Tag Archives: Christmas

We Ate’nt Dead

Hello everyone…it’s been some time, hasn’t it?  Soz.

You may be asking just where the hell I’ve been since April, when I last spewed forth my rambling thoughts about lockdown, Covid-19 and life in general.  Well, the simple answer is this – I’ve not been far.  No-one has, dammit.

Life in the pandemic is, and has been for some considerable time now, just a big steaming bag of poo.  We’re now in Lockdown 3, and just like the Star Trek movies, the odd numbers are a bit crap:

  • Lockdown 1: The Motion Picture – tedious, dull, but we’d not seen anything like it so we just got on with it.  And the weather was nice.
  • Lockdown 2: The Wrath of Khan – we knew what to expect, it wasn’t as tedious as first one ‘cos the kids were at school, and I swear I saw Ricardo Montalban in Asda.
  • Lockdown 3: The Search for Spock – proving to be a snooze fest already.  Already bored with it, and we’re only a week in.  I no longer care where Spock is, whether he’s alive, or which Transformer he’s turned himself into.

Anyway…back to reality, whatever that is.  There are now 3 vaccines approved for use, and I actually know people that have had at least one of the jabs, so it’s not just a PR stunt driven by tory propaganda.  I don’t believe for one minute that having the buffoon Latin-spewing scarecrow in charge of the country is actually speeding up the process – I have long since been of the opinion that this country could pretty well run itself without any irritating government (of any flavour) in charge, much like Belgium did the other year.  They lasted 589 days in 2010-11 without a federal government, to no ill effect whatsoever – I visited the country several times in that period, and I can safely say that beer was still readily available, chocolate was plentiful, and the ever-present veneer of weirdness that they’ve cultivated over the years was still very much present.

But with COVID-19 dominating everything over the last year, it’s been a weird old time.  Naturally, events have been decimated, especially at Christmas.  My usual festive appearance in Salisbury didn’t happen, pretty much every other big event bit the dust, and the one big market we did get into – Nottingham – was binned after one day thanks to the public not being able (whether willing or not) to socially distance.  A couple of us started local delivery services around our home locations, and that brought in a bit of extra dosh – for me, enough to pay the tax bill – but not much else. 

The last time I posted I mentioned I was working at the big Tesco warehouse in Avonmouth, which was – to be honest – not very high on the list of Great Enjoyable Hobbit Experiences.  Cold, tiring work, and not good for my dodgy knees (especially the one I buggered up skiing a few years ago) – but it was money, and for that I’m thankful.  I saw out the original 3-month contract OK, then went part-time with the agency that supplies staff to Tesco for another 3 months – and after that I got pretty busy with what events I could find, and running my local delivery stuff, so they politely told me that it would be better off if I didn’t come in any more.  To be honest I wasn’t terribly disappointed.  Still, I managed to collect 3 separate P45’s last year, that’s a new record!

The one thing that working at Tesco did do was make me fitter.  Lots of lifting heavy boxes, in a cold environment, burnt off a boatload of calories.  Now of course, those boxes ain’t getting moved, and the pounds are creeping back on.  Lockdown walks are a frequent thing, but I’d have to walk to Benbecula some days to counteract the chocolate mountain I’m working my way through.  I could go to the gym, of course…oh wait. 

And now…it’s all quiet on the western front.  The Christmas rush is over, events are – even more than is usual for January – at a minimum – and my plan to sell my body on the streets has been scuppered by social distancing (what do you mean, that’s not the main reason?).  We’re all looking for new and improved ways to generate our fortune – lots of interesting plans bubbling away – and despite everything, we’re pretty excited by what the year might bring. 

But right now, I’m keeping my head down and delaying the order for the yacht yet again.  Much like Gloria Gaynor (for whom I am often mistaken – it’s the heels, you know) I will survive…though I may have stress eaten my own body weight in snacks by then.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back before long with another update.  In the meantime – stay well, stay safe, and keep washing those hands.

“If you trust in yourself…and believe in your dreams…and follow your star…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

Terry Pratchett, from “The Wee Free Men”

Spring has sprung

bluebells-in-the-snow…the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is?

Under the bloody snow, that’s where they are.  What’s with the weather?  It’s been a thoroughly indifferent start to the trading season – a number of days lost at events to levels of mud normally seen at Glastonbury, very few of those lovely spring days, and not much warmth at all.  And today we’re dodging snow and hail showers!  I blame the BBC and their portentous forecasts – Carol Kirkwood, with her occluded front and cheeky smirk, telling us all that it’s all gusty winds and wintry showers.

Chinense tunnelSo why does this matter?  Well, it’s high time we were putting our crop plants out into the tunnels where they belong.  They’re been happily growing for a little while now, all nicely potted and toasty on heated mats, but there comes a time in every chilli palnt’s life where they must be unceremoniously hauled from their cosy pot home and thrust into the soil, or possibly this year, a bigger pot.  Yes folks, we’ve invested in the advanced technology of autopots with a view to increased yields, better control and – this is the most important bit – not having to do as much work next year in preparing tunnels.  See, we do plan ahead!  Even as I type, industrious types are thrusting plants groundwards…

On the event front we have a couple of new guys trading for us this summer…well, new-ish, as they’ve both done the occasional event before.  Both Pete and Orry have significant baggage to carry round with them – Pete is a friend of Bond, and Orry is related to Jamie – but let’s hope that doesn’t get in the way of them inflicting Slayer-based pain on the chilli cognoscenti of the UK.  Both have started markets with mixed success (it’s a time of the year when making a decent profit is aspirational rather than expectational) but you will see them out and around the country this summer.

WorldDominationWith the pair of them on board there is the potential to be in ten or more locations each weekend, so we’re having to coordinate things a bit more these days.  We’re even considering launching into oversaeas festivals, but of course  the logistics and costs of that are quite alarming…but it might just have to be done.  Watch this space!

Meadow BarnI’ve been spending quite a lot of my time over the last few weeks helping Kerry at PinkBox Boutique with her new headquarters, a fabulous barn conversion in Coate, near Devizes.  I have a vested interest as not only am I a director of her business, but she sells a hell of a lot of our stuff as well.  You’ll find her and her partner Chris in Swindon on Sundays, as well as events around the country like the rest of us.  Her new HQ is a great place to spend time – although I hope she doesn’t decide to expand again any time soon as we’re all sick to the back teeth of painting…and painting…and WCFdisplaypainting.  The HQ was opened by the local MP last Friday morning, and we were there until midnight on Thursday putting the finishing touches on things.  How we all got it ready in time I’ll never know, but it’s a testament to what can be achieved when you set youself a stupid target and then ignore all those alarm bells that keep ringing to tell you that you’re running out of time!

WhyIsMyLaptopDead_PunchI’ve experienced one of those horrendous first-world problems this week.  You know, the sort of thing that sends you into fits of rage although in reality it’s just not that important.  You see folks – my laptop died.  Now this is of course a real problem as far as my work is concerned – I need constant access to t’interweb, I track my business on a bewildering array of Excel spreadsheets, and of course e-mails are everywhere and using a phone to do this sort of thing just doesn’t hack it.  But, in the grand scheme of things – when you hear about things like refugee crises, earthquakes, the Zika virus, and for heaven’s sake the terrifying prospect of Donald Trump merely continuing to exist – it just pales into insignificance.  Getty angry simply because I’m having trouble recovering my iTunes library seems somewhat churlish.  And of course the fact that I’m able to write this post shows that I have recovered enough data from my old laptop to set up it’s hastily-bought replacement OK.

One great, but slightly scary, piece of news is that I have my spot reserved at Salisbury Christmas Market once again.  It’s something I look forward to each year now with equal doses of eager anticipation and utter fear.  Costa Coffee’s takings will rise exponentially as I subsist almost entirely on double espressos and sugary snacks…a decent night’s sleep will be a distant memory…and hopefully the Salisbury Christmas Market Bewildered Traders Association will reform for moral support and ritual abuse…but it’ll be a laugh.

But before then – summer!  Although spring would be a nice start…


No rest for the wicked

Well here we are again…it doesn’t seem like that long since I last posted anything, but apparently it’s been six months.  What…how…have I been asleep?  Well the short answer is yes, but read on, dear reader, read on…

20151126_105857The back end of 2015 was, as expected, the full-on Christmas assault.  Now having been in Salisbury the year before I had a much better idea of what to expect from the market this time round, but it’s still a major exercise in logistics, willpower and stamina.  Twenty six days in a row is not the longest market…I get to go home every night and sleep in my own bed…and of course it’s not relentless sell, sell, sell every minute of every day…but somehow the drain on this hobbit’s reserves seems immense.  Might have had something to do with a diet consisting largely of cereal bars, meals that go ‘ding’ and caffeine…with the occasional hot chocolate thrown in for good measure.  This is not a healthy business to be in sometimes.

Of course I had stock collections to do, which added to the mayhem, but I managed to get into a rhythm with those and the days went by quickly enough.  And it really helped having some familiar faces around me, guys that I’d traded next to in 2014 – we’d formed a merry little band of bewildered traders, and co-opted some new members into Scrooge Central along the way.  Still, it was a successful market once again, and hopefully I can get in there again this year.

WCF LogoOne of the things that gave us an added headache just prior to the Christmas market was the decision to rebrand.  I’d been approached at last year’s Royal Cornwall Show by a design agency, Buddy Creative, touting for business, and after looking at their brochure we decided we’d get them in for a chat.  We hit it off really well with them, and took the plunge.  They came up with ten different concepts for us to consider, with a view to us picking one.  We failed.  Dismally.  The best we could do was keep it to two, with a bit of a third thrown in as well!  The trouble is this, and this will come as no surprise to anyone that’s met a few of us – we are all very different types of people.  Differing ages, lifestyles, viewpoints, possibly even species – so getting us to all agree on something is like getting Donald Trump to not be a pillock – it’s theoretically feasible, but the bookies ain’t taking odds.

So off the designers went to work up phase 2 – revisions of our chosen concepts.  Once again these were presented, and once again we argued long and hard.  But this time we were a smidgeon more grown-up about it and asked ourselves some really searching questions like ‘what are we trying to achieve’, ‘who are our target audience’, and more importantly ‘how can we twist the answers to give us what we instinctively want to do’? 🙂

And so…finally…a decision was made.  Further refinements were to take place, of course, and a vast amount of checking and re-checking of label text went on (we even managed to argue amongst ourselves about that)…but eventually what appeared was a great new look and feel that we are massively, humungously proud of.  We looked fine beforehand, but now we look just so damned sexyAll ProductsAs part of the process we were encouraged to look at naming conventions and have a theme.  Radical suggestions, we thought, we’d never consciously not had a theme – but that’s what had happened.  So it was goodbye to Hellmouth, and hello to Caribbean.  Chocolate Habanero is no more…to be replaced by Dark Habanero.  Both products are exactly the same recipe, just renamed.

reaperhabaneroHellish Habanero has – for now at least – bitten the dust.  In it’s place (sort of) is a new crowd-pleaser – Reaper Habanero.  Similarly smoky but a bit hotter, it’s proved to be mega popular and we don’t seem to be able to make enough of it.  Good old Septenary had a tweak as well, now being made as a Trinidad Scorpion sauce – the hottest all-natural sauce, and a real winner with the heat fans out there.  And God Slayer…well, we wouldn’t dare mess with the profane insanity of that, would we?  It’s still here, lurking under the counter to inflict on anyone daft enough to utter those words – ‘nothing’s ever hot enough for me’…

Everything else is the same as it ever was…just looking sharp in a fabulous new suit.  Much more colourful, bolder and sharper than before, but as lovely as ever.

It won’t stop with just new labels of course.  We’ll have new branded gazebos on display at events, new banners and flags, a new website should be on its way soon…we’re basically tarting up everything to be tartier than a tart’s handbag.  And if we can find enough pennies down the back of the sofa we’ll be sporting some new corporate threads as well, though right now we’re still buried under about ten layers of thermals so it’s a bit pointless.  It’s spring, allegedly, but by golly it doesn’t feel like it 😦


Easter 2016. Storm Katie leaves her mark.

So as you can see we were busy at the fag end of 2015.  The theory was that we’d have some spare time at the start of this year to recharge batteries, take some time out and recover our composure and really plan 2016 with military precision.  Yeah, like that’s happened…the problem with embarking on a plan for world domination is that it’s just bloody relentless!

So relentless in fact that I’ll have to tell you about it another day…so, same time next month?  Don’t mind if I do…

20160316_121849_HDRNever did find the away kit.

(A gold star to anyone that understands that reference!)

Telephone call for Mr. Horrible

Blimey, doesn’t time fly?  It only seems like yesterday since I was wobbling on about skunks and teacups and stuff, but it’s been nearly a month.  A month of more box unpacking, lots of Christmas planning, lots of arguments and lots of miles covered in the pursuit of the chilli dollar.

MrPedantSo what’s been irking yours truly this month?  Well, first and foremost was the product I saw for sale at a show a few weeks back.  Now I’m all for a bit of license being allowed with the English language in the interests of making your product stand out from the crowd, but there is a line.  And that line, ladies and gentlemen, was not so much crossed as barreled past at warp 9.9 when I noticed a fruit-based milk drink being sold as a mylkshake.  Yep, that’s a y.  Should bloody well be an i, and all right-thinking English speakers will be with me on that one, especially my compatriots in the hardcore pedantry front.  No excuse for it, it’s just so very, very wrong.  I see marshmellows being sold regularly as well, and I cringe every time I see the sign.  I want to go over to their stall and write ‘3/10, see me after class’ on their A-board.

You’ll remember that I had a bit of a rant about doggy hats in my last post.  Well, I have another fashion item to add to the list of Things That Simply Should Not Exist.  I was at the Bath Cats & Dogs Home Fun Day, which was basically a dog show with gazebos – lots of running round in the rain jumping through hoops, being judged for the waggliest tail competition, winning prizes for having the dangliest bollocks – and that was just the stallholders.  Anyway, I was next to a stall selling – among other things – doggy bandanas.  Really…bandanas?  On a dog?  See, this is why I like cats…try to put a cat in a bandana and you’ll never play the violin again.

20150828_131548_HDR 20150829_142144_HDR 20150830_145415_HDRI’ve been trying to cozy up to the TV elite since last time we spoke, but most of the celebs at the Big Feastival weren’t interested in talking to plebs like me.  Monica Galetti looked quite startling with blonde hair, Jamie Oliver stood on the tables and ponced around doing his ‘look at me I’m a Cock…sorry…Mockney’ cheeky chappie routine, and Adam Henson was as plain-speaking and down-to-earth as you’d expect him to be.  Of the three only Adam Henson stayed past his contracted 30 minutes of hogging the limelight to chat to anyone, but I was too busy with customers to get any stalker-type selfies.  Ah well, maybe next year.

7ws_5_1My mind, as we know, works in mysterious ways.  I was next to one of the lovely Glamorose cupcake ladies the other week in Swindon admiring her wares (the cupcakes, honest) when she described the tiffin brownie as having lots of tiffin-y bits in it.  Now although I’ve led a very sheltered upbringing, for some reason I had visions of a slightly ragged, over-used and aging actress in…ahem…’exotic’ films called Tiffany Bitz.  And of course, this being Swindon, I was reminded of the legendary Swindonian actress Lola Vavoom, whose monument I have yet to visit.*

Talking of actresses, when did they all become actors?  I’m all for equality, nothing against women (I should be so lucky) but what was so wrong with the word actress?  It seems that you’re not allowed to use the feminine version of the word any more, as if it’s a derogatory term or something.  I don’t get it…anyone can now be an actor it seems, but it takes a special kind of person to become an actress – only half of the population can do it!  It’s political correctness gone mad I tell you.  I blame Jeremy Corbyn, that’s a sound place to start these days.

tetrisOn the Christmas front, we’re preparing…and cooking…and cooking…my God, are we cooking.  The store room at the farm looks like a really crap game of Tetris…more and more stuff comes in but doesn’t quite fit into the space that we have left for it…until we cook some more and create some space that we then fill with what we’ve just cooked!  It’s a logistical nightmare, but we’re planning meticulously to fit quarts into pint pots, squeeze a few more crates in here and there, and somehow…somehow…have enough stock for Christmas.


But before then, we have some important news…wait, I’m not allowed to tell our readers?  Really?  Oh, you’re no fun…

* Top marks if you even have the faintest clue what I’m talking about there, by the way.


Cats aren’t really friendly, they’re just cozying up to the dominant life-form as a hedge against extinction.
Jasper Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer

Kill the Bublé

Well ladies and gentlemen, here we are again.  Christmas is over, your friendly neighbourhood hobbit has ended his period of solitary in Salisbury, and a little bit of what passes for sanity has descended upon this small part of the world.

A lot has happened since my last post, pretty much all of it spent at Salisbury Christmas Market.  This is how it went.

Day minus 1


Anti-grav is accidentally set to ‘on’ at the Farm

Arrive at WCF and stare at the pile of crates that need to be loaded into the van.  Stare at it again.  And again.  Think of the phrase ‘quart into a pint pot’ and just get on with it.  Amazingly it all fits, as well as the tools and shelves that we’ll need.

The van handles somewhat sluggishly once fully loaded.  Braking distances now measured in miles, not feet.  Driving style amended accordingly.  Bends avoided where possible

Day 0 – set-up day


A 4ft teaspoon. Teacup not pictured.

Get to Salisbury early to survey the market, find my chalet OK and attend the traders briefing in the Guildhall.   Meet up with Jamie and form a plan of attack for kitting out the chalet; shelves are not an issue, the display table is – Jamie’s preferred option is to construct a table across the front of the chalet and for me to crawl out/in as necessary.  I remind him that I am an old git and refuse.  Quick trip to B&Q ensues, material bought to construct a counter that can be placed on the veranda and brought in each night.  Bond arrives to lend his extensive DIY knowledge, and half a millisecond later is told to shut up.  Complete setup of the chalet early evening.  Hopes are high.

Day 1 – first day of trading

Arrive early in order to complete the set up and test things out properly.  Realise that the counter we built yesterday is not going to be stable enough, so extra bracing is swiftly attached and it seems much better.  Even so, it’s not the free-standing triumph I have in my head so I pull it back to rest against the door frame.  Seems to be stable enough.


Set up display and start trading, good enough for day 1.  Late day today as it’s the lantern parade, don’t finish till 8:30pm.  Hopes are high.

Day 2

Decide that the counter is still too wobbly as I have fears my fatness will knock the whole thing over at some point. Further bracing is the only option so  construct a very simple yet effective way of doing so – basically a length of wood screwed to counter at one end and door frame at the other.  Much more secure.

Trading is good, slightly lower than day 1 but shorter trading hours so still better than anticipated.

Day 3 – first Saturday

20141128_172721The setup is now pretty much defined, and I’m ready to trade bang on 10am when the market starts.  Unfortunately customers start milling around at 9:30 as it’s Saturday, but I cope.  Trading is epic, never sold as much in one day.

Go home tired but exultant after my best single trading day ever.  Beginning to plan for early retirement.

Day 4

Steady today, but after the epicness of Saturday I can cope with this.  Get to chat more with my chalet neighbours Heidi, Mo, Camille, Debs, Rachael and Terry and form a support group of bewildered traders.

ellaMusic being played in the market is Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney by Ella Fitzgerald.  Filthy lyrics.  Go on, google ’em.  You’ll understand what I mean.

For a ‘short’ days trading takings are awesome, and I get home to my microwave meal happy in the knowledge that I’ve picked a good market.

Day 5

Monday.  Urgh, it’s Monday.  Things seem really quiet, but after the bedlam that was the weekend I’m happy with that.  Gives me a chance to unwind a little.

Chat more with Camille, Rachael and Terry.  They all seem to lead much more interesting lives than me, but then I think about my ex-IBM friends who look jealously at what I do now and remember that it’s all relative.  I could have been an astronaut you know, I just chose not to.


Godolphin Prep School giving it large, carol stylee

Have time to listen to the music being piped over the speakers today.  Realise that Michael Bublé is on repeat.  I hate Michael Bublé.

Trading is slow by Christmas standards, but still better than a regular market so very happy.

Day 6

Charter market day.  Billions of cheeky cock-er-knees selling watch batteries, dodgy DVDs and dubious pork products in the Market Place.  This means a different kind of clientele is around today, lots of single units sold and less box sets.  Still, decent numbers so who’s complaining?

20141202_092917A sad day.  Today is the funeral of a cricketing friend, and as I cannot be there I put my bat out a la Philip Hughes in his honour.  I have to take a moment at the back of the chalet a couple of times during the day.

Am left in the dark – literally – as some of the light bulbs in my chalet decide they’ve had enough and go to sleep.  Luckily it wasn’t all of them, so have enough to see what I’m doing for the remainder of the day.

Day 7

Light bulbs procured via the ever-resourceful Mo from Tumi across the way, I can now see what I’m doing.  And that is a steady day’s trade.  Last 6pm finish today until Sunday.  Treat myself to a takeaway in place of a microwave meal.

More Michael Bublé.  Kill the Bublé.

Cats rebel against expensive food and decide that Asda own brand is all they will eat, which is a problem as there is no Asda within easy reach of my regular commute.

Day 8


Back to the long trading days, and I’m beginning to feel a little tired.  Still, trade is brisk and in fact better than the first Thursday.  The war with Winchester is hotting up – am now in a daily contest with Bond to see who sells more.

Day 9

tmcEspresso happens.  It’s not something I do much of, as excess caffeine can make me a bit twitchy, but I feel the need.  And it works – it wakes me up enough early doors to engage with customers cheerily and get into the swing of things.

Chris Rea is Driving Home For Christmas for the ninth day in a row.  Never buy a used sat nav from Chris Rea, it’ll be bloody useless.

Another good day, I am ready for whatever Saturday can throw at me.

Day 10

So many customers…coming at me…coming in from the sun…no time to breathe…you weren’t there, man…

Another busy, busy day, not quite the same as the previous Saturday but excellent nonetheless.

Go home happy but exhausted.


Day 11

A pattern emerges.  Sunday’s not quite as good as Saturday, but is still a decent day.  Realise with some horror that this market is not even half way through, yet already I could sleep for a week.  Start looking at ways to ease the pain by maybe spending a night in Salisbury.  Then decide that I’m a skinflint and hotel prices are too expensive.

This is Debs, Rachael and Terry’s last day in the market as they’re only doing the first half.  Sad to see them go as they’re been terrific fun.

Day 12

New neighbour Nick moves in.  Camille and myself take an instant dislike to him simply for not being Rachael and Debs.

20141219_100342Announce the formation of the Anti-Bublé League.

Quietest day of the market so far.  After the chaos of the weekend it feels dead, but numbers at close of play show a decent return.

Half way through.  It’s all downhill from here.

Day 13

Another steady day, fuelled almost entirely by espressos and chocolate.  Really am beginning to feel the strain now, both physically and mentally.  Not just the trading but also the stock collections, the commute and of course the extra trips to Asda to get bloody cat food.

We decide that we’re just going to deal with Nick by taking the p*ss out of him.  He responds in kind and is accepted into the support group with open arms.

Day 14

A soggy day in Salisbury.  This keeps the customers away, which makes it almost impossible to stay wake.  More espresso.  More chocolate.  Nick starts to show tendencies to leave his stall for a 9-minute wander every 10 minutes.

Plenty of time to do jigsaws

Plenty of time to do jigsaws

First sub-par result of the market, but given the weather that’s to be expected.

Day 15

20141211_161609The weather’s still not helping us, and keeps the casual punter away.  Late trading brings a few more people in and drags figures up to a decent level.

Being exhausted is the default setting now.  Am thinking of digging an escape tunnel.

An owl called Bella comes to visit.  I don’t think I’m hallucinating, but there is that possibility.


Day 16

20141219_100159Decide against the escape tunnel as I have no energy to dig one.

No sign of the owl.

Steady trading today.  After a brief hiatus, Bublé is back.  Tensions rise in the hobbit community.

Camille the Dogsnatcher is captured in action.

Day 17

The busy day of the week, and the first signs of panic present-buying behaviour start to emerge.  Am introduced to the acronym ‘DLM’ by Heidi – the Desperate Lone Male – often seen at this time of the year.  In our case it’s more of a DLS (Desperate Lone Shopper) thing – men are often the quick purchasers, the conversation going like this:

Customer: What’s the hottest thing you have?

Me: Is it for someone who says that nothing’s ever hot enough?

Customer: Yes – I want to see him cry.

One bottle of Slayer later, job done.

Excellent business again, on days like today you get to speak to no-one other than customers, with traders emerging like badgers from their setts in late afternoon to compare notes.

Day 18

opossum-faking-deathEnergy levels have plummeted overnight.  Am now actively considering faking my own death to avoid the last few days.

Disgruntlement is high, there have been words exchanged between traders and stewards.  Tempers are fraying, especially in those of us who are doing every single day.  No sign of Stockholm Syndrome here.

Slow, slow day.  Batteries fail to recharge.  Bublé is on repeat.  Not helping.  The prospect of four days of 6pm finishes is very welcome though.

20141202_083518 20141202_083553How do you get stock to the chalet when there’s a charter market on and you can’t get the van on site?  Simple – employ the Hobbit All-Purpose Stock Transport Solution (patent applied for).  What d you mean, it looks like a suitcase?  This is a highly specialised piece of equipment you know, not just any old piece of kit dragged out of the loft…

Day 19

Energy levels still not high…until lunchtime when I get the news that I have become a Granddad again!  Instant happy hobbit syndrome, photos shared with chalet holders and customers alike, can’t get the grin off my face for the rest of the day 🙂

Trading?  Who cares?  I’m a granddad again!

Day 20

Chee20141216_195601ky Cockney day.  Alarming pig products in evidence.  Really, really don’t need them yelling 3 fer a paaaaaahnd all day.

Just push through it hobbit, not long to go now.

Finish the day off with a visit to see my new granddaughter.  Lifts up my spirits no end 🙂

Day 21

Starting to wonder if this will ever end.  What did I do in a previous life to deserve this?  Did I volunteer for this?  Goddammit, I paid for this!  Pull yourself together whinger, just get on with it…

Am now beginning to run low on stock.  Starting to shuffle the display round to promote stuff I have most of.  Doesn’t work, a very slow day, but it is Wednesday so not surprising really.

3 days to go.  Am buoyed by Jamie saying he’d be down on Saturday to help break down.

Day 22

20141218_105933Today I bonked.

And not in a fun, biological, squelching proximity of body parts way either.  This is the cycling version of bonking, akin to marathon runners hitting the wall.  It’s what happens when you completely run out of energy, and is not the same as being tired.  I’ve never really experienced it before, even when running (sort of) the 3 half marathons I’ve done in the past, which were about the most knackering thing I’ve done.  I just hit a wall at about 6pm, and couldn’t think, speak or do anything other than just stand up.  Camille in the chalet opposite told me that I’d visibly turned into Zombie Hobbit, though I think that’s doing a bit of a disservice to zombies as I think they probably have more energy than I did right then.

A swift ingestion of calories – in the healthy form of Twix bars – helped rectify the situation, though I was still running on fumes for the rest of the day.

Day 23

Penultimate day of the market.  Stock is looking patchy, but I’ll have enough to get me to the end.  Decent numbers sold, hopeful of reaching my revised target figure for the whole market.

anokaaA decent day and we finish up with a support group night out at Anokaa, which is a fantastic Indian restaurant in Fisherton Street.  Top, top food – not your normal curry-house fare.  Vegetarian Heidi is so baffled by the excellent veggie offerings she asks me – a ravenous carnivore – for help.  To be fair, some of the veggie options do look nice.  Not nice enough to stop me choosing a fabulous rack of lamb dish, though.  We all have great food, great conversation and I get home very, very late, but content.

Day 24 – last day of the market

20141218_120428Get to the market early, as always, though that’s not easy after the late night yesterday.  Set up early, ready for the rush, and sure enough for the last Saturday before Christmas there are lots of people about.

More espresso, more chocolate and yes – more Bublé.  I thank every deity known to humanity, and quite a few I’ve made up myself just to fill out my own personal pantheon, that I don’t have to listen to him again after today.

I bonk again, shortly after Jamie tells me that he won’t be down to help me break down the chalet.  This news drains any scrap of energy I have left.  Official close of the market is 7pm, but we’re all ‘tidying’ behind the scenes from about 5 o’clock.


Heidi in her spot

7pm comes and we all get handy with drills, screwdrivers and hammers in dismantling our chalets.  Not much stock to pack away, but I have to get a bit primeval on some of the screws as they’re embedded in knots in the wood and simply won’t come out, even with the heavy-duty borrowed drill from Nick next door.  Hammer comes to the rescue.

Say emotional goodbyes to Heidi, Camille, Mo and Nick – it’s been a blast and we all promise to be there next year and reform the support group.

And the music playing when I leave is…thankfully not Bublé.  That would have been a bit much.

Day 25 – market day + 1

20141221_104544Prize pillock that I am, I’ve agreed to be at Swindon Designer Outlet today.  I have bugger all stock and it’s chucking it down.  I’m so tired that I completely misjudge things and have a bollard v. van incident.  Bollard wins, van loses.  Dammit.

Ghost my way through the day and sell a decent number, especially given the weather.  Every last box set that I have has sold, I end up with a crate of stock that goes back to the Farm to keep Bath going for the last few days up till Christmas.


And that, folks, is why I wasn’t terribly communicative over December.  I have worked out that with travel I was working 90-hour weeks for the duration of the market, and I know that there were times when I unravelled ever so slightly.  I did learn a few things though:

– Trading for 25 days in a row is bloody exhausting

– Salisbury likes it’s chilli sauce

– Chris Rea may not yet be home for Christmas

– There is a special place in hell for Michael Bublé

– Salisbury has some cute PCSOs

– It is possible to live for a month on microwave meals and Tesco bargain bin sarnies

– 5pm is Wispa time

And will I do it again?  I certainly plan to – I met some lovely people, sold lots of stuff and made it to Christmas more or less sane.

And now…it’s all over – the Festive season, and New Year to boot.  That means it must be time for the WCF Christmas Party.  Stocks of aspirin have been replenished in preparation.

Normal service will be resumed in the very near future.  Whatever normal is.

 Welcome to the Year of The Spinning Mouse

The meaning of bogies

20141105_1448092014 is barrelling towards its Christmassy conclusion, and that means there won’t be a whole lot of communication from yours truly, at least blog-wise, for the remainder of the year.  The reason is quite simple – once I’m installed in my lovely chalet at Salisbury Christmas Market I’ll pretty much have no spare time till the Festive blowout is in full flow.  I’ll try to get a few bits and pieces online, but I’m more likely to keep Facebook and Twitter updated than this here blog.  As you will be aware I’m never one to use one word when thirty will do – brevity ain’t my thing – and I’m unlikely to have the willpower to do much bloggy stuff after a day’s trading, especially as some of the days are late night shopping.

20141115_091438We’ve actually started our Christmas markets already – Simon has been in Cardiff for the last few days.  Bond is setting up in Winchester as I type (OK, Jamie will be doing the heavy lifting whilst Bond fetches tea and biccies).  I set up next Wednesday (I refer the honorable reader to the previous comment regarding Jamie doing the thinking whilst I hold a spirit level or something) and from that point on, till December 20th, I’ll be peering out at daylight from the inside of the Chilli Hobbit Chalet.  I still have a couple of farmers markets after that, so as you can imagine I’m rather looking forward to a bit of a lie down after that…as we all are.

20141116_114031This is my first full year in retail, and I’m beginning to understand why traders both love and hate the Festive season.  Sales go up, sure, but by ‘eck it’s stressful.  How much stock to make?  Which events to cover?  How do I pay for it all up front?  How much sleep will I get?  How do I get stock when I’m trading every day?  How do I keep the Pink Chilli Hobbit supplied for her events?  Will the cats forgive me for being out of the house for 26 days in a row? How many Pot Noodles will I eat during the market?  Can I squeeze in a haircut before I start trading?  When will I do the washing?  Vitally important questions all of them, but for the sake of my customers I suspect the last is the most important.

So in preparation, stock has piled up and is already disappearing fast.  A couple of cooking days are planned before Jamie gets to fly solo in the kitchen, but in reality we’re done on big batches.  If we run out, we run out.  The good news is that we have all our box sets in now – Voodoo Habanero, Fatalii, and 2-grinder and 2-bottle boxes.  Damned fine they look too, and proving very popular.

20141115_092202Last weekend saw me in a very unusual setting – a football stadium.  OK, seeing me in a football ground is not that unusual, but running a market stall in one most definitely is.  This was at Brighton’s Amex Stadium, where I was at a Christmas Fair.  Very well run, well attended and – more importantly – indoors.  After suffering rising damp, sinking damp and fin rot the weekend before, I was thankful of the dryness.  Of course Brighton’s a very different place than Wiltshire, so a different kind of clientele, but they liked their chilli stuff and were definitely up for a laugh.  They also liked my free lollipop sign…so many people appreciated my attempts at levity that it almost made me forget the sense of humour failure that accused me of sexism the other week.  Almost.

Gloucester beckons this weekend, for a 2-day Victorian market.  I think the organisers would like traders to dress appropriately for the occasion, but maybe I’ll just slap an urchin or something to get into the 19th century spirit.  Or possibly contract TB.  Or declare war on France.  Which would be a shame, as I rather like France.  They do good skiing there 🙂

20141110_123714One place I won’t be this weekend, and apologies to my regulars for this, is Royal Wootton Bassett.  I booked up Gloucester ages ago and simply don’t have cover for the RWB market.  Pink Chilli Hobbit is understandably hugely busy with her own business, PinkBox Boutique, at this time of the year, and despite our best efforts at cloning we’re not able to be everywhere (our clones have all gone a bit funny, and whilst useful in some ways most are only good enough for tasks that require no thought whatsoever, like carrying heavy stuff, tabloid journalism or joining UKIP).

And with that, I think I will sign off.  As I mentioned earlier, this will most likely be my last long post for a while as my poor halfling brain will struggle to write anything sensible (steady…) once festive trading starts.  I shall be putting stuff on my Facebook page and tweeting as well, so feel free to pay me a visit there.

And why The Meaning of Bogies for the blog title?  It’s one of the many, many random questions that my youngest daughter comes out with on occasion.  I do wonder how the teenage mind functions sometimes :-/

This is what God Slayer does to you

This is what God Slayer does to you