Spendy Saturday

Not been a good day for budgeting

May well have blasted the budget for this week. A combination of tempting bargains in the GAP outlet store and the charity shops meant that my husband now has 4 brand new tops. However in his defence the Gap tops were dramatically reduced at £4.88 for a long sleeved tee and £8.74 for a more formal shirt. The OH does like his shirts so when he saw the ‘perfect work shirt’ in Barnardos for £3.99 he obviously had to have it, as a man cannot have enough shirts, apparently. Then I spotted a YSL 100% wool, lightweight sweater for £6.99 and it wasn’t hard to persuade him to have that too.

Or for shopping locally

I also broke my only buy from shops within walking distance pledge today. I had an appointment in West Bromwich which is about a 15 minute drive from here. After the appointment the OH and I decided to mooch around the Astle Retail Outlet Park where there are a number of outlet stores including a Next, a Marks and Spencers and a Gap. Which explains the purchases referred to earlier. And then because it was sunny we strolled up to the outdoor market and bought some vegetables. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, Bearwood doesn’t have a market or a vegetable shop so this sort of shopping is a bit of a treat. Look at me, getting all excited about being able to buy fresh veg at a market!

A special journey was not made

Which is my only excuse for not shopping locally. I would not drive just to shop in West Bromwich, although the market is a temptation. To be honest if I were to drive to a market to shop, it would probably be Birmingham as it has a bigger and better market and West Brom, well isn’t the most attractive place to be.

Sorry West Brom

I don’t want to be mean about West Brom, but it isn’t the most attractive place in the world. I swear it is alway 5 degrees colder in West Brom than the rest of Sandwell. This is probably becuse it is so high up, indeed the local football stadium, The Hawthorns, is, or used to be he stadium above sea level, or something like that. Anyway it is cold and windy. And West Brom also has the threat of a massive Tesco development, on the edge of town whis could be a threat to the survival of retailers on the High Street. Yet it seems to be thriving for the time being. It certainly has wider range of shops than Bearwood, and the market is busy, all traders there are the independents I like to support. The veg stall seemed to have three generations of one family working there, which is great. I just hope they manage to survive once shiny Tesco sucks the life out of the high street.

But the councillors love West Brom (in my opinion)

More than they love Bearwood. Probably because Bearwood is in Smethwick Town yet not central Smethwick. So if there is any money floating around it goes to West Brom and the High Street and Cape Hill part of Smethwick, because apparently Bearwood doesn’t need it.  However, I think they see West Brom as the capital of Sandwell. Councillors are delighted that Tesco, Next and other retailers and food outlets are being built and will bring, oh hundreds of jobs to an area that has very high unemployment. I suppose this is a good thing. However, this development has effectively shifted the centre of town where both the indoor and outdoor markets are and shops along High Street are closing. It has a shiny new FE college locally known as the Ski Slope. This was built after many years of Sandwell College getting very poor OfSTED reports. Apparently building a shiny new campus will improve the quality of teaching. Then there is The Public. Depending on your point of view it is either a wonderful arts resource for Sandwell or a White (actually purple) Elephant. It does have very good toilets which is very handy, of course, when it is so cold in West Brom. And the West Brom Building Society is building its new Headquaters there (despite origallly planning to abandon its lovely art deco HQ in West Bromwich town centre for shiny offices in Merry Hell Hill). Merry Hill is in Dudley which doesn’t seem to be the right location for a building society called the West Brom. The council also thought this and were very vocal about the planned relocation. Almost overnight a piece of land, conveniently adjacent to all the new development, was found, so the West Brom is staying in West Brom after all. Handy that. There also seems to be work going on in the area where the market usually is, new paving and such. Hopefully the market will thrive even when the smaller Tesco relocates to the retail park and leaves a big empty unit in the old shopping centre. I hope so.

So what was the damage to the purse?

 £          0.08 onions 2kg  £          1.00
aubergine x3  £          1.00
grapes 1kg  £          1.00
petrol  £        15.00
Gap shirts  £        13.62
Charity shirt  £          3.99
Charity YSL jumper  £          6.99
Lamb  £          5.47
cat food  £          2.39
peppers  £          1.49
Cauli  £          0.89
Ketchup  £          0.69
3 tins tomatoes  £          0.93
bath mat  £          4.99
Steak mince 500g  £          3.59
6 sausages  £          1.99
fresh basil  £          0.65
Spagetti  £          0.24
Penne  £          0.29
Bet on the National  £        10.00
Beer and wine  £        25.00
 £      101.21

A massive dent to the budget. The betting and the alcohol were luxuries I guess and if we were on benefits we could not afford these. To add insult to injury we did not get a winner. Yet who is to say that poor people shouldn’t have a treat now and then? We are not exactly rich as we only have one wage, and a relatively low one at that that, coming into the house. But we choose to rent out rooms to English language students to supplement this. It is a lifestyle choice that not everyone could or would make.

Supper on Saturday cost £9.06 and there is plenty left over for lunches, so at 6 portions this is £1.51 per portion.

The lamb is for Sunday dinner and will be used as sandwiches in the week. so that will be five meals for around £1.40 each, three of which will be a big yummy Sunday roast using up all the vegetables I have bought this week.

How local did I do?

Apart from the Gap purchaces and the market stall purchases of grapes, aubergines and onions every thing was bought in Bearwood. I used Aldi for most of the shopping and the lamb was bought at another family butcher on Bearwood Road, Higgins. I like to share my indie love around!

The Mary Portas factor

West Bromwich also put in a bid for the Portas Pilot funding to improve the high street, and Bearwood was the other bid in Sandwell. Both were unsucessful. Which looking at some of the bids that were successful may not have been a bad thing. However it still smarts to be reminded that Sandwell Council could have had funding of 10k each for West Bromwich and Bearwood as subsequently all towns that submitted a bid were offered this amount to help build a town team to improve the local high street. The reason for refusing to accept this money? Well it was ‘political’. I do have an email from a Sandwell MP in response to my querying why they chose not to support local residents who wanted to improve where they lived, which I may just share with you one day. It wasn’t personal to Bearwood, so maybe they don’t love West Bromwich enough either. Who knows?

Do you live in Bearwood? Do you shop in Bearwood? Do you think Bearwood gets overlooked for investment? Did you town put in a bid for the Portas funding? I would love to see your comments? And please share tips on budgeting for food and in general.

Footballers and Money: why can’t they score goals when they earn so much of it?

My daughter went to her first football match this Boxing Day. She is in her late 20’s and despite being brought up in a city (Birmingham) where in every direction you look there is a relatively well known club (West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and Birmingham City) we have never taken her to a match. One of the reasons was that during the 80’s and 90’s football lost its way. It became more about money, the stars and Manchester United. And because it was about money it also became too expensive to go to see a match.

My first match was in 1968. I went to see the Baggies at the Hawthorns (which was at one time the highest ground above sea level in the county, which is probably why West Bromwich always has a chill factor of minus 3). I was 9 and our summer au pair (local teenage girl hired to keep us occupied) took me and my cousin to the first match of the season after they had won the FA cup. I then went on and off for a few years with my male cousins, as  in the 60’s and 70’s, local people supported local clubs not just the ones who won every trophy. In 1975 I was dating the captain of the Halesowen College football team, who was also a Baggies fan, and consequently spent most Saturday afternoons with him and the rest of the team, on the terraces, drinking Bovril and eating pies.

For footie fans the Boxing Day match is pretty much of a tradition, possibly established originally for men to escape the sales fever and the family for a day. What swung this first visit to a football match for the daughter was that it involved dinner in an executive box as opposed to being freezing cold, drinking  Bovril and eating pies on the terraces. Her partner is a Villa fan, and his friend works/owns a company who has this box to entertain clients, so on Boxing Day (which is a holiday in the UK) the box was available for him to entertain his friends. I’m slightly disappointed that her first match was at the Villa, but hey even I dated a Villa fan, once. I ended up marrying a Leeds fan, although the last match he went to was back in 1985.

My son hated football. And, because of this got bullied at school. Which made him hate it even more. His peers were obsessed with having the latest, overpriced Man United shirt, and many I suspect had soccer moms and dads who were known for kicking off on the sidelines.  He also became a PE lesson refuser as the only thing they ever did was play football at his secondary school. Tennis courts were used for 5 a side, the athletic stadium only used on sports day, with hurried lessons in shot put and the long jump for a couple of weeks in the hope that they may get one student they could trust to throw a javelin without killing someone from a rival gang.

Despite the wonderful recent success of Team GB at the London Olympics, I do wonder how much better we could have done and how many more British contenders for Wimbledon we’d have if sport was seen as important on the curriculum as IT. One head teacher, John Tomsett  who I admire, blogged about how he actively encourages competitive sport at his school. This is within a house system, not against other schools and I think this is a model that needs to be encouraged. I’m not very sporty, yet because of the house system I could participate and enjoy sport to the best level I could achieve. Not left on the bench because I wasn’t good enough to win a match against every other school in the borough. And my school produced an Olympic swimmer because of this.

In the days when footballers didn’t earn silly money they were still, almost, one of us. Yes, there were the exceptions to this, like Georgie Best, who lived life in the fast lane (and look what happened to him, poor man) but it was nothing compared to the Beckhams, who are treated like minor royalty. I’m not saying Beckham isn’t a good role model, because he is, apart from the ‘be a footballer and you’ll be rich like me’ stuff and that their 11 year son is a model.

To get things into perspective, money and fame wise, Jeff Astle, when he retired from football established a window cleaning company. Post match curry in Wolverhampton and Derek Statham was sat at the next table. It wasn’t “ooo I must get his autograph” in so much as “great match today Derek” and we got on with our curry. And once I saw Robert Plant get off a bus outside the Hawthorns for a local derby with the team he supported, Wolverhampton Wanders. At the same match was Eric Clapton and Annie Nightingale, I know this as she mentioned it the next day on her Sunday afternoon national radio show. Eric even has a West Brom scarf strewn across a chair on the album, Backless.

So I’m nostalgic for the football of the 70’s and extremely pleased that three West Bromwich Albion footballers, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson who inspired a generation of black professional players in the UK are to be honoured with a statue. And if pushed, despite not having gone to match for many years, I would say I’m a Baggies fan. I can’t name a player, but they are my local team. I’ve been to the ground quite a few times for conferences and I still get a thrill seeing the pitch.

And the fashion in supporting famous teams continues in that David Cameron and Prince William are Villa supporters. At the time that they made this decision the team was doing well and perhaps this gave them the common touch, that the working class could identify with, not as glitzy as Manchester United and of course Beckham went to The Wedding!

Football teams and players are just another commodity for increasingly overseas investors who you don’t normally associate with footie. One of the weirdest things was to see a Leicester City souvenir shop in Bangkok Airport. Again, back in the day it was a pop stars whim to to buy a football club as did Elton John, not as an investment, but because they needed the money and it was the team he supported. Now we have players earning more a week than most of their fans earn a year, yet they still can’t score a goal. Unless of course you happen to be a team playing the Villa recently. It seems get 8 goals past their defence is pretty easy at the moment.

So how are the Baggies doing this season? Not to rub it in, of course.