I saw this a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to share it. Unusual!

a cyclist on the road on a tricycle - three full-size wheels, two at the back, one at the front.

The roads here are too dangerous for cyclists of any description – you can tell by the daily death toll of bicyclists and motorcyclists (whereas car, truck, and van wrecks/injuries/deaths are quite rare) – which is why I never bicycled before I got a car, even though it’d have been a huge help in my daily life around town, since it’s so much faster and lower-impact than walking. (You’re not supposed to bicycle on the sidewalk, which is sometimes stupid and sometimes sensible, but they have to make blanket laws for all situations instead of assuming anyone has any brain anymore.) But for the suicyclists who’re going to do it anyway, I did notice that cars were tending to give this tricycle more space than they give bicycles when passing, despite it not really being that much wider than the person.

Happy 2015!

This morning’s sunrise was beautiful, so I wanted to share!

Have a look!


HOORAY! I passed the driving theory test! Amazingly, on the first try! Wowza! What luck!

I’m not opposed to a written test for driving – there are all sorts of reasonable things to make sure drivers know, like what various road signs mean (moreso here, since they’ve used a bunch of symbol ones so they can be standard across Europe), for example. Lots of other things that would occur to me if I wasn’t so exhausted just now, too.

Excuse me while I rant a bit and natter on about the test …

I am, however, opposed to the stupidity that is the hazard perception test, rolled in with that multiple-choice ordinary test. Mostly, I’m opposed because the video quality is so grainy that you can barely make out anything, and yet you’re expected to be able to tell what the five pixels that are a distant pedestrian are, and what the one pixel that is the biker’s face turning is, and so forth. The video quality is from around 1980. Behold, the instruction section before the test clips I saw today at the test center (skip to about 1:51 to see one of the clips in question):

In contrast, here is the video quality I’m used to seeing these days:

On top of that, I learned by searching online last night that what they tell you about when to click isn’t actually right. They tell you that the earlier you click when you see a hazard, the more points you get. I’d bought the official practice DVD, and was running it over and over again (trying to be able to suss those few pixels that meant this or that), so I knew the clips, and would click very early when they’d appear … and was getting zero scores. Bwuh?

It turns out that within the clip, there’s a certain window of time that is the scoring window. Clicks before this don’t count at all for or against your score. They want you to click every time you see a potential hazard, and every step of the way when that changes – so for example, you’d click when you see the pedestrian, again when you see their (one-pixel) face as they turn to see the road, again when they move their body to face the road, again when they get up to the curb, again when they step into the road, and so on. I’m not sure exactly when the scoring window in that scenario opens, but it’s most certainly not when you see the pedestrian to start with. This is all sheer stupidity.

Anyway, after I knew that, I did a few more practice clips this morning before we left – and what do you know, I scored way better on them! Lo and behold, I did very well indeed on the test, as well. Amazing what a difference it makes to actually know the grading rubric.

When you click, a red flag appears. At the test center, the red flags accumulate on the bottom of the screen. During the introductory video, as I saw that happen, I was reminded of American football, and how I’ve heard announcers talk about flags on the play. “There was a flag on that play, we’ll have to wait to see what the refs say.” “One – two – three! – flags on that play!” Etc. I don’t know much about sports, but I think those flags are thrown by the referees to say that the play wasn’t done quite right. (If I’m wrong, don’t bother correcting me; it’ll just go in one ear and out the other because I really don’t do sports.)

Chris and I have concluded that Aliens From A Utopia Planet (where everything is perfect all the time) came up with the rules I’m being tested on in this process. So I decided to just make a video game out of it. “That pedestrian isn’t walking perfectly correctly! Flag on the play!” “That car isn’t driving perfectly correctly! Flag on the play!” “That van is turning! Flag on the play!” When I started the city center (extremely urban) clip, I wondered if there was any limit to how many flags I could put on the play – but it turns out I spent most of that clip stopped at a red light (appropriately enough), so it was actually the suburban clips that drew more flags.

So, yes, one hurdle down. Now some lessons (I do have to master the stick shift and the extremely narrow roads, after all), and then the driving test – however many times I have to take it.

The rest of the day – and a few pictures, too!




After I passed, as I stood waiting for the elevator, I had a lovely view of a canal, with a small waterfall over a lock wall, right in the center of the city – so lovely and so completely unexpected – and me without any camera! (They’re very particular [pdf] about not letting you have anything in the testing room that I thought it best to just leave absolutely everything nonessential with Chris, who was waiting outside the building.) I found Chris and walked him around the building until I found the scene I’d seen from the 6th floor.


The white building is where I took the Life in the UK test.

The white building is where I took the Life in the UK test.

It doesn’t look as nice from the ground as it did from way up there, but it was a lovely, tranquil place. Chris was amused, because, turning left a bit from looking at the canal, he saw the building I’d jumped through a different ridiculous hoop in — where I’d taken the Life in the UK test (citizenship test, essentially, though it’s given before that point in some cases, including mine).


We were also in Manchester for a doctor appointment for me, at Manchester Royal Infirmary. They have this process of three waiting spots: you go from a larger waiting room in the ENT department for everyone, to a smaller one for the section you’re going to that day, to a line of chairs in the hall right outside the room you’ll be seen in. I guess it’s so that even if they’re running late, you know you haven’t been forgotten – I’m all for it. Anyway, while sitting on the chairs in the hall this time, I found myself being drawn … towards … these … rooms … 😉

Haha, just had to share that with you. After the test, we hopped back on the train immediately – the 3:47pm train is just about the last one before rush hour starts – and headed back to Glossop. I was in desperate need of new shoes, and finally found some. I hate shoe shopping – my feet are very awkward and need all sorts of support that isn’t fashionable, so it’s usually a frustrating experience – but thankfully the gent at A & B Shoes on High Street made it as painless as possible, and I found a pair that will do. Don’t know why I’ve never poked my head in there before. By then it was 5, and our favorite restaurant, Thai To Go, should be open, so we went to have a celebratory dinner. Except they weren’t open yet. The proprietress comes by bus, and it runs late sometimes, as buses do, so we wandered around a bit, watched and anthromorphized the ducks a bit, and wandered back.


It still wasn’t open by 5:20, and Chris was ravenous, so we gave up and headed home. We went via the in laws’, and told them the news, and told them about the stupidity of that hazard perception test, and so forth. We got home, set our stuff down, etc, and before starting dinner, I tried phoning the restaurant again to see if it was open yet – yes, they’d just gotten there, the bus had indeed been late. This served to reinforce to me why I’m going through all this annoyance with this driver’s license malarky – public transport is unreliable, vastly more expensive, dirty, and annoying. I was going to order delivery, but sadly they don’t deliver on Wednesdays anymore. So we trekked back out and had that celebratory dinner after all. It was fab, just as we expected. 🙂

All in all, not a bad day!

Snow! – and how it causes chaos

It’s sunny right now!

I do hope it stays this way. It snowed earlier, but didn’t stick on the roads around my house, thankfully, and the sun’s melting whatever little bits might have done. Elsewhere, it was thicker.

I really, really hate it when it snows here. Other places can cope, but this place can’t. I have vivid memories from childhood, from our winters in Michigan, of deep snow on the yards, but the road completely clear of snow – and once the sun would shine for a bit, even the wetness would evaporate, and the road would be completely dry and safe. I also remember having great fun with a pair of my old sneakers (trainers), a couple of sticks, and some knee-high socks: we stuck them in the mound of snow that the snow plow’d made, simulating a girl having gotten stuck in the snow. We watched from the kitchen window as people passed by and did a double take. Most laughed; it was good.

Click for more …

I also have an acquaintance who lived in Canada for three or four decades before emigrating; she assures me that the scraping noise of the snow plow on the road surface is one of the sounds of winter there. I wish it was so here. Here, the plow stays a good 2″/5cm or more off the surface of the road; the salt they spread behind that plow (one vehicle: pseudo-plow at the front, salt spreader at the back) can’t melt that much snow. Not clearing snow means it almost invariably freezes, making the roads perilous – when there’s no need for it.

Here’s some of the traffic chaos caused by this morning’s light snow:

  • High Peak Bus Company – serves most of the High Peak, the local borough I live in, including the road I live on:
    • 9:03am: Transpeak. We won’t be be serving Taddington or Chelmorten due to the weather conditions.
    • 9:51am: Cat and Fiddle closed in both ways
    • 9:53am: Service 199. Will not be serving Peak Dale due to snow
    • 9:56am: Snow is causing problems for services all across the High Peak
    • 10:46am: We have various road closures in the are affecting many services. Cat & Fiddle,Chunal,A515 and A623 are blocked. We are doing our best!
    • 12:23pm: The road conditions are improving but our 58 service remains suspended.
    • 12:35pm: Service 61. Will recommence full service at 13:00 from Glossop.
  • 11:33am: Cat and Fiddle Road:
    2014_0211 cat and fiddle
  • 10:30am: Update on the county council’s webpage about closed roads, etc:
    All these roads are open and passable with care:
    • A57 Snake Pass
    • A537 Cat & Fiddle
    • A53 Macclesfield Road
    • A515 Ashbourne to Buxton.
  • 10:50am: Disley Police: Please be aware that the Cat and Fiddle road has been closed due to snow. Other roads over the tops may be affected as well.

That’s the roads; the sidewalks don’t get cleared or salted, but do get walked on, so the snow there freezes into interesting shapes. You know, for values of interesting that mean “you take your life into your hands by walking on it.” Fun times!

How much snow was it? Here’s the top of one of our hills, at 10:53am:

2014_0211 kinder scout

More photos: Bottom of Mam Tor Old RoadTop of Mam TorView over Chinley (about five miles south of me) … Buxton town centre (about 15 miles south of me) … and lastly, the view Chris just saw from the train coming into Glossop:


It’s pretty up there on the hilltops. It can stay there, and stay off the roads and sidewalks.

Snow shouldn’t be so anxiety-inducing; it was fun once, I remember. If only it were managed better, it could be fun again. I know my brother who lives in Michigan loves getting out his monstrous snow blower and clearing his two-car driveway in about two minutes flat. Maybe one day I’ll buy a snowblower and just push it in front of me everywhere I go. Just have to figure out how to keep it secure when I go into each shop. Hm.

When I rule the world, I’m putting heating elements under all the roads and sidewalks!

Glossop Community Voice Meeting, 3 Feb 2014

Went to my first Glossop Community Voice meeting this past Monday. I’d read about it in the paper before, and this time curiosity got the better of me and I went along to see what it was all about. It’s run by High Peak Borough Council (HPBC; our local level of government), quarterly. It was surprisingly helpful and informative, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Extra, extra, read all about it …

There was some discussion of what plans are in the works in various groups for World War commemorations (it being 100 years since the beginning of World War 1 and 75 years since the beginning of World War 2 this year). George Wharmby talked about the Royal British Legion’s plans for a drumhead service and parade. Glossop Peace Group emphasized the importance of commemorating, rather than celebrating, the wars, and the horror to be found in the 1914-1918 issues of the local newspaper. Some overlap of effort was discovered (namely, Glossop Peace Group and Write from the Heart are both researching the stories of the individuals named on our local war memorials – Write from the Heart is keen for anyone who remembers those individuals anymore to get in touch with them); hopefully there’ll be some adjustment now, leading to less duplicated efforts. I was surprised to learn that we have cenotaphs (war memorials with names) up on our surrounding moorland; I also learned that – possibly – the rose bushes in the Rose Garden of Manor Park originally numbered the same as the names on the Glossop Cenotaph. That’d make sense, since the signs there say it’s a memorial rose garden, but I’ve never seen a memorial (though I could’ve overlooked one, I suppose). Caitlin Bisknell, HPBC chair, who was chairing the meeting, said that HPBC will have a page on its website for local commemoration events – excellent!

I later realized that a page to collect any information about what projects in observance of the commemorations that local community groups are working on would be a useful thing, as well. Only whatever information is sent to them, mind: I don’t propose they should spend any time on gathering the information, but just type up a couple of paragraphs, send it out with their press releases, and then copy and paste anything they’re sent, along with contact information for the group in question. I told Chris about this idea the next day, but he banned me from pursuing it myself, seeing as I don’t have enough hours in the day as it is. I emailed it to Caitlin, along with a couple of other thoughts I’d had, and she replied swiftly to tell me that she’d fed my ideas to the appropriate departments, so we shall see.

There was also discussion of ideas of how to attract visitors to the Tour de France down into our town. Yes, it’s the real Tour de France bicycle race, starting on the Yorkshire Moors, and coming through something like three miles (total guess) of Derbyshire. I don’t have any idea why the Tour de France has moved to England this time; maybe they got bored of France, I don’t know. Anyway, one idea is to have large screens set up in the town, including at Manor Park where Glossop Carnival will be in its second day, for people to watch the race. Another idea is to have shuttle service based in the town. I do hope shuttle service is arranged, because the logistics of going to watch it seem a nightmare otherwise.

The focus really, though, was on community groups. About five groups had been invited to give a short talk about what they do and what their current projects are, which was very informative. The one thing that made me cringe terribly, though, was the implication that meetings mean progress. I’ve found far too many meetings to be complete wastes of time, so to hear the council and group representatives say that progress is being made because they’re having meetings with each other every few weeks felt akin to someone saying that roadworks are clearly making progress, since cones have been up for a few months now.

That niggle aside, I learned that High Peak Access is making progress with the developer and council on the dreadful state of Howard Town Mill (the problems are explained here, here, here, here, here, and here). There is some hope that some of the obstructions will be fixed, at least in Phase 2 of the development. I learned that Glossopdale Trust is working on acquiring the Town Hall / Municipal Building from HPBC. It’s only beginning stages yet, and Caitlin said that the library (Victoria Hall) will be dealt with first, so my guess is that it’ll be some years before the town hall gets dealt with.

(There’s one structure in the center of town that is variably called the Market Hall / Town Hall / Municipal Buildings, and more names. It’s one building, in actuality, so I use the names interchangeably – except I never pluralize Municipal Building, because there’s only one building.)

The gal from Glossop Volunteer Centre told us it runs a free community stall on Glossop Indoor Market for local not-for-profit organizations – though the flier says it’s the outdoor market, and the website says it’s the indoor market; the website further says it’s £5, so not actually free. Oh, and I see that they also don’t mention (it’s in the t&c linked on that page) that your organization must have insurance: Public Liability and Products Liability, each with £5 million cover; Employers Liability with £10 million cover. I know for a long time the market was running an offer of letting the stall for £5 so long as you had insurance; not sure if that’s still the price, but I’d check into it before involving another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy by giving the £5 to Glossop Volunteer Centre instead. But then, I do so detest unnecessary bureaucracy – and let’s face it, most bureaucracy is unnecessary.

Glossop is right on the edge of Derbyshire, and the transport links into Tameside and Greater Manchester are vastly superior to those going into Derbyshire. Ages ago, when the NHS was devising its local areas for management, it lumped Glossop together with Tameside; several other entities have done the same (not sure which was first). From a standpoint of being able to physically attend various hospitals and clinics, this makes a lot of sense. I saw some news item awhile back that said that our management is going to shift now to Derbyshire NHS instead of Tameside & Glossop NHS, though I can find nothing online about it now, and am now massively confused about the whole thing, given what I have turned up in my search. Hm.

At the meeting, there was a lady repeating that Derbyshire’s going to take control of Glossop’s NHS appropriations; she and her team are, as she put it, keen to learn more about what issues there are in Glossopdale, and what holes there are that maybe they could fill. See, they have the quantitative data from the census (a 32-page booklet which I found to be incredibly nosy and intrusive) to tell them about people who’re inactive and where they live, but now they want to get the qualitative data to tell them why those people are inactive: is it a lack of parks / playing fields / etc in their neighborhood? Is it a lack of awareness of such resources? And so on. Fair enough; hopefully they’ll figure it out. I don’t see how they’ve gathered that data from the census, myself, *shrug*. I put her in touch with one of the guys running WellFit Glossop – a group trying to help inactive people get active seems like it’ll be well-placed to know why people haven’t been being active.

A lady from Friends of Manor Park spoke up at this point to tell us that they’re lined up to acquire the second bowling green in Manor Park from the council soon, because it’s not used much apparently, and while they’re still very much in the early stages of thinking about what to do with it, one thought they’ve had is to make it into an adult exercise space.

I also learned that Derbyshire County Council (DCC) has apparently skuppered the plans that HPBC and Glossop SOUL (Save Our Unique Library) had for SOUL to take over Victoria Hall (in the same way that Glossopdale Trust is working to take over the Town Hall). HPBC says that DCC has assured all that the library will remain in Victoria Hall, and instead of spending £2 million on building a new library 100 yards away, DCC will now instead spend it catching up on the backlog of maintenance it should’ve been keeping up with all along. As such, HPBC says that there’s no need for an asset transfer to the community, so instead they’ll be figuring out how best to improve Victoria Hall. SOUL is taking the longer view of things, and would like to run Victoria Hall, taking money in from letting out other spaces in the hall (it has three floors; the library occupies one) to secure the library’s future in perpetuity, being able to subsidize the library should the need arise in the future. After all, as the representative rightly pointed out, administrations and budgets come and go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the asset transfer will happen. Hopefully SOUL will at least be included in the planning for the improvement work to the building.

I touched base afterwards with the folks from High Peak Access; when I was responding to the planning application for a new housing development here in Glossop, I was disturbed by the narrowness of the sidewalks (which should never be called pavements, because pavement goes on the road, and thus calling them pavements makes drivers think they should drive and park on the sidewalks). The first thing that leapt out in my mind was whether a wheelchair could even get down the sidewalk. I got the width of the wheelchair of someone I know (69cm / 27″), and found it to be just narrower than these proposed sidewalks (75cm / 29.5″). However, that’s just a sample set of one, so instead of citing that in my objection, I searched online for some credible source to tell me how wide paths should be for wheelchair users; I found one from the Irish government that said 180cm/71″ is the minimum for two wheelchairs or the-incredibly-numerous-in-Glossop prams (strollers) to pass each other, or 150cm/59″ is the minimum for when there’s an obstruction temporarily (like a tree). There’s a massive difference between 180cm/71″ and 75cm/29.5″!

Anyway, what I was hoping to learn was if there was a domestic thing I could point to in the future, and he readily helped me with that, showing me the BSI 8300 [pdf] British Standard. He also invited me to send my concerns about this development to the group, since he didn’t think they’d heard anything about it yet. I did, and was annoyed when I did because it involved re-reading my letter of objection to see that I’d urged HPBC to consult with this group – obviously that fell on deaf ears. To be clear, I’m actually in favor of the housing development; I will be overjoyed if any of the mold- and rat-infested abandoned factories in town ever get torn down. There are just a few niggles I have such that I hope the council puts conditions on the decision to make the development better – like appropriate-width sidewalks. Going back a few paragraphs: narrow sidewalks that are covered over with cars (because the roads are too narrow and there’s a dearth of driveways and garages) are probably not helping people get active. It’s one thing to have this problem where the houses and roads are 300+ years old, but there’s no excuse when you’re building a housing estate from scratch.

All in all, a good meeting; well worth attending. I look forward to the next one.

Year in Review: Photographic highlights from 2013

I always feel daunted by all the reflective posts at this time of year; I generally don’t have deep thoughts in this week between Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe I’m just too busy flomping from the hectic season, I don’t know. Anyway, this year I’ve decided I will at least reflect a bit: here, enjoy a smattering of our photos from the year.

I know, these sorts of posts usually have their place in the days leading up to 31 December, not on 1 January. I’ve always had a problem with punctuality. Ho hum. Besides, the year wasn’t over yet – something interesting could’ve happened!

Chris has found and installed for me a great new photo widget (thanks to John Scalzi for using it so I knew it existed), which I didn’t really explain in my last post. Click on the blue arrow as ever, and then if you want, you can click on any of the photos to start the slideshow view – where you’ll be able to do things like read the whole caption and look at all the photos by using the left and right arrows.

On with the photos!

Oh no I didn’t… Oh yes I did!

A great British Christmas/New Year institution is the panto (fully, the pantomime). This is something that has to be experienced to fully be understood, as I discovered about a year ago when I went to my first panto.

I didn’t have high hopes, I must be honest. Pantos are generally derided by most people I’ve heard talk about them. I didn’t really know what it was, but I knew it was a play, mostly aimed at children, and it’s laden with puns and silliness. Obviously I’m a great fan of silliness, but I generally don’t like plays, children, or puns, so I’d always avoided pantos. However, they are talked about so much in December and January every year that finally last year – my third Christmas in England – I decided I had to at least go to one and find out what it was.

Everyone I’d heard talk about them before would only say things like, “There’s always a girl dressed as a boy, a man dressed as a woman, …” the list goes on. None of this told me what it actually was, though. So, off I went to the local theatre‘s production, with my WI.

It was an absolute blast! I was shocked!

They didn’t say there’s a lot of dancing – I like dancing, and last year’s group was particularly excellent. The puns were good; they weren’t the stupid kind. There was much slapstick – again, something I’m generally not fond of, but somehow it worked. The audience participation, though, I think, is what really did it for me. Interacting with the characters turns the evening into great fun.

So, now I’m sold – and hooked. I’ve just been to this year’s panto tonight, and it was an absolute blast again. I must say, Prince Orlando stole the show – my absolute favorite bit was his entrance. The community singing at the end comes a close second, though. I look forward to next year’s panto. If I was really dedicated, there are pantos in the surrounding towns, and I’m sure several in Manchester, but I think one per year will likely do me.

So now, at last, thanks to the panto, I’m in a Christmassy mood. The Christmas decorations shall go up on the morrow!

Glossop Events Email Newsletter is now live!

I’m pleased to announce that you can now subscribe for an email newsletter of the events on my Glossop Events Calendar!

My wonderful husband, Chris, has written some code that collects the upcoming events for the next week and a bit, and generates an email. Have you looked at the calendar lately? I’ve found quite a lot of things going on – there were eleven separate things to do before noon today! In order to keep the email at something approximating a reasonable length, none of the descriptions will come in the email: you’ll get title, date, time, place, and a link to the description.

The email goes out early on Friday mornings, and you’ll get events for the two forthcoming weekends plus the week in between.

I add things to the calendar whenever I see them, sometimes with very little notice, so don’t think the email is the be-all and end-all! Please check the calendar directly anytime you’re actively looking for something to do.

The sign up form is on the top of the right sidebar on this website, but I shall include a copy here as well:

Enter your email address:
For more information, see the list information page.

I made a little calendar

This is really just for folks local to me (Glossop, England); readers from further afield are quite unlikely to make a special trip for these events.

I don’t know how other people work (at all, let alone in this regard), but I read about an upcoming event and it generally falls into one of three categories:

  1. Yes, I definitely want to go to that; I will book tickets and make arrangements now!
  2. No, I’m not interested in that at all.
  3. That sounds interesting; I might like to go, depending on how I feel about it when the time actually comes.

Now for me, I’m interested in lots of different things in the world, though I’m also busy and yet also a homebody, so a lot of stuff falls into category 3. Categories 1 and 2 are easy enough to deal with – the former goes on my calendar immediately; the latter is ignored. But what to do with all these things I might like to do, perhaps, if the mood and timing turn out to be right?

Some years back, I discovered the joys of Google calendars. To address this problem, I turned to them. These events got their own calendar, so they don’t clutter up my calendar. I can set alerts to remind me, depending on how keen I feel when I’m putting it in. I can put all the information about the event right there in the calendar entry – so when I’m out trying to find the location, I can just pull that calendar back up to see what the address was, again. As you can see, this solution has worked really well for me.

It’s occurred to me that, now that I have my own website, I can easily share that calendar with others by adding it on a page here. It might help others. I caution you, however, that this is just my calendar. You should always verify information yourself before you set off, if you can. I’ll always link to websites where I can, but much of what gets added comes from two-liners in the local paper (which don’t include websites). So, I put in what I know, and hopefully it’s enough to find them.

So, without further ado, my Glossop and area Community Events Calendar is here.

Since it’s a Google calendar, you can subscribe to it yourself – just click on the +Google Calendar in the lower-right-hand corner, and it should open a new tab for you and give you options. Once you’ve done that, I think you can set your own reminders for any given event.

Please comment on this entry or email me if you have any suggestions, things you want me to include, or comments about the calendar.

How I Shop in Glossop

One of the many things I had to learn when I arrived here in Glossop was how to shop. There is no Target, no Walmart. There is no Tesco Extra ((Britain’s answer to Super Walmart)) in my town. When I want something, I must go hunt it down, like game in the jungle, elusively mocking my inability to find it.

Glossop High Street.

At least, that’s how it felt at first. Coming from the land of find-everything-under-one-roof, where I see more and more small shops have gone the way of the dodo on each visit, to this land populated entirely by small and medium shops, I was very frustrated at first. It didn’t help that I wasn’t even familiar with what I was looking at: where’s the 409? ((409 is an all-purpose spray cleaner; yes, I know there are plenty of them to choose from here, but that still requires reading the “how to use” stuff on the back to figure out which ones they are, instead of just knowing which cleaner does what.)) the Bounty? ((Bounty paper towels, not Bounty candy bars. I’ve realized now that Bounty paper towels are re-branded Plenty now.)) the Downy? What’s “washing up liquid” and why’s that on the aisle sign in the supermarket? ((Turns out washing up liquid is dish soap; they say: “I have to do the washing up” instead of: “I have to wash the dishes.”)) Why does searching for “sponges” on the supermarket website bring up cake? ((They call ordinary cake sponge cake here, to differentiate from fruit cake (which, strangely, they call a celebration cake, instead of a door stop). )) Where can I buy a hand dishwashing rack and bowl? ((From the supermarket, the market, or the pound store, but you’ll pay the most at the supermarket.)) Where do they sell unscented candles? ((Not many places, it turns out, and again, the supermarket’s the worst on price.)) WHERE is the baking soda!?!

Okay, a few of those are (slight) exaggerations, but I still really miss the ability to just look for the really big numbers 409 and quickly leave the chemicals aisle (the fumes always bother me), not to mention having just one bottle of cleaner I’m sure will pretty much work on anything.

However, I wouldn’t trade my shopping experience here with my all-under-one-roof shopping experience in the US (most days). What I have here is just too enjoyable to do that. Friday, I was out for 4.5 hours to do the shopping, and it was really lovely. Doing the shopping here is so much more a social event for me than it’s ever been before in my life; I reckon it’s outside the experience of most of my friends and family, and far too many Britons, so it’s about time I write about it.

Read all about it …

On this day, I started by seeing my beautician, Suzanne at The Beauty Room, who has the unfortunate responsibility of taming my wild eyebrows. Usually you think of waxing as rather unpleasant, but I don’t mind going to see Suzanne – the pain itself is far less from her than from other waxers I’ve had, but moreover the natter is always enjoyable and usually interesting.

I emerged from there and saw that the newly-opened bakery in town, One17, was actually open, and I was there, so I popped over to check it out. I met the proprietress, Jane, and we had a lovely chat about all sorts of things. I bought a couple of things to try, and went on my way.

I headed up to the market, to work my way back down again (I don’t usually double back, but Suzanne’s is in the middle of my path down the high street). On the way, I saw Nigel, the proprietor of Sowerbutts, taking stock as I passed by. He was sure to point out to me that they’d gotten in some smoked garlic; I thanked him and told him I’d get some on my way back down the street. Shortly after that, I ran across someone I know but haven’t seen for ages; we stopped and chatted a bit about how life’s going. I told him about Bankswoodberry this weekend, since the rock music playing there struck me as his cup of tea (I was right).

Then I picked up my local(ish) paper, the Glossop Chronicle, from the newsagent. I finally remembered to look for the Buxton Advertiser‘s new Glossop edition, only to find out that this week is the first week they haven’t published it. Apparently it didn’t sell very well, so they’ve stopped. The newsagent and I had a good laugh at the supreme localism – how some people look askance at people from o’er the hill – and how the Buxtonites, especially, can’t be trusted, after having stolen Glossop’s Howard Park gates all those years ago!

I poked around Niche Markit, after being lulled over by half-price sizable water guns. The clerk put her mind to helping me find a gift – no luck, in the end, but I definitely had to relieve them of a couple of water guns. 😉

I waved at Maggie, who waved back while talking with someone at her card stall as I went past, and I headed into the market. The lady who runs the Market Deli was leaving to get some customers something out of the freezer as I was passing by; trust runs high in these parts – I hope rightfully so. The market bakery (The Muffin Stall) still had some oven bottom muffins (also here), so I snapped up a couple for Chris. Then I stopped at the cheesemonger’s, Parker’s, and had a lovely chat with Jean.

Jean’s hiding down at the end in this snap.

Too many times I’m in a rush when I do the shopping, but today I wasn’t, so I strolled through the market and ogled the rug stall (we need a new living room rug, but I keep forgetting to measure our floor). The stallholder came over and chatted to me again – the first time I was drawn to his stall, he told me all about his trip to New York some years ago, and we’d had a lovely chat. I wandered down to Glossop Screenprint, who’s recently set up a stall in the market. He has some very amusing shirts, but I hadn’t realized he was a screenprinter, too, until I saw something from the market’s twitter mentioning it. I have an idea for some t-shirts to make, so I got some prices and information from him. Then some socks caught my eye at Mini Muggles (a children’s clothing stall), but sadly they didn’t have the size I needed. The gal helped me work out size probabilities for a child of unknown size, and efficiently helped me find something to suit. Hooray!

Wandering around, my ear was caught by an acquaintance of mine hollering at me; I turned to find her sitting in the market café with a cup of tea. I was quite hungry by now, so I joined her for a sandwich and a chat. That was really lovely: we swapped stories of our trips around America. Mine was my recent road trip this past spring, and hers was some unspecified number of years ago. She went coast to coast, from Maine to San Francisco – all on a coach! I really don’t envy her that. But it was lovely to reminisce, and to visit with her.

We parted ways, and I finally made my way back down to Sowerbutts to get that smoked garlic, plus the rest of my greengrocer list. Three of the regular workers were there, and two different of them quickly told me about the new loyalty card program (well, the second one started to, but the first one jumped in and said, “I already told her – beat you to it!”). We pulled each others’ legs about our food preferences and dislikes, and after a bit I was the only customer in the shop, so I told them about my accent experience (from my last post), and we talked about accents a bit. I was able to ask them about the offense that might be construed by mixing up two certain accents (quite a lot, as it turns out) – which helps me understand why it is that people always phrase the question as, “Where is your accent from?” instead of “Are you from ____?” Once we’d solved all the mysteries of the universe ;-), I headed on.

I also dropped by the butcher we use, Mettrick’s. I still feel so blessed that we can get meat from a butcher who is patient and knowledgeable enough to answer all my questions (born of continuing to cook American recipes while living in England, where all the cuts of meat are called differently), and has such a short supply chain that should any problem ever occur, it will be quickly dealt with, because all the links are known – personally.

Then I found that the newest shop on High Street (it just opened on Monday) was still open, so I dropped in to have a look around. It’s lovely, and full of nice things. I chatted a bit with the proprietor Darren, and he told me that the nail salon they plan to open is planned for the upstairs – so this gives me hope that the fumes won’t keep me away after all! Happily, he reported that they’ve had a lot of lovely feedback in this first week – fingers crossed that translates into enough sales to keep them around.

Then I needed to pick up the last few things on my list from the supermarket, so I headed there. Ran across two different friends I haven’t seen in awhile, chatted a bit with each. My teacher friend thinks summer’s gone far too quickly, unsurprisingly; my other friend had just returned from ten days in France, and had to restock – especially on bacon, which she couldn’t find there — what scandal!

So that’s how I spent four and a half hours doing the weekly shopping. That’s also (part of) how to be part of a community, which is what’s being threatened by the demise of British High Streets. The connections, the humanity, the non-sterile experience: these and far more are at stake.

Connecting with people was a huge part of what I missed while I was in America this past spring. The cashiers at various supermarkets were friendly enough, but I guess the difference is it’s just one transaction at the end instead of the many different people I interact with each week here at home. The posher supermarkets now have manned cheese counters, bakeries, deli counters, fish counters, etc; I understand some here do, as well. I don’t know about the ones here, but the ones we were in, all across the breadth of the US, were very rarely staffed with workers anywhere nearly as knowledgable as the traders on my high street. They were still supermarket employees who’d never received any training specific to the counter they were manning, mostly. So no, I doubt I’d ever bond with them as I’ve bonded with the people here, simply because how I broke the ice in the beginning was by having to ask about nearly everything.

I still have to ask about Praze deli‘s bewildering array of cheese!

Glossop is incredibly blessed in its richness of traders, particularly independent ones – I’ve only mentioned the tip of the iceberg here, and not even all the ones I visit. There’s the cobbler, whom I only see sometimes, and the other cobbler whom I don’t use; there are at least two other butchers; there are two pound shops; there are a dazzling array of charity shops (thrift stores); there’s a sweet shop; there’s a craft shop I use quite often; the list just keeps going on and on. Unfortunately, too many towns in England are suffering from closures of high street shops.

Even where national chain shops are the only choice, that’s still far better than shuttered high streets. The whole social thing that is the human experience still happens as long as the shops are staffed by people. The WI resolved this summer to work to save the high streets. Hopefully our work towards that goal will accomplish good things for all.