near her. You know that scene in Airplane when that woman is in panic mode and everyone is trying to calm her down? That is my youngest. With a steady line of friends, parents, grandparents (and cleaner – yes, she was roped in as well) all approaching her to try and help with the medicine-administering process.

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Get a hold of yourself

Husband – no words…

Okay – words. He is hypochondria re-incarnate and can often be seen retreating to the spare room at first sign of anyones’ illness.

If you search ‘Dr’ on his mobile, it can take at least two full swipes of his contact list to scroll through the directory of consultants he has on file, in all major postcode areas and even on the continent.

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His desk at work is a sight to behold: tissues, anti-bac gels, Vicks First Defence, vitamins, pro-biotics. I actually think he is stockpiling to start up a pharmacy to rival Boots and am considering getting him a faux-Doctor sign for his desk.

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Still tickles me

Me – I just get on and deal with it, a trait inherited from my dad. That said, if I’m truly struggling I will admit defeat and start on anti-biotics. Dad just battles on through with liquid Night Nurse. He is old school. I reckon his blood is green.

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The taste never leaves you…

So, what to do with the days spent at home playing Florence Nightingale to the fam?

Clear out the bathroom cabinet of course!

The stockpiling – again, mainly husband – is insane. How many packs of Dioralyte does one actually need in their lifetime? The majority of these meds have an expiry date, so go check your cabinets and stock up on stuff for when the shops are shut over the holidays.

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Almost identical to my bathroom cabinet situation

Please sing along – you know the tune:

#…On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, some shower caps in packs of three.

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, six plasters boxes, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes….four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

(Bear with – nearly there – hope you’re still singing)

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, ten squashy ear plugs, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eleven headache tablets, ten squashy ear plugs, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

(Deep breath…)

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

twelve Calpol bottles

eleven headache tablets

ten squashy ear plugs

nine tubs of hair gel

eight packs of tooth picks

seven body lotions

six packs of plasters

five tooth pastes…

four shower gels

three nail files

two cotton-buds

and some shower caps in packs of three!!!…#

Happy Clearing. x

Final Call…

I’m a big fan of getting to an airport on time early. There. I said it. I detest rushing. I will happily get up in the middle of the night (okay, so maybe it’s only 05:30), birds tweeting, to catch that first flight out of Luton. I’m not saying I would choose to rise that same time every single day, but there’s something exhilarating about watching the sky change colour, as you journey excitedly towards an airport.

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Highway to the danger zone… (okay, Malaga)

I’ve usually amassed about 4 hours sleep the night before because I have packed, unpacked and repacked to remove and replace various pieces of redundant clothing, additional medicines, another bottle of suncream, etc. I have also checked and double checked my alarm is set. Again, no rushing for me. I want my shower, I want my breakfast. Otherwise I’m not fun Mummy.

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Shower-fresh before a flight. Always

Travelling outfit is laid out ready for the whole family, because I physically don’t have it in me at 5am to concern myself with what everyone is wearing. And it would definitely become my concern.

Whatever I choose to wear, it will usually include a wrap-around scarf thing to mummify myself from plane seats (see earlier blog) and trainers with socks. I can’t deal with sandals in an airport –  too many trolley wheels and stampeding feet. I ‘sandalled’ once and at security we were told to remove shoes. Me. Barefoot. Airport floor. (*insert dry heave here*) Hence, always socks.

The packing side of things is a whole other blog (useful, if you’re after packing tips), but for years I avoided buying luggage scales. My bathroom scales were sufficiently accurate, if a little painful to read…

  1. Step on scales to set the display to ‘0.0.’
  2. Swiftly dump case on scales and pray that it doesn’t topple over
  3. Case topples over before registering a proper reading
  4. Repeat steps 1 & 2 until successful (usually 5 or 6 attempts)

As long as I was within a pound or two (weight, not money), I knew I was okay and could feign disbelief to husband at check-in, that official reading was a good 6 or 7 kilos more than my reading at home. “Ah, it must be because of our tiled floor surface.”

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However, those days of blagging extra kilos are long gone. (Even though, for the record,  the kids and my stuff weighs nothing and giant husband’s clothes are far heavier per item. Just saying.)

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Money saving travel outfit option 

One-click Amazon Prime a couple of years ago and I became the proud owner of a proper set of luggage scales which give an accurate digital reading.

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360kg? Sounds about right…

In fairness, and I have got better, (honest Guv) the majority of the weight-bulk in my case is toiletries. I can’t help it – I’m allergic to so much stuff that it’s not worth the risk of local purchases. I tan badly enough as it is. I don’t need an eczema flare-up on top of it.

Plus, holidays are a great excuse to go nuts buying new toiletries and bump up your Boots points. New toothbrushes, new toothpaste, new shower gel, new ‘shooshie’ – we love a shooshie in our house.

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Shooshies. Why? What do you call them?

I know someone who ‘sparks joy’ (that Marie Kondo method) at finishing something, such as a box of cereal or some face cream. For me, I’m all about new and not just around holiday time.

Butter – the peel-off of that paper bit on top – heavenly! And that first butter curl? The best. Just stay away with your toast crumbs please.

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Nutella – I’ll give the gold foil a satisfying stab, but then every single piece of foil needs peeling off. Every last bit.

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Unacceptable

Greek yoghurt – that protective paper film thing confused the hell out of me the first time I bought the product.

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How do you pronounce it?

Milk – Once the lid is off, I am wary of people who don’t fully remove the peel off part. I’m live with people who do similar to tins of sweetcorn and tuna. It pains me.

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The horror of it…

Face/eye cream – a BIG favourite, especially if it comes with a protective lid thingy that makes direct contact with the product. I can eek out at least a week’s worth of usage from lid excess, before even touching the product inside the pot.

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New toothpaste – those first few pumps to get the toothpaste out? That’s what dreams are made of. We are a pump dispenser family, although to save our marriage, I no longer share a dispenser with him. (FYI, He does still have his lid. It was discarded at first use, although it’s sits in the bathroom cupboard. ‘Just in case’.)

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His (on the left) is no longer my problem…

Must go to bed. I’m getting up in 4 hours and am still swapping things in and out of the case.

Happy summer. xxx

P.S. It’s pronounced ‘Fa-yeh’!

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No, really. It is.

Prepare to Be Amazed

I was a Brownie. I was a Girl Guide. The whole ethos of ‘be prepared’ definitely made an impact on me, although half the time I think it’s because I just can’t be bothered with the hassle that comes with not being prepared.

Like in the car:

(loud sneeze)

“Mummy!!!! Quick! I need a tissue!!!”

‘Use your sleeve’ some may say but I just don’t need the extra washing so for that reason, tucked in the side door pocket are tissues. Yup, the flat pack of tissues that you think no-one ever buys from Boots. Well I do.

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Like in the kitchen:

If I can make dinner in the morning and have it on a slow cook all day, then when I come through the door late from the kids’ swimming lesson, I don’t need to worry about dinner whilst washing their hair, sorting their homework and unravelling the swimming costumes that have been rolled tighter than a Havana cigar. (* Favourite post-swim recipe at the end of the blog.)

Like on a plane:

Whilst everything goes up into the overhead storage, I keep essentials with me in my seat so that there is little need to stand up (interrupting my prime film viewing). Kindle, iPad, moisturiser, chewing gum (for plane breath) and sucky sweets for the kids upon landing. Oh, and massive cosy scarf that’s been freshly washed. I then mummify myself by wrapping the scarf around as much of my being as possible. I like to imagine other passengers can also see animated flowers wafting off of me as I move around in my seat.

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I actually use Fairy, but their ads don’t have flowers

Like when I go out for the day:

My bag has the usual suspects – keys, wallet, phone, but amongst it all is a Mary Poppins-style bottomless cosmetic bag of wonders, including things like: plasters, stain remover wipes (best things ever), mini perfume atomiser, calpol tablets (kids) and lip balm. In the 80s it was Lipsyl, but today, it’s Eve Lom Kiss Mix.

 

I am what is known as a ‘lip licker‘: yup, it’s a real condition. I always have a pot of this wondrous stuff with me and can’t bear it when people dip their fingers into the pot. For this reason I shove my lips directly into the pot to apply and it seems to deter others from finger-dipping.  (Win-win.)

But my point with this blog (and I don’t want to sound too Carrie Bradshaw), is ‘how organised is too organised’?

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Carrie? Can you help?

I have a friend (no names mentioned but she will know soon enough), who is so insanely organised, that she readies the breakfast stuff for her kids the night before. Bowls are placed on the kitchen table, filled with cereal of choice and then covered, yes, covered, with cling film. It’s “to stop the spiders going in.”

With being prepared, I do get it. I am it. I had to revoke my Costco membership because I was fast becoming their second biggest stockpiler of loo roll. (And the cookie multi-packs.). It was just too dangerous for me to have access to such a place.

A recent trip to Disney indulged every organised bone in my body. Schedules, restaurant bookings, ruck-sack packing for the parks. I was all over it and loved it.  Including ordering disposable ponchos for the ‘wet rides’. Yup, I did that.

Husband is all for being prepared too, although this translates as ‘I’ll leave my coat out on the couch instead of hanging it up, because I’m only going to wear it in the morning.” Oh, ok. I’ll just empty out all of your clothing onto the floor so that you don’t need to ever open a cupboard or drawer ever again. (He’s tempted by this idea, I’m sure.)

And it’s not just my generation – the older generation seem to be on the preparation path. Although in some cases it may be ‘Preparation H‘. So canny is my mother in law, that juices are Nutri Bullet-ed the night before and vitamins are all measured out. I guess she’d be dead by the time she counted them all out in the morning, so fair do’s…

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Only the half of it

My kids are on it too – they see not brushing their teeth in the evening as ‘no big deal’ (whilst I freak out), as the toothpaste is still on the toothbrush for the morning.

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I think the whole point of me wanting to be prepared is an innate sense of not wanting to fail or let someone down. What if my lovely neighbour needed to borrow some sugar or milk …or even sumac?

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Yup. I have that

And if I ever ask if I can come to Costco with you, just say no.


*Post activity dinner where you come through the door too late to fuss with cooking.

Perfect Pot Roast by Ree Drummond, The Frontier Woman.

I cook it all day long in the oven on 100°C with no worries. Leave out the wine and rosemary if you want a ‘lighter’ taste. My family aren’t mash fans so I lightly toast a ciabatta that I’ve sliced in half along the length. Place in a bowl and spoon over the meat and the juices soak into the bread. Am now salivating. Roll on swimming next week.

(I’m midly obsessed with Ree. She’s was a city girl, moved to the country, married a cowboy and now lives on a ranch with her four kids, writing, blogging, cooking and has recently opened a store. I want to go there and meet her. And eat her food. And say yee-har.)

 

There’s a Poop in the Pool…

As Soul II Soul once said, back to life back to reality.

My Summer fun is pretty much done and I can almost smell Rosh Hashana in the air. (In case of confusion, that’s the festival celebrating Jewish New Year which usually falls around mid-September and you can just smell an Autumnal change in the air).

After a few weeks on the Costa (Mill Hill-on-Sea), I am most definitely home, trapped (albeit happily) in my utility room, dealing with the wash load upon wash load that is a sure sign of a good holiday. You can spank money on the hotel laundry service all you like. You can hand wash to your heart’s content with your travel wash from Boots. Fact is, it will never convince me it looks or smells good enough, so I usually end up re-washing most of it. Although I did return home with a much hyped (on Facebook’s My Best Product Ever (#addicted) fabulous cleaning spray from the local hypermarket:

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For cookers, cars  ..and clothing

No two summers are ever the same and a big plus for 2016 was that both of my kids were fully swim proficient and could handle their own on a Taylor Swift-style inflatable. And this year it was definitely all about inflatables: crocodiles, unicorns, lemon slices, swans – I saw it all.

On top of the variety of inflatables this Summer, the ice cream consumption was off the clock. Like an enormous flash card, we all stand and point at the ice cream board and readily hand over our Euros. (A reward card would be nice, Walls. Just sayin’.) Yes, there are Peanut Butter Magnums, Negratons and Fantasmikos, but Sandwich de Nata is still my favourite 6pm sampler. Biscuit. Marshmallowy-soft ice cream. Perfecto.

 

Every day starts much the same – a promise to do some cardio just to ‘keep things ticking over’ – maybe a You tube Pilates video (“Hi I’m Christy, let’s work that booty…”), or some lengths in the pool? By 11:30am I’ve done half a pack of rice cakes (the ‘healthy snack’) and I’m like quality control on the kids’ crisps. It’s a job – somebody’s got to do it.

This year, I said to myself that I would be the ‘Mum that said yes’ when it came to the kids.

“Will you come in the pool with us?” Yes. And this time I wore goggles. Not my best look but I leave that to the messy bun, fresh-faced, slick of clear gloss brigade.

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I know who I am…

I borrowed eldest’s spare pair as I have super-sensitive eyes (cataracts, detached retina.. but that’s a whole other blog). Plus, if you saw the colour the pool water turns our swimwear, it’s no wonder my eyes sting. Chlorine catastrophe. Diving competitions, handstands, roly poly’s and the occasional pool evacuation for poop. Sometimes it was a stone. Sometimes it really was poop. Mass hysteria as we try to ignore the fact our kids are swimming in 90% urine as it is.

“Will you come in the sea?” Yes. And this time I wore my beach shoes as Marbs beaches can be rocky. It always fascinates me that I am on the ‘edge of land’. Like, literally right on the edge of Earth’s surface. Stepping into the blue bit of the light-up globe in my kids’ bedrooms. You get my point.

Once all the activity and excitement is over, Mama deserves a chill out with the grown ups. That’s when the inevitable ‘Dragons Den in the Sun’ begins. What can I invent to make me millions whilst lying here aiming for some semblance of a tan?

Post-it notes? Done.

Towel clips? Done.

Even the sure-fire winner of a suncream applicator booth was veto’d as apparently, according to Facebook (gospel).. done.

We were getting nowhere fast and it was time for a break (ie. more snacks). You know that programme Springwatch? Well, move over Bill Oddie. Round my pool, at a certain ‘time of the month’, it’s ‘Stringwatch’. Girls have all got each others backs (or fronts..) and give a knowing ‘nod’ as we palm one of ‘Mummy’s special carrots‘ and head off to the ladies.  I just wish the boys could look out for each other more. The amount of times I had to avert my eyes. You might think you are modest in your swim shorts, but with your excessive manspreading on your sunbed, the netting bag of ‘fresh plums’ is still very much on show.

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Close your legs, gents

I shouldn’t be unkind as I am most susceptible to ‘pitminj’.  I don’t think I need to explain, but most of my photos require careful editing.

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My armpit. My pitminj. My god…

Right, back to the ideas board for 2017. I’m hoping for something a bit better than my tan if I’m going to get that call from Peter Jones. “I’m in.”

Mummy Pig Goes to Prison

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If you need me, I’ll be at HM Prison Bronzefield.

Seriously, one day, I fear the nice staff on the tills or the online end of my favourite shops will politely yet firmly ask me to step aside whilst security take me ‘out the back’.

I am a ‘serial returner’, often knowing that the item will inevitably be returned. Poor size, poor quality, poor performance. Whether it’s for me, my kids, my husband or my home, in order to be a keeper it has to be perfect and sometimes I will only know that once I’ve got the item home. The amount of duplicate sizes of things I buy for my kids is insane. Or normal it would seem, as friends seem to experience much the same.

I am a Libran through and through: ‘kind, gentle and lovers of beauty, harmony and peace’. Sounds good so far but: ‘one of the most difficult things for a Libra is to take a decision. When faced with a choice, it is very tough for them to select what is best for them, which can become a big hurdle in their path.’  Yes, I know. First world problems and all that.

Yup. That’s me. Indecisive as hell, swinging like a pendulum as to whether I am completely sure about something, especially when there is such a broad choice. (Over 10 years into my marriage, he is definitely beginning to grow on me. Plus, he is well past his return date and I know my Mother in law wouldn’t take him back.)

I shred all useless receipts – and by useless, I mean I’m definitely not returning it/them. A box of red Lindor for example. Hardly going to have an issue with them now am I?

Stationery, supermarkets, restaurants. Those kind of receipts will usually be shredded. I’d love to say I check them off against my bank statement one by one like a fastidious friend of mine, but it gets to insanity point and takes me way back to University days in Manchester when the itemised phone bill would come in. My 5 housemates and I would sit round that farshtunken kitchen, as if we were FBI agents going through classified intel looking for clues. In reality, we were just cross-referencing who was racking up the lions share of calls, circling the ‘unidentified numbers’ and subsequently calling said number to discover who had made the original call. It was a false economy as we would inevitable do the it again next bill, querying the same number. All to save a couple of quid. (Although in fairness, £2 got you a round of snakebite n’ black in the 90s.)

“Hi, who do you know living in Mabfield Road, Manchester?” It wasn’t all fruitless – one call to a Birmingham number resulted in a marriage. True story.

So what of the ‘to keep’ receipts?

Well, these get removed from my wallet, kept in an interim clear plastic wallet, until they can be properly dealt with and filed in this receipt storage book (Hurry. There’s only 4 left according to Amazon.)

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She may not look a beauty, but this receipt storage book is flawless to me. (It’s the accountant’s daughter in me.) There is also a whole shelf of lever arch files and folders for instruction manuals, guarantees, warrantee and assembly instructions. Sometimes I may be a little too steadfast – am I really going to need the installation manual for my hob and downstairs loo? Unlikely. (Will keep for a while longer, just in case.) If something breaks, tears, shrinks, malfunctions or falls apart, I am ready with the receipt, guarantee, or Allen key that came with it. (My toolbox is a whole other blog post.) I don’t have time to search – a return needs to be made immediately, especially if it is dangerously close to the within ‘xx days’ return policy. So far, the system has yet to beat me. Even on out of guarantee items. Some people excel at parking ticket loopholes. Stores are my thing.

But not all returns are made the same.

I’ve highlighted a small selection of frequented shops. Feel free to comment with your own experiences and tips:

H&M (They do the best homewares which people often overlook. In my basket amongst kids leggings and plain white t’s, I often sneak in a few candles, bowls and napkins to add finishing touches to my home)

When returning an item, you think you have got off lightly with just one signature so you pass the pen back to the till person. But hold on. Not so fast. They operate a TWO part signing, including name, address and another signature. I am now ‘au fait’ with the fact that I don’t need to write out my full address – just the postcode is sufficient. (And good luck reading my handwriting.)

In general I can’t bear returning things to H&M – the queues can be vile (ditto some of the queuers). If I have no choice, them I try to return things to the Menswear section as it’s normally quieter. If you’re local to Intu in Watford, the upstairs bit in H&M is a brilliant hack as it’s normally really quiet. There’s no lift or escalator available so all the parents with buggies (who are generally the bulk-returners) can’t access this level. Hurray! I’m not being mean here. I used to be one of those people. However, I am now ‘BF’ (buggy-free).

If you ordered from H&M online then an alternative return service to the post office or to store, is to use the free (unless otherwise specified) myHermes service. They deliver and collect for stores including H&M, New Look, Next and that one I can’t pronounce, Vertbaudet. The first time I got a text to say ‘Your Hermes delivery is on the way and will be delivered between 15:00-16:00’, I honestly thought I was about to receive an extremely generous birthday present from the husband in the form of a Hermès Birkin bag. Ah, but not so. Hermes/Hermès. Such a subtle yet enormous difference.  (And yes, it took me about 6 attempts to get the accent grave over the ‘è’ from my laptop. At least on my iPhone is does it automatically.)

But no, Hermes ‘sans accent’ is a great courier service that delivers stuff you order online and then if you don’t like it, they come and collect it at a time that suits you.

Round my way, there is a lovely man called Barry that covers the local area. Everyone knows Barry. He’s like Postman Pat but without the cat. A local friend said she had a different Hermes delivery man, called Gary. She described him. His car. His bluetooth earpiece. The shorts he wears in all weathers.

Nope. That’s Barry. You’ve just been calling him Gary.

 

M&S (linking to the BEST diffuser out there IMO – come sniff my downstairs loo)

Not much to say here really except, whatever you do, don’t return to store. You have far better things to do with your time. You may think you have got there as the store opens. You may think you will be first in line for customer returns, but somehow, through clever store design, you turn the corner to the customer services department and WHAM! Straight into a line as long as 30 Colin the Caterpillar cakes. It’s not worth it. Collect+ is the way forward. If you order online – and have it delivered usually next day to your local store (even ‘Simply Food’ stores), just pack up your ill-fitting vests, tops and cigarette trousers that looked quite ‘Marant‘ online but much more ‘Matalan’ in the flesh. Then, find your local Collect+ store by postcode and just drop it off. Easy as M&S Steak Pie. (FYI, I love Matalan – they have some brilliant finds especially for my daughters, so no offence meant. Purely for comparison purposes and I’m gunning for the .)

 

Boots (taking you through to ‘Mummy’s special carrots’ as my youngest refers to them…)

My local branch is unfortunately quite small and lacking in range, but sometimes even by visiting a larger store I find I’m still short of something specific. Online ordering. It’s brilliant. Everything I need. And more. Plus there’s advantage card points. Offers are much easier to spot and click straight into your online basket rather than getting to the till in store and being told it’s ‘buy one get one free on toothpaste’.  Who can be bothered to weave their way back through the store? I normally go for the self-service tills, aiming for the thrill of a fuss-free transaction with no ‘unexpected items in the baggage area’. A rare but fulfilling experience. Much like M&S, you can order to any local Boots store and expect a text within a couple of days to say your order has arrived in store. All packaged up in a nice box, so no-one has to see your super plus Tampax carton poking out of your carrier bag. (Sorry, ‘bag for life’.)

 

Next (I want this for the Summer  – all 6.5 days of it if we’re lucky…)

Pretty on the money I’ve got to say. Returns are piss-easy. Just be careful you don’t make the mistake I recently made. Each item has a unique barcode. They don’t even need your original receipt anymore as they can tell if the order was made online, bought in-store, gift card, stolen (!) and then match it to the payment method. Unfortunately one item I was returning was a gift that I wanted to exchange. The payment went back to the gift bearer. Let’s hope they don’t check their receipts as fastidiously as I do…

 

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Zar

Zara

Sorry, I just can’t.

Ok. I’ll try. But only because I want to help others.

Zara (these I want for when the weather gets warmer)

Once the balance of ‘sale vs new collection’ is restored to a more sensible ratio, you can really see all the lovely things they have to offer.  (As opposed to a tiiiiiny corner with a couple of new tops and a pair of black palazzo pants, completely hidden by rail upon rail of sale mayhem.)

Zara is lovely. Zara has such nice stuff. Zara have finally added a ‘refund and exchange till’ to most of their stores. It used to be that you could duck into the back of the not-too-busy kids department for a swift return, but I think everyone cottoned on to this and as a result, Zara now staff it with the most miserable and moody staff members they can possibly find. This is how I imagine their interview process:

“Show me moody…”

“Show me miserable…”

“Show me your most audible ‘tut’… ”

“Show me your stapling skills…”

Some say don’t bother turning up to Zara for an exchange without proof of purchase or a gift receipt. I beg to differ. See me after the blog for more information. (You CAN beat the system. Trust me. I have intel.)

Instead of store purchases, online is pretty good but can take up to 3 weeks to arrive so it’s a risk you have to take, but be warned – I once got caught on an E&R trip (exchange AND return). Multiple receipts, frazzled staff member. It was a fiasco. And then she ran out of staples. I thought the girl was going to faint. Enough with the staples Zara. One receipt. With all the information on it. Come on Zara. You can do it… Take a leaf out of River Island‘s book – they seem to have it sussed. (And you still get a paper carrier bag)

 

The White Company (some say the kids nightwear shrinks. Wash it properly and I beg to differ. It’s beautiful, pretty, long-lasting and I always bag PJs in the sale for my girls)

If you’re paying full price, you’re obviously a tourist. I reckon I could re-paper my lounge with the amount of loyalty cards that pop through my door. You are probably carrying 3 out of date ones in your wallet. Yes. You. Bin them. And the WHSmith 20% off card from Christmas. Or is it of sentimental value?

Kudos to the White Company on their smiley staff, lovely range and serene stores, but 9 times out of 10 customers are buying items as gifts. That’s a sh*t load of tissue paper, wrapping, sticking and ribbon-tying in front of you in the queue. Even the staff apologise to you with their eyes for the long wait. Online all the way for me.

 

A recent trip to America and I have to say, they’ve got it right in their stores:

  • Staff members wandering around with handheld devices, taking card payment from people waiting in the queue
  • The ability to return an item at ANY till point within a department store
  • Plus, FREE CARRIER BAGS!!! Although, I’ve got to say, through habit, it’s been heart-warming seeing the array of bags for life that us environment-aware UK citizens are keeping on us, not to mention the Lakeland trolley bags in the boot of my car that I love to whip out.

On the flip-side it kind of makes me miss my Maclaren buggy and all its super useful bag-hanging properties. But then, how would I get to the upper level of H&M…?