Celebrating Sainsbury’s!

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A short tale of how, many years ago, one person influenced the career paths of three others – and today’s reunion! 😁

The Back-story

In 1972, I joined Sainsbury’s at their flagship store – Central Croydon as a Saturday Student – working Friday nights and all-day Saturday. By late 1974, I was still uncertain as to what sort of job I wanted, after leaving school, I started my first proper full-time job with them.

Trouble was, Mum and Dad’s plan was for me was to do a ‘posh job’ – first choice: join the Civil Service, or maybe a Bank (job-for-life in those days!) or an Accountancy practice. But, in true Palmer fashion, I rebelled, and they weren’t impressed at all!! 🙄 They felt I’d deserved something ‘better’ after going to a Grammar School, better certainly than ‘working in a shop’!!! In spite of acquiring an appreciable bundle of O-Levels together with two A-Levels and already passing the entrance exam for the Civil Service, I really felt JS might be the better more enjoyable career for me 😍. From my side of things, I’d thoroughly enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of it all, having worked through the Summer Holidays at JS pretty-much full-time. A great working atmosphere, fab teamwork and lots of interaction with people.

Sainsbury’s Whitgift Centre Croydon
© Sainsbury Archive

At the time, Central Croydon was their largest (but small by later standards) in the newly built ‘Whitgift Centre’ (Branch ‘332’ since you asked) off Wellesley Road – and one of the first stores to open there (Boots, next door, being the first). Opened in JS’s centenary year of 1969, the management there were all hand-picked, as being the best in the company. The store went on to become a ‘pass-through’ for rising stars of the organisation, and in turn, that always created a fantastic buzz about the place. Yes, it was hard work… really hard work… but exceptionally rewarding!

Ken, in later years, as Regional Manager

During that time, I got to know a certain Grocery Manager, Mr Ken Barden, then in his mid-20s, really well. And as expected, he went on to command some very senior positions across the brand.

My Early Years

‘Rewarding’ it certainly was! From a humble Saturday Student earning less than 30p per hour, I joined the trainee management scheme (a recommendation by Ken) briefly at ‘332’ and then onto their store in Orpington (Branch 747), and completed the scheme in a record 11 months. Mum and Dad finally came round, and supported me all the way from there! Phew! 🥰

Next stop? Into junior management in Bromley (Branch 464) and after about a year, I joined the Area Training Team on secondment. My two-year secondment lasted around 4 years (!!!) and then came the BIG promotion. I was appointed Area Training Manager based in Romford (house move and divorce adding to the mix!). And finally, a spell at head office managing the company’s customer care programme and liaising with all the other training departments across the organisation.

Leaving JS

The unrivalled grounding that JS gave me in terms of training and development, provided me with a great insight into the importance of ‘people skills’, leading me to shed a tearful farewell in March 1989 – to start my own business training others in guess what? Yes, ‘people skills’.

Finally, the Reunion

By coincidence, Ann, and our good friend Sally, had learned, through separate casual conversations, that they too, having all worked for this mighty food retailer, had also crossed paths with Ken at different times. He had strongly influenced their career path too! – what are the chances ehh??

So, fast-forward (in my case 45 years!) and today was to be special in a number of ways. Although we’d all lost touch with Ken many years ago (although Ann and I had seen Ken briefly in the intervening years at a JS ‘do’) the three of us decided it would be good to catch up, with a view to reminisce about those heady days working for the champion of food retailing – and most of all, to thank him for pointing us in the right direction. We all realised, without his influence, we wouldn’t have been where we are today, nor enjoyed our careers so much!

I tracked Ken down through Facebook, and we all agreed to meet up at his, and then on for a spot of lunch. After a quick coffee and a natter, meeting Carol, his wife and their dogs and cats, we headed off to the Pub for 1pm!

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pub so busy! The food was excellent, but for once (for me) that didn’t matter at all! We had so many years to catch up with, individually and collectively and I don’t think we stopped talking (and laughing) for the whole time we were there! And surely, it was a good sign that we didn’t leave the Pub until just after 3!

What a fantastic day! We’re certainly going to do it all again sometime with Ken – there are so many more stories and experiences to share! We dropped Sally back at hers and headed home.

Happy memories! 😁

We’re out!!!

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Clock symbolising EU exit

It’s 11pm here in the UK and midnight in Brussels
– and after 47 years, we’re out! OK, technically, we’ve got a period of ‘transition’ (whatever that means!) but the people have spoken!

I voted remain, and I can’t help think that this is the worst decision ever for our country. Our children (and children’s children) will surely look back on this day in years to come, and wonder what drove us to this madness! 😮

China – By the numbers!

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A Chinese ‘Sanpan’


Welcome to my second – and final – piece reflecting on our recent holiday in China, (the first was posted HERE yesterday). Our 19-day adventure included shiny modern cities, smaller towns, rural locations, large retail malls, small local shops – and pretty-much everything in between! We saw the uber-rich, the rich, the poor and the very poor. We people-watched a lot of time whilst travelling by train, mini-bus as well as by foot, and this offered us a great understanding of modern China. Unsurprisingly, my figures DON’T reflect Hong Kong (it felt very different!).

Our China Holiday in 2019

China – By the Numbers!

Best read with your tongue occasionally in your cheek! 😁

0 motorists giving way on the roads (from ANY direction!)
0 locals understanding ‘cold milk in a jug please’
0 awareness of a Westerner’s need for ‘personal space’
0 locals prepared to queue
0 rickshaws seen in action
0 lbs weight-gain (Ann). Only 2 for Steve! – see the last item on this list!
0.25 metres of toilet roll in the whole of mainland China
0.33 bars of soap in total when out-and-about
1 person in a wheelchair
1 canal trip
1 phone/laptop portable charger confiscated (ironically on our final internal flight)
1 beggar
1 Audi e-tron
1 McDonald’s visit
1 lake
1 location where my VPNs didn’t work all day
1 Irish Bar
1 sound-and-light show
2 languages on most major road signs (English & Chinese) in/near the big cities
2 pieces of cheese (they don’t appear to ‘do’ cheese in China!)
2 river trips
2 international flights
2 motorists signalling (surely a mistake!)
2 locals using the toilet cubicle with the door OPEN
3 paper hand-towels (but not in the same place!)
3 Stellas
3 scooter riders of 300 million (official ownership stats!) with their lights on when it was dark
4 different scooter riders (only!) wearing skid-lids
4 glasses of Guinness (£12 a pint!)
4 mozzy bites
4 Brits trying to make sense of it all
5 domestic flights
7 Temples
7 tour guides (Michael, Mona, Nina, Jeremy, John, Stephen and Mark)
8 is THE lucky number of you’re Chinese
8 cities
11 Chinese lunches
11 Teslas
14 teas tasted, ranging from ‘English Breakfast’, ‘Earl Grey’ to ‘Habiscus and Rose’
16 local beers
18 blog-posts
19 pagodas
23 coffees (they were found with the ‘hen’s teeth’)
125 quid for a new electric scooter – and you don’t need a licence to put it on the road
350 km/h – top speed of China’s ‘bullet’ trains (that’s a mighty 217 mph!)
430 km/h – top speed of the Shanghai’s ‘Maglev’ train (270 mph!) – Kettering to St Pancras in 15 minutes!
580 people in the cast of the sound-and-light show
800 metres of silk thread from a single silkworm’s cuckoon
806 Photos
23,247 Chinese flags (OK, we didn’t really count them all, but the Chinese are very patriotic!)
225,616 steps (including 28,102 in Hong Kong) – we DID count these using our phones!

Phew! 😁


My camera-roll (and less of my chat!) HERE

China – What we learned!

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Shanghai Nights


After almost three weeks immersing ourselves in ‘the Chinese way’, here’s the first (of my two-part) light-hearted look at our experiences. Part 2 is tomorrow.

The People

  • With a population of around 1.4 billion, in the big cities it certainly felt like it. In the more rural locations, however, you’d never know!
  • Families used to be limited to one child, now it’s two. Heavy (multiple annual salary) fines if you over-do it!
  • A law that stated that stated when you’ve owned your property for 70 years, it had to be returned to the government was recently repealed
  • Many Chinese don’t respect the West’s need for ‘personal space’ – expect close encounters!
  • Queuing is not a concept the Chinese understand nor respect
  • Some Chinese like to touch you when communicating
  • Angry Chinese tend to shout (very loudly) first – and reason with you later!
  • Like the West, the youngsters are glued to their phones
  • Chinese travelling around on push-bike has been mostly replaced by Chinese on electric scooters

The Places

  • Most big cities are dual signed (Chinese/English)
  • Hardly any police were seen on the streets (despite what you might read)
  • Passports are needed when visiting some tourist-type places
  • Plenty of CCTV cameras about!
  • The roads are pretty much pothole-free
  • Many of their road bridges over rough terrain are spectacularly long
  • If you find a hand-towel in a toilet, keep it for next time – they’re a rarity. So is toilet paper in most womens’ WCs
  • Soap in toilets is also a collector’s item (and I think there’s obviously a lot of collectors in China!)

The Customs

  • The currency in mainland China is called ‘RMV’ or ‘Yuan’ (about 8 to the £)
  • Getting a coffee is a challenge when out and about, especially away from big cities
  • On the road, there is no such thing as ‘give way’ (to the right, to the left – or any direction!)
  • Indicator bulbs will last forever out here as signalling is a rarity
  • They love their electric scooters, but they hate putting their lights on
  • Chinese food here is much like Chinese food back home – but it’s mostly warm (rather than hot)
  • Wealth is sometimes spectacularly obvious!
  • The big cities look very capitalist for a communist country
  • No-one jay-walks
  • ‘Hairy Crabs’ is a delicacy not a disease
  • Squirrel Fish has nothing to do with squirrels

The Tech

  • Most modern hotels have English three-pin plugs
  • Free wi-fi is not as abundant as in the UK (only in hotels and SOME shops). Shops that DO have it, don’t always advertise the fact, so you have to ask for the SSID/password (which they happily provide)
  • You cannot access any Google services from anywhere in China. Facebook as well as most other western social media platforms are blocked/banned
  • VPN is a must if you need any of the above
  • VPNs’ efficiency sometimes tails-off in the evening (frequent connects/reconnects)
  • VPN is NOT a perfect solution. It mostly works, but then it doesn’t!
  • If you’re serious about communicating online out here, best to have TWO VPNs
  • …and set them up BEFORE you arrive in China, otherwise it’s almost ‘mission impossible’ once you’re there.
  • No-one from China uses WhatsApp, they use WeChat instead
  • Traffic lights in mainland China have a countdown clock so you can prepare for them changing (they don’t have the ‘orange light’)

Coming tomorrow… “China – By the Numbers” (Our holiday in figures!)

My holiday camera-roll (and less chat!) HERE

London Mini-Break – Day 1 (of 3)

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We’re on a three-day mini-break in London that’ll incorporate my birthday celebrations tomorrow.

Last time we visited the capital was back in August when we stayed ‘up-west’.

This time though, we’re on the opposite side (literally) and heading for east London where Stratford will be our home for the duration.

9.35am: OK, the weather forecast suggested we won’t need factor 30, but it was far better than when we looked yesterday. Valerie dropped us at the station in good time for our 10.01 departure. The train was slightly late, but made up for it as we sped towards the capital. It was the first time that we noticed the numerous and regularly-spaced new gantries above the track (in preparation for electrification).

Those that know us will not be surprised to hear that whilst we’re down south “We’ve got plans”.
On the list – The theatre; tracking down some new technology; therapy (of the retail kind) and a spell in ‘tourist mode’ sightseeing – courtesy of the popular ‘2-for-1’ deals offered by the railways.

11.05am: We arrived in London pretty much on time. First job was to head for our hotel and either check-in (if they’d let us, as we were early) or failing that, just dump our bags.

The ibis, 1A, Romford Road, Stratford (Gawd blimey guvnor!)

12.15pm: After a tortourous journey by Tube, due to an ‘unspecified incident’ that halted the train (meaning we had to switch to the Northern Line at Bank) we eventually arrived at the ibis. Check-in was super-quick, and we were soon on our way to Room 320.

Not bad for just £85 per night (including a cooked brekky!)

The room impressed us. We’ve stayed in larger (much larger) affairs, but this had a very modern feel to it and contained everything we needed. One example of how modern it was – it’s the first hotel we’ve stayed in where there wasn’t a phone in the room, replaced instead with a WhatsApp number! 😉 Penny-pinching or smart – you decide!

Location-wise, we’re well positioned here. With Stratford station just down the road, we can get pretty much anywhere in the capital without too much of a stretch.

1.30pm: After catching the 1 o’clock news (Oh, Boris, what have you done!!!) we headed out into ‘darkest’ Stratford. Wow!, it’s certainly changed a lot round here since we both worked in and around the area. The numerous shiny new skyscrapers and apartment-blocks now punctuate the skyline, visually transforming the area from ‘old and run-down’ to a modern city.

Absolutely no sign of the Mitchell Brothers though – EastEnders this most definitely (now) isn’t! 🙄

1.45pm: We began our retail therapy with a visit to Westfield, a short(ish) walk from the hotel. Opened in September, 2011, it’s a gigantic retail space, some 1,910,000 square feet of shops, shops and more shops! Perfect then for us two and our therapy! 😵

2.05pm: After a bit of window-shopping (there’s a lot of windows!), we took a break and stopped off for lunch at The Real Greek. We’d not heard of this chain before, but apparently (at the time of writing) they have another 15 outlets around the UK.

Very efficient service and mouthwatering food meant they’re now definitely added to our list called: ‘Must try some of their other restaurants’. Sensibly priced too! 😁

2.55pm: With lunch out-of-the-way, we continued our retail therapy and headed for the TK Maxx – probably one of the largest of their outlets we’ve even been to! They were busy too – really busy – with the queue for the (many) checkouts snaking round the displays more akin to a Post-Office queue.

…Meanwhile the nearby M & S was struggling! We played ‘spot the customer’, a game that was over very quickly! 😮
Happily, the Food Hall was doing better and we picked up a few snacks for our evening meal. 😁

We called it a day shortly afterwards, and headed back in the direction of the Hotel. With a reasonable step-count for the afternoon, we reflected on the impact of Stratford’s transformation of its retail landscape together with the explosion of new buildings in the immediate area. In my eyes, it was completely unrecognisable from the Stratford I knew back in the 90s.

And yet, even though the architecture had changed, the locals still looked very familiar! Consequently we couldn’t help feel an irrational sense of unease as we mingled amongst the residents of E20. It was nothing we could put our finger on – we love our fellow man – but it was the Stratford of old, pre-Olympics – a place where it was probably wise not to wander the streets after-dark! 🤔 I did see the Mitchell Brothers and plenty of other ‘dodgy geezers’!

Also on our to-do list was to chase-down some technology! That technology was ‘5G’. In spite of being armed with quite a detailed map, it was nowhere ot be found.

A quick conversation with the nominated ‘tech expert’ in John Lewis proved that he was none the wiser, and he suggested that I try ‘further south’. When we got back to the room, I rang ”3′ my phone provider only to be told that their 5g service has NOT been launched yet in London for mobile-phones (but it had for home-broadband) in spite of what the map suggested.

Well, that’s one less thing to worry about whilst we’re here ! 😕

Dining in!

6.00pm: We ate in tonight! The Duck Wrap was very pleasant, but the Gluten/Wheat-free Piri-piri Chicken Wrap (that I’d picked-up in error) was the work of the Devil! 😣

The Changing Face of Stratford

It’s been an interesting first day and by way of a change, we’re sight-seeing in central London tomorrow!

£1-a-Day (2019) – How Did We Do?

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Well, that’s it, we’re all done for 2019’s £1-a-day Challenge raising money for the Salvation Army. David, Helen and I managed to survive for seven days, living on a £1 a day each, for all our food and drink. It’s not too late to donate – see later in this Post.

Helen, David and yours truly

It’s now 6am on the 14th (the day after this year’s campaign ended) and as I write this Post, the donations stand at an impressive £655 (plus £111.25 Gift Aid). Even when you take away JG’s commission (1.9% + 20p/5% on Gift Aid) it’s none too shabby!

THANK YOU to all of you who donated; we know there is a lot of demand on your purses and wallets for who you give your hard-earned money to, and we really appreciate every pound of your generosity! 👍 👍 👍

As usual, we’re leaving the website open for a short spell (until Saturday, 5th October) in case you missed all the action as it happened. So, if you haven’t yet done so, and feel inclined to donate, you’re not too late. Please use the link below…

UPDATE: Saturday, 5th October – On the day we closed the website for donations, we raised an amazing £1205 (plus £257.50 Gift-Aid). An amazing result! THANK-YOU!!!😀👍

Wow! a whole £1.59 left over!

…and on top of the money raised, we even had a few coins left over from our enforced £21! I know it sounds impossible doesn’t it..? three people… three meals a day… for seven days! so here is a reminder of how we spent it. There’s posh! we even had fresh-fruit for the first year ever (they were reduced in price) and some Titan Bars – Aldi’s equivalent of Mars Bars – for the occasional motivation!

Our £21 spent wisely!

Another first for us in 2019! Although we had some cash left over, we completely ran out of food (we ate our last few biscuits yesterday evening!) – for me, that’s a perfect end to this year’s efforts. Some foody highlights follow…

Talking of losses, even though it wasn’t my prime intention, I even managed to shed a few pounds too! – and that was a pleasant surprise, as our menus certainly would never have made it to Weight-Watchers or Slimming World! I started off at 13st 13lbs exactly on Day 1, and by the last day I’d dropped to 13st 10lbs!

Thanks again everyone – you’ve been super-generous. Now it’s back to the more nutritious stuff! 😉

Previous Events

£1-a-Day 2018
(for the Salvation Army)
£1-a-Day 2017
(for the Salvation Army)
£1-a-Day 2016
(for the Salvation Army)
£1-a-Day 2015
(for OXFAM)
£1-a-Day 2014
(for Children in Need)

Archery Outside-In

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Friday is here again and that means our Archery Lessons continue…

I’m flaggin’

This is our last week (for 2019) where the Club will be shooting outside (due to an earlier sunset affecting the light). Next time we move inside to a local school until March-time next year. Due to other commitments – including a holiday – we won’t be back until early November.

Whilst Ann continued with the traditional Bow, I joined the Longbow group again this week for some more Clout Archery ‘Clouting’ is where, rather than aim directly at a target, we aim for a flag firing arrows into the air – and this requires a very different technique.

The last time I was here, a couple of weeks back, my technique had taken a turn for the worse. At the time, I couldn’t quite figure out why, but tonight, all became clear. Dave, my Mentor, knew why, and consequently dropped me down to a lighter Bow (from 40lb. to around 25lb.). Apparently it’s a well-known issue, where novices, in a natural desire to move to heavier Bows in order to increase distance, sacrifice their technique, as they concentrate too much energy on ‘pulling’ the actual Bow. The issue is known as being overbowed.

Simples! 😁

With the lighter Bow, I immediately saw and felt an improvement! Not only was my technique now much better, I also found my arrow-grouping to be a lot better too! Dave also commented on my improvement, which helped my confidence enormously!

A great Lesson! 👍