Tuesday 26 July 2022

Supermarket Checkouts

Recently someone in my Blogland mentioned or blogged about supermarket payment systems comparing manned and self-service tills. I think it may have arisen because of the superfast manned tills at Lidl and Aldi. I cannot recall which the person preferred but he/she was very adamant about it.

So far as supermarkets are concerned it all boils down to money. Fewer people = less cost = more profit potential. Lidl and Aldi have limited employment down to a fine art together with easily scanned bar codes and staff who work their socks off. 

So far as we, as customers, are concerned a lot is personal preference. Going through a manned checkout is rarely fast. An aside - a wonderful irony used to be that one of the fastest checkout staff in our Coop was also one of the most sociable. People would join her queue just for the craic (Gaelic - enjoyable social activity). Sometimes other staff would be free. However, if you are in a hurry with a few items self-service is invariably the fastest way out of the shop.

So far as society is concerned our Coop (which I believe is the largest in Scotland) employs a lot of staff and is an important employer. The more self-service checkouts the fewer people employed.

Amazon has gone one further with a trial shop, in London I think, which has no payment facilities at all. You register your phone when you go in and as you put something in your shopping bag it is automatically charged to your card.

Of course the fewer the staff and the greater the automation the less attention can be given to 'confused' people (usually elderly) or the disabled who need help. 

I do not look forward to a day of complete automation, I'll pay the price and help employment. Am I alone?

Saturday 16 July 2022


The Mum of CJ and I would have been 113 years old today had she not died at the age of 93, 20 years ago. 

Flora Edith Irene started her named life by creating a family upset. Not intentionally and in fact she had no hand in the matter as she was only months old at the time. At her Christening her Godmother, Edith, when asked "What do you name this child" answered "Flora Edith Irene" adding her own name in between the family's chosen names of Flora and Irene. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with the name Edith if ever there was a person who didn't fit that name it was our Mum. She just didn't!

Flora (flowers), Irene (peace) Edith (rich gift)

Mum was a lover of peace and nature and eschewed any form of conflict and she was, of course, a rich gift for her parents. 

Mum was born into a reasonably well-off family. However Mum's Father's business was a luxury business and the slump and the war put an end to any hopes Mum had of going to Oxford (which had been her Mother's hope) which, academically, she could have done if her Father could have paid the fees.  

Mum never complained about missing uni. In fact Mum rarely if ever complained about anything and, like most people of her generation living through two world wars, she had plenty about which to complain.

We could learn a lot if we hearkened back to the time of Mum's youth. Yes. There is a huge amount of real poverty in the UK now but the privations of the slump and war were worse than most people now can even believe never mind understand and public financial assistance was not readily available. 

I managed to get this photo with no time to focus,  aim or indeed think as I walked towards Mum and she struck the pose. I had the camera at my side and just pressed the button. That it turned out was well as it did was a miracle. It is one of my favourites amongst the very many photos I took of Mum.

Friday 15 July 2022


Over Christmas and New Year and for a while after that I was not at all well. I isolated the whole time despite never testing positive for Covid. Whether I had Covid or not I'll never know. However ever since then I've had days of extreme tiredness where functioning normally has either been a huge effort or downright impossible. Fortunately it hasn't interfered too much with my life because I'm long past the age of having to work to keep food on the table. So if The Ennui hits me I just grumble and accept it. Fortunately one has to be pretty far gone before one can share a morning with friends over coffee in The Woodlands. On the odd occasion I have simply fallen asleep I've managed to avoid falling off my chair in public and when I wake up I'm just expected to catch up with the chat. That's what it's like with true friends. 

When I cam home from hospital last week the airport security was absolutely rammed with people and they were obviously short staffed. So getting through security took the best part of an hour I reckon. My metal work and exterior plumbing is always met with consideration and good humour on both sides but it does hold things up a bit for them. Few people were wearing masks.

The plane was full and  only a few of us were wearing masks.

So a couple of days later I tested positive.

Oddly a friend travelling from a different hospital, through a different airport on a different plane arrived home on Lewis the day before me and tested positive the day before I did. 

Neither of us is particularly unwell. 

However on the too frequent 'Ennui Days' when the feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction is so strong that even thinking about making a meal is an effort, it makes me realise just how many people there are who can't just sit down and say "Bugger it!" are now having to cope with the aftermath of this disease. 

When I was flying home last week I was reminded that, however thick the clouds, the sky above them is always clear:

Wednesday 6 July 2022


Well this isn't going to plan. 

I left home on Sunday afternoon and few to Glasgow and then, given the parlous situation with trains and busses and the fact that I was supposed to be isolating as much as possible before going into hospital, I took a taxi to Ayr and stayed the night in the Ayrshire and Galloway Hotel. It was lovely to stay in a smallish non-concrete, glass and steel box hotel. The staff (yes there were staff) were exceptionally helpful and friendly and the food was excellent. I'll not hesitate to stay there again.

The hotel is unprepossessing and at the end of Ayr High Street which, like many other town centres has, unfortunately, passed its sell-by date.

I went for a walk along its length and got the impression that more that half of the properties were empty.

I came into hospital in Ayr on Monday morning with a view to getting my uretic stent changed and being home and back in harness on Tuesday evening.

I'm still in hospital. The operation went very well. It's always good to see a surgeon who's been working on you looking happy. Mr Meddings looked delighted. So was I. He's been my saviour over the last 5 years.

On Tuesday I started off feeling fine and then went downhill with my temperature going up and my blood pressure plummeting.  I slept for 10 hours Tuesday night and woke this morning still feeling less than great. My temperature was higher again and my BP lower this morning but as I write this I'm feeling a bit more chipper and hoping, once again, that everything will sort itself out and I'll be home tomorrow. At least I'm in a hospital and have a bed. The worst possible scenario would be to be discharged and then have to end up in an A & E in another hospital. 

The oddest thing about this hospital visit has been being on a mixed ward. I recall when they were mooted many moons ago in hospitals there was a huge uproar. Women wouldn't be able to cope with men in the same room in hospital circumstances. As it happens I'm the only man on this ward. No one batted an eyelid when I was wheeled in. There doesn't seem to be any fuss on any side.

The one thing I have discovered though is that men and women discuss completely different things on my small sample of mixed wards. Women don't talk about football. Men don't talk about their operations or procedures. Women, where they can, race for a shower in the morning. Men don't. Men and women are equally squeamish about having blood removed and needles stuck in them. Men keep asking when they can get out. Women don't. Women are very friendly on the ward and interact a lot (including with the man). Men tend to look for some common acquaintances or past connection with others in the ward and if there isn't one then then football takes over.

I'm feeling a lot better. Hopefully I'll be home tomorrow.