My Day with an Expert Shopper

DSC02969Friday evening Sarah says to me:

“Do you fancy coming to Widnes tomorrow, I need some kayaking kit?”

I have no real idea what this might mean or why Widnes is the obvious place to go for it. But then I’m not an expert shopper. If a shop contains no books, records or food then I’m out of my depth. Sarah, in contrast, can shop for anything and treats it as an art form.

So Saturday morning I’m in the passenger seat as we set off on Sarah’s Display Day.

Reaching Widnes we drive through the mostly empty set of elegant redbrick buildings that have clearly been the town centre in days gone by. Keep on going past a Tesco Humungous and eventually pull into a large car park a couple of miles on that’s claiming to be the Town Centre now.

Yes, it's a car park.

Yes, it’s a car park.

Been here since 1995.

Been here since 1995.

And the shopping begins!

And the shopping begins!

Apparently this is not where the kayaking kit is going to be found. That’s for later on. And the trolley’s with us to be filled up with paper and card at Ryman’s Stationers. Paper and card for the service sheets and orders of service Sarah does as part of her being a Funeral Celebrant. So we’re effectively working here.

But on the way in we spot a TJ's.

But on the way in we spot a TJ’s.

Immediately Sarah turns in. In my early days of knowing her she actually had a job for a while as a store designer at TJ’s. And though it ended bitterly it never dented her adoration of this northern chain of retail shrines.

And it turns out we’re in here for me!

“You need something to replace those red pumps that have been rubbing and making your ankles bleed. You can’t walk round in those walking boots on hot days like this. So there’s bound to be something in here!”

Indeed there is. And while I’m still getting my bearings in between ‘Trousers for Old Blokes’ and ‘Unfeasibly Skinny Jeans’ Sarah has produced two pairs of potentially suitable somethings.

So we're off the mark with my new summer shoes.

So we’re off the mark with my new summer shoes.

While Sarah goes into Ryman's I nose out the back door of precinct.

While Sarah goes into Ryman’s I nose out the back door of the precinct.

To the high street I assume they made up in 1995.

To the high street I assume they made up in 1995.

But soon we're around the roads and roundabouts that seem to take up most of Widnes these days.

But soon we’re off  around the roads and roundabouts that seem to make up most of Widnes these days.

Off to Runcorn.

Off to Runcorn.

Huge engineering works are taking place on the approach to the current bridge. Obviously part of the big project that will also see another bridge opening by autumn next year. At which point, apparently, both bridges will become toll roads. Thanks for that.

But cars need roads and roads need bridges.

But cars need roads and roads need bridges.

And that's how the economy goes round according to some.

And that’s how the economy goes round, according to some.

Anyway this 1960s bridge is a thing of immense beauty.

Anyway this 1960s bridge is a thing of immense beauty.

That I've loved since I was a child.

That I’ve loved since I was a child.

And so we enter Runcorn.

And so we enter Runcorn.

At which point, and partly because of bridge works and road closures – but only partly – I get us hopelessly lost somewhere in between Castlefields and Windmill Hill. Bringing about my brusque demotion to driving the car so that Sarah, an ace navigator as well as an expert shopper, can guide us competently to our idyllic destination.

Duke's Wharf, here on the Bridgwater Canal.

Duke’s Wharf, here on the Bridgwater Canal.

A peaceful place to sit and eat our lunch.

A peaceful place to sit and eat our lunch.

At the interface of the marine world...

At the interface of the marine world…

And suburbia.

And suburbia.

Lunch eaten, Sarah's off. She hasn't bought anything in well over an hour.

Lunch eaten, Sarah’s off. She hasn’t bought anything in well over an hour.

And yes, here we are at the 'Kayaking Kit.'

And yes, here we are at the ‘Kayaking Kit.’

At this point I’m not absolutely certain we won’t be leaving with a pointy little boat.

Sarah goes into a huddle with Andy here, to discuss tactics.

Sarah goes into a huddle with Andy from here, to discuss tactics.

'Kags' are mentioned and soon start being tried on.

‘Kags’ are mentioned and soon start being tried on.

I walk around looking for books. Finding a few too. But all about kayaks, canoes and something terrifying called 'White Water Rafting.'

I walk around looking for books. Finding a few too. But all about kayaks, canoes and something terrifying called ‘White Water.’

Sarah finds her 'Kag' of choice.

Sarah finds her ‘Kag’ of choice.

Next it's 'buoyancy aids.'

Next it’s ‘buoyancy aids.’

One is picked and kept on.

One is picked and kept on.

Next paddles are lovingly examined and at prices that would easily buy me a new record player are pronounced ‘reasonable.’ For technical reasons I don’t quite understand though, Sarah tells Andy she’s not yet ‘ready’ for her paddle.

As you’ll have gathered by now, kayaking is Sarah’s new thing. She’s joined a club and goes practicing on the River Dee. Getting ready to go sea kayaking round Anglesey in a few weeks.

A couple of years ago we were crossing the delicate steel bridge to South Stack Lighthouse, when some kayakers passed far below us in their colourful boats and kags. ‘I’d love to do that’ said Sarah. And now, of course, she will.

On the way to the till Sarah hoovers up a couple of minor accessories and then talks with Andy about coming back here (when she comes to get her paddle, no doubt) and having a go in their boats. It is a lovely place and absolutely top if canoes or kayaks are in any way your thing.

All your kayaking needs.

All your kayaking needs.

Well, for those of us who have kayaking needs.

Much of the shop bought it's time to leave.

Much of the shop bought then,  it’s time for us to leave.

This quiet little mooring.

This quiet little mooring.

Next to the M56.

Next to the M56.

Our expert shopper pausing for a drink of water. Shopping at speed being thirsty work.

Our expert shopper pausing for a drink of water. Shopping at speed being thirsty work.

Still enjoying the rare privilege of a drive in Sarah’s car I’m next directed to Warrington ‘for base layers.’

Here at

Here at ‘Go Outdoors’

It's getting late in the shopping dat but the stamina is remarkable.

It’s getting late in the shopping day but the shopper’s stamina is remarkable.

The speed of reactions testing my photographic skills.

The speed of reactions testing my photographic skills.

And in truth I get a couple of ‘base layers’ myself in here. Though I’ll be calling them T-shirts and wearing them to sit in cafés and talk about ‘Coming Home.’ My main sporting activity at the moment.

So we leave Warrington, with Sarah once again at the wheel of her own car. A boot full of ‘kayaking gear’ and Cheshire full of shopkeepers who are not just grateful, but know they’ve been able to witness a real expert at work on this day.

And so we go home.

And so we go home.

Content at the end of Sarah’s Expert Shopping Display Day!

See more of Sarah and her love of shops at:
‘Remembering George Henry Lee’
‘George Henry Lee – a social history’
‘Liverpool Essentials: TJ’s and Ababkhan’

6 thoughts on “My Day with an Expert Shopper

  1. Maggie Wallace

    Urm, so when the new bridge opens both become pay to cross. And we have 2 tunnels, pay to go under river. So effectively Liverpool is cut off from the rest of the country unless you’re prepared to pay tolls? This is all wrong! What idiot decided to do this? I love Liverpool, home of my heart, but we’re not being well served these days by our public servants, or whoever makes these stupid stupid stupid decisions that are going to impact badly on our lovely city.

    Reply
  2. bornagainst

    I understand that tolls are unpopular, but I think it’s only right that the Mersey Gateway bridge will be tolled. The projected costs are absolutely astronomical (£600M ?) and this has to be met from general taxation – a heavy burden – and as far as I’m aware no funding comes from VED, so recovering some of the cost through tolls seems fair to me. As the tunnels are already tolled, it also seems consistent that the bridges are tolled too. The user pays at the point of use…

    It also allows ‘them’ to be seen to be doing something to restrict / mitigate against the environmental burden from private motor traffic.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Adding a toll to a bridge that’s been open and free for 50 years feels instinctively wrong. And the tolling of the tunnels divides what really is one city.

      Reply
      1. bornagainst

        Yeah, the tolling of the Runcorn bridge is probably the most controversial aspect, but with that bridge currently carrying 10x it original capacity, something has got to give. Tolling the Runcorn bridge should at least reduce the demand and spread the load, as there won’t be a ‘cheaper option’ for crossing.

        I suspect that ‘usage charging’ for private vehicles is likely to increase in future. Whether thats tolls, parking, VED… Incetivising people to drive less / drive clean just doesn’t seem to have worked yet.

        I just try and accept the tolls as the cost of the convenience of driving.

  3. lindsay53

    Ronnie, Sarah, I just loved this post! Really entertaining and nice to see a Widnes I do not recognize (I used to work there!) in the photos. Just on the subject of sea kayaking we have a great friend in the far north of Scotland who is an experienced sea kayaker and is capable of leading groups on sea kayak trips. If you ever consider a visit, we can put you in touch. Love to you bothxxx

    Reply
    1. Sarah Horton

      Hi Lindsay – nice to hear from you. Yes I would love to have your friend’s details – I am planning to develop my skills closer to home (Anglesey, Llangollen, Dee), and then want to do some trips further afield, like Scotland and Hebrides… so any contacts much appreciated!
      Thank you, love to you both x

      Reply

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