Simon Says

In a previous life I was a teacher, as was my wife Lizzie. I was given my full pension years before I was ready to retire so we decided that a change was in order. We had several places on our list of “possibles” and it was on our way back from a fruitless summer in southern Spain that we chanced upon the Pyrenees-Orientales.

We rented a small isolated cottage high above Prades for four months in 2002 and that experience taught us a great deal. Yes, we wanted to live in this part of the world, no we didn’t want to be living in a steep sided valley. After all, what is the point in living in a part of France with more than 300 days of sunshine per year if you spend more than half of it in shadow?

We returned to UK, sold our house in Poole, put the money in the bank and returned to P.O. In the spring of 2003, we found a house in which we thought we could spend the rest of our lives, bought it and moved in at the end of May that year.

After many years of competitive sailing round Poole Harbour, Lizzie and I needed something to fill the void. When U3A was born, we joined the organisation with a view to playing golf and have been doing it ever since. It is a lovely group of people and we feel very privileged to be a part of it.

I can honestly say that we have both found peace, harmony and happiness in this wonderful part of the world, not to mention an anecdote or two, which I am happy to share with you here.

Simon Bridges April 2020, Terrats.

Shopping on Lockdown


I am very grateful to Mike Dawson for alerting me to the “old people only” shopping experience now available at some supermarkets. The idea is that we can go round and make our purchases without all the hassle of the younger generation loo-paper grabbing hordes.

I did make the mistake of trying to enter the store with my trusty Leroy Merlin bag for life……..The guard on the door told me it was interdit which  I thought was a bit harsh because I didn’t have a Super U bag for life.

However, it soon dawned on me that it wasn’t the marque on the bag that was the problem – it was the bag itself.  Yes, hands, germs and all that stuff so I put my rolled up Leroy Merlin bag into a supermarket trolley and immediately all was well. Smiles all round but no shaking hands.

So, wheeling my trolley up and down the aisles, I got on with converting my shopping list into objects in the trolley. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy because little old French ladies have the ability to block a whole aisle just by themselves and getting past them is not an option. Also, on several occasions I was asked to lift things from high up on the shelves into their trolleys – no problem and glad to be of assistance – but so much for social distancing.

However, after much longer than anticipated (the time spent in a queue of just three ladies at the fresh fish counter seemed inordinate) I arrived at the checkout queue. Hurrah – nearly done.

Well not quite. It always amazes me how people (especially old ones) can put all their purchases on the moving conveyor belt, go past the caissière, and then take an absolute age to replace their purchases back into their trolley. This is always assuming that they have remembered to weigh their bag of loose leeks and got a bar code to stick on the bag. 


At this point there is a decision to be made…..abandon this checkout which means gathering up all ones purchases and putting them back in the trolley or volunteering to go to the vegetable section self service scales on behalf of the little old lady to weigh said leeks.

Right – job done – everyone is grateful and smiling ; the English are all heroes…..And then – the masterstroke – the little old lady seems absolutely amazed when she is asked to pay.  From my point of view, enough is enough – I’ve weighed her leeks- I’m not going to pay for them as well.  Anyway, the eternal fumbling that goes on in the handbag is followed by the production of…….Yes, the cheque book.

Oh no, not that. A cheque is removed from the book by the caissière and she puts into the till which prints it all out and hands it back to the “old person” to sign. After the fumble for the writing glasses – which are obviously different from the shopping glasses- a squiggle is made on the cheque and the search for the identity card starts so that the cash desk lady can copy all the details on to the back of the cheque.

I have honestly spent less time in a supermarket check-out queue in Sainsburys on Christmas Eve.

Next it is my turn and I am speedily through the check out and into the car park where I see the little old lady trying to lift stuff (including the leeks) into the back of her decrepit old Renault rust bucket. She is making a right meal of it so chivalry takes over and I go over, renew our acquaintance and put her purchases into the back of her car. 

More abandonment of social distancing but whatever she has, I’m bound to have caught it by now.  You’ll be glad to know that is the end of the story….well nearly. When I got home all Lizzie could say was – “You’ve been ages – where have you been ?”

Thanks Mike Dawson – next time you have helpful advice, please do me a favour and keep it to yourself!!

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