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December 2023


SWB isn’t one for retail therapy..

I need to listen to my own advice. But I didn’t, and I went to the shops and it was fecking awful. I know, I know.  I’m all about my forays to charity shops; about experiences instead of material goods, and home-made truffles instead of a box of Miniature Heroes, but I’m also a realist. Sometimes, you have to buy knickers and socks and a new laundry basket from TK Maxx because your children have made a sleigh of your old one, by attaching a dressing-gown belt to the handle and tugging their sibling and a multitude of stuffed animals about. Said laundry basket is now buggered and a jagged edge threatens to take the hand off you every time you look at it.

Anyhoo, the Mothership, and I hoofed it to Bloomfield Shopping Centre, which bears little resemblance from how I remember it in the nineties. The M&S was so big and cavernous that we found ourselves wandering around gormlessly like Father Ted when he got trapped in the lingerie section. It was like a maze, particularly since the aisles were blocked by folk with trollies full of food.  A law should be passed, stating firmly that trollies don’t belong, EVER, in the clothes section, because the aisles are too narrow to accommodate them and consequently all movement is reduced to a standstill. Very irksome, when all you want is to grab your size 12 full briefs and find the nearest exit.

But it was Next which committed the greatest faux-pas, by cranking up the in-store muzak to ‘wreck the nerves entirely’ level. Dropping the latest beats from DJ ‘Deck-the-Halls-and-Rob-da-Manger,’ it created a frenetic atmosphere with a beat so pounding and intrusive it rendered any considered shopping an impossibility. I lost all ability to make a decision, and before I knew it I’d sought out a shop assistant. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘but would you mind finding your manager, and making the case that this is a shop, not a night club, and that I can’t concentrate with that din?’ Her smile faded, but she diligently trotted off. But the music wasn’t turned down, or at least not in the three minutes I lasted before seeking sanctuary outside. The west wind blasted a wet drizzle into our faces but it was still better than the alternative. ‘That was horrible,’ I said to the Mothership, who agreed that indeed it was.

Later I told LSB the craic. ‘The thing is,’ he said, as he tucked into a Tunnock, ‘they don’t really want you there. You’re not the right demographic.’

‘What the actual f**k?’ sez I. ‘Not the right demographic? I’m their ONLY demographic!’ Always quick with a retort, he piped up, ‘Their perceived demographic. They make the mistake of thinking they’re trendy.’

He’s right, isn’t he, auld LSB. Who else do you think shops in Next only women in their forties, picking up bland office wear or choosing stuff for their kids or the ubiquitous baby gift?’

I was chatting with my friend over brunch earlier, and asked if she felt the same about shopping these days. ‘Of course I do! she replied. Her pet-peeve is stores with lighting so subdued that you have to employ the torch on your phone for a better look. Once she had to explain to a store detective at Hollister that she wasn’t stealing a denim jacket, she just wanted to see it in the daylight, to see whether it was black or navy. Turned out it was dark green.

So is shopping just for the young’uns? Is internet shopping the future and does it herald the end of the high street and a as a result a trip out with your mum ? I don’t know. All I know is that my wee wrecked head can’t deal with the reality of actual forays these days.



SWB’s Christmas Gift Guide

You know my mantra by now everyone- don’t go buying more stuff you don’t need, for yourself or anyone else! We have been dramatically scaling back on gifts of late, but this doesn’t mean we can’t still  spoil ourselves.

We’re buying less but buying better, trying to support local businesses and seeking out experiences to make the New Year brighter.

With that in mind, I am excited to say that some of my FAVOURITE places are offering a discount if you buy online.

Deja Vu on the Lisburn are kindly offering a 10% discount up until December 22nd, if you are looking a gift or seeking a ‘new to you’ outfit for the festive season. For those of you unfamiliar with the shop, Ruth sells excellent quality second-hand clothes, shoes and accessories, many of which are designer brands. Shopping here is one of my greatest pleasures, as to me, few other stores can compete for service and I always find something surprising and original on the rails. Use HELEN10 to avail of the discount online or you can mention me in-store.

Little Love NI is an Etsy shop run by my friend Emma, who is a member of my Shared Threads Group. Emma sews a range of items such as purses, blankets and festive decorations, all exquisitely finished and beautifully packaged. She uses Liberty fabrics and the vibe is cosy, classy and jam-packed with love. Emma is a self-confessed eco-nut and LOVES reusable products, so look no further for pretty snack and sandwich bags which can be used time and time again. Use the code HELEN10 to receive a 10% discount from her Etsy Shop. Offer only available though until DEC 10th when her online store closes for Christmas.

Now on to treatments and experiences…

Betty’s Place is my go-to if I want a massage. My preferred way of doing it is to book in later in the day so I can come home, slip straight into pjs, zen out and channel my inner sloth. Betty works intuitively with your body to zone in to wherever she deems needs it most. I find a session particularly good after a running event, as she incorporates stretching into her treatments which are a balm for my hips when they feel stiff and clunky. Between January and March you can enjoy a relaxing shiatsu massage, with floor work and stretches with a 20% discount using HELEN20.

Now listen up -this one is a game changer if you’re a woman of a certain age. Recently I booked three treatments with  Jo-Anne Colgan in Rosetta Acupuncture Clinic for trigger point and acupuncture. Now, some folk immediately dismiss acupuncture because they hate needles, but these aren’t needles as you know them, I would say filaments, less of a prick more of a tickle. Plus, once Jo-Anne popped them in, I wasn’t even aware of them, especially as I was lying in a warm room, listening to Tibetan music under a blanket. Bliss. She also worked on my troublesome neck and shoulders, and brought immediate relief. I’ve been telling all my friends to go, because she definitely performed some sorcery with my hormones. Jo-Anne is an anaesthetist, so the woman knows her way around a needle. The discount code HELEN10 entitles you to a 10% discount, and this also applies to E-gifts.

And finally, who doesn’t love a donkey at Christmas? (Or anytime?) Kindale Donkeys in Ballynahinch has brought us JOY over the years. The girls don’t feel it’s a holiday without a trip to see their mates down at the farm. And it’s not just for the littl’uns either, check out their page to see everything they offer. Use the code, (you’ve guessed it by now), HELEN10 for a 10% discount on any activities booked in December.