Be You

Don’t be sad, or tired, or lonely.

Be You.

For that is enough.


Stephen Black


Apologies for the rubbish photo.


M&S plastic tat…the saga continues.

Just to let you know, I’ve updated the post about M&S’s “Little Shop of Tat” with the email I recieved from M&S in response to my complaint.

But with this email came another, asking me to rate the response I had received.

First a question: Based on the response to your query how happy would you be to have this advisor answer other questions? (or something like that) I said “5” – it wasn’t their fault that the standard company response was so bland.

Secondly: Based on the response to your complaint, how likely would you be to recommend M&S to your family and friends? I said “2”. Only based on their response however, which was rubbish. Also my family & friends don’t need me to recommend M&S anyway!

Then came the box, “Please comment further to say why you gave these ratings” So I did!!

I initially wrote to complain about the Little Shop promotion – how unnecessary it was, how the use of plastic in Plastic Free July seemed very cynical and unlike M&S high standards etc.

The email I received back did not really address my issues, but was so obviously a cut-and-paste standard reply (insomuch as it was written in two different fonts!) that I felt unsatisfied. I appreciate that you must receive hundreds of emails a day, and so it is difficult to individually answer each one, but when someone complains about something, they don’t wish to receive a reply which is not much more than promotional rubbish for the thing they are complaining about.

There was a promise that all feedback is monitored closely – I’m afraid this rang hollowly to me.

I have written about my feelings about this promotion, and the response I have received from you on my blog. I have received several comments of support, all expressing similar feelings to my own about the use of plastics (which,let’s face it, are not likely to be recycled) . And even if the packaging can be recycled, isn’t it better just not to have it? In the current climate of trying to reduce surplus waste I think M&S have got it spectacularly wrong.

I have rated the advisor as a “5” – it’s not their fault that the reply was so anodyne: I imagine that is company policy. However, I would like to object to the first sentence in their reply which actually makes no sense to me:” I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed with the way we are branching the Little Shop Promotion.” As far as I am aware, there is no verb “to branch” so it doesn’t make sense. I’m an English teacher and so badly written English like this does rather offend me. I assume it means “the way we are introducing the LSP into our branches…” but that’s only a guess.

What will happen next, I wonder…

Bastille Day

Yesterday, 14th July, was a public holiday in France – or at least, it would have been, had it not been a Sunday. I do think the British bank holiday system is better: fixed days, usually on a Monday. And if it’s a moveable feast (for example, Christmas Day & Boxing Day) and it falls on a weekend, days get added after the weekend. Splendid! Here in France if the bank holiday falls on the weekend, well, tant pis!, you lose it!

Anyway, there were celebrations going on all over France, to commemorate the storming of the Bastille in 1789. which is recognised as the beginning of the French Revolution. Wikipedia gives you more information about this, should you be interested.

We did no storming of anything however. Our friends who own a restaurant in the next village were having a Mechoui (a spit roast). I had a photo of their poster to put here, but the picture of a spit-roast pig was a bit graphic, and I’m aware that there are some vegetarians who read this, and may not appreciate such photos. Here, however, is a cropped picture of people tucking into the meat

We met up with someone we’ve not seen for ages, and caught up with news on her and her daughters – they came to France 12 years ago, speaking no French at all, and now one of the girls is working in a help-centre for UK customers in France, after 3 years doing languages at University, and the other (who struggled at school) is working as a chef in a hotel kitchen – both loving it! It’s always good to hear about young people doing well.

We had our meal – which was enjoyable, and quite filling – while chatting to a Dutch couple. They had cycled over from St Just, having seen the graphic poster for the meal. They were having a rest day on their epic ride from Holland to Spain! The woman had left her job, and the guy was self employed so had stopped working; they had taken 4 months out to ride to Barcelona (I think) from their home in the Netherlands. It was interesting talking to them & finding out more about their trip.

Then,  Jean-Luc (the owner-chef) and his band played into the afternoon…

…the music was good, but the lyrics (all in English) were mangled. If you didn’t know what they were supposed to be singing you wouldn’t know what they were singing! If you see what I mean.


We sat in the sunshine, drinking our Perrier and enjoying the sounds of the 70s and 80s!

Take it away, Jean-Luc! Guitar solo time! (J-L is on the right)

Dire Straits, Beatles, Status Quo, Rolling Stones…all the oldies were there!!

We left about 5.00, but I’m sure folk were there well into the evening, but Mr FD wanted to get home to watch the end of the cricket world cup final, which England won after what I was assured was a nail-bitingly exciting ending.

An enjoyable, relaxed day.

We had had to choose, unfortunately, between this event and the Fete des Voisins meal, which was happening on the same day. We went to this event last year, and it was good fun, but this year we chose to go to Jean-Luc and Traudel’s event. And next year, who knows…


Book Review: Repentance (*** and a half)

I am proud to be  aTwenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.


AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review.So here it is


by Andrew Lam

The Net Galley blurb reads:

Sometimes the line that separates coward from hero is not easy to spot. When that line is crossed, to what lengths will a remorseful man go to set things right? That’s a question that had never crossed Daniel Tokunaga’s mind until the U.S. government started calling, wanting to know more about his father’s service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Something happened while his father was fighting the Germans in France, and no one is sure exactly what. At least, no one who’s still alive and willing to give details. Wanting answers, Daniel upends his life to find out what occurred on a small, obscure hilltop half a world away, in a quest for the truth that threatens his marriage, his sanity, and the love of everyone he holds dear. In unraveling his family’s catastrophic past, the only thing for certain is that nothing—his life, career, and family—can ever be the same again. 

I enjoyed the book, although as a British reader I was, perhaps, less invested in the story of the US regiment, and the treatment of Japanese-Americans during the war, than other readers might be; however I found the central two stories interesting and engaging. I liked the way that Ray’s story unfolded gradually through the book, so we did not see or understand the whole truth until the very end of the book. Ray’s character was, perhaps, a little “extreme”, but I can imagine that the effects of his exploits would have been quite severe, so I wasn’t put off by this.

On the other hand, Daniel’s back story was slightly less engaging, with a particular thread seemingly serving very little purpose; I felt the description of his relationship with his wife, Beth, was a little bit flat, and less believable than the “Ray side of the story”

Having said this, I did feel that all the characters were believable and – for the most part- I was interested in their stories. Andrew Lam is a consultant surgeon, and so his descriptions of Daniel’s life as a surgeon were true-to-life: the sense of holding another person’s life in your hands, the importance of your patient over everything else,the effect this has on family life – these passages were well written and credible.

I’m giving this 3.5 stars on my blog, but 4 stars on Net Galley – I would prefer to round it up, rather than round it down. It’s better than 3 stars in my weird marking system that even I don’t really understand!

Memorial to 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Bruyères-en-Vosges


This is not just tat…

…it’s M&S tat.

I’m not joining in with no-plastic July, although I am starting to try to introduce small changes into our shopping habits, such as reusing plastic bags for fruit & veg, or using other plastic bags (like bread bags) or – when I remember them! – using muslin bags. But when I do have plastic I try to

1) recognise that it’s necessary

2) try to reuse in some way. (Though it was depressing when I asked the café to remove the straw from my drink – and they did. And put it straight in the bin! I hadn’t realised they would give me a straw (in a glass of iced water) so I didn’t think to say “No straw, thank you”)

When I read Ang’s blog post about Marks & Spencer introducing a promotion called “Little Shop”, I was more than a bit ticked off. Ang’s post explains it better than I can.

So I went onto their website, and after trying to find a comment form (they don’t make it very easy!) I finally found where I could email them. So I did:

Dear M&S
I would like to join in the chorus of voices that condemn your promotion “Little Shop…” In the midst of No-plastic July (when it is proving difficult to find things that don’t involve plastic in its packaging!) you start a promotion that introduces yet more unwanted and unnecessary plastic into the environment!

It doesn’t matter if this is proving to be a popular poromotion in-store – at some point, these plastic items will be thrown away. You say that they can be returned to be recycled – that’s something, but, realistically, how many people will bother to do this? When children have finished playing with these bits of plastic, they will – for the most part – just get dumped into landfill.

It doesn’t matter that those toys that are returned will get recycled into benches – it’s still plastic. Plastic that doesn’t decompose for hundreds of years. The plastic bench will, eventually, get thrown away, and won’t decompose…Just because it’s recycled plastic doesn’t mean that it magically decomposes when finished with!
This is an UNNECESSARY promotion – it does nothing (despite your claims) that those parents who care about such things can’t do already. It won’t encourage other parents to teach their children about sustainibility; it will just teach children to want more unnecessary tat.

I fear that, despite your claims about sustainibility and care for the environment, you are just doing your bit to add to the problem of the human race using and discarding our natural resources as if they were never-ending. I, for one, will not be buying from M&S until this horrid, unnecessary promotion is finished. And even then, I will be reconsidering whether M&S values are my values, and whether I wish to continue supporting your company.

They needn’t know that, as I live in France, I don’t shop in M&S very often anyway, and won’t be buying anything there before the promotion is finished! But even oif I did live in the UK, I would be thinking hard about supporting them.

How do you feel about this promotion? If you think it’s a poor idea I encourage you to contact M&S head office. When I get a reply I’ll update this post.


UPDATE: I received an email from M&S yesterday (Tuesday). Disappointingly bland, it must be said:

Hi Alison

I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed with the way we are branching the Little Shop Promotion. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention, thank you for letting us know.

We want as many of our customers as possible to collect all 25 Little Shop collectables and we’ll be running additional promotions and events to help them along the way. For example, we’re hosting over 70 swap events at our M&S Cafés across the country for customers who have duplicates or certain collectables missing.

At M&S, we’re committed to reducing our use of plastic packaging and reusing or recycling any we do use. Our Little Shop collectables have all been designed to last and we’ve worked hard to ensure around a quarter of them are made from FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified card where possible. We’ve also ensured all single-use packaging is made from paper instead of plastic.

Little Shop is a free promotion for every £20 spent on food and drink in our stores. It’s designed to create excitement for families during the summer and helps children to learn a little bit more about food and where it comes from. However, there is no obligation for customers to collect Little Shop or take their redeemed collectable if they don’t wish to do so.

We really do monitor any feedback we receive very closely with the aim of improving, so thank you for sharing this with us.

Kind Regards

A. C.

Retail Customer Services

Quite frankly this response does not answer my questions, but what I dislike more is that it was so obviously a cut-and-paste job, with the first part (shown in italics) in a completely different font to the rest of the email! I don’t want to have more promotional bumpf thrown at me about swaps and so on. I don’t believe their promise that they moniotor all feedback, and I don’t like the construction of the first sentence. “to branch” is not a verb, and so M&S can’t be branching the promotion. Grrr.


Book Review: Spitfire (*** and a half)

I am proud to be  aTwenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.


AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review.So here it is

The Net Galley blurb reads:

I will say that I enjoyed the book and I found it gripping enough to be taken out of the house to be read at other times – that doesn’t always happen! It was written in a fast paced way, that made me want to carry on reading. I did get a little bit confused over characters – who was who, and where they were based, but that’s probably because I was reading quickly, rather than any fault of the author.
I liked the main protagonist, finding her both sympathetic and believable: although I really have no idea about the world of espionage I found the situations (mostly) credible in the just-post-war years. From time to time something jarred in the writing, which put me off a little – the main two things were firstly describing something as being “about the size of a fifty pence piece”. As 50p pieces didn’t exist in post war Britain (decimalisation didn’t come into use until 1971) this description was anachronistic (and annoying!) The other was the use of the word “purse” to describe a handbag. While I forgave the American characters using this word, I found it hard to think that the British characters would use it. Again, only a little thing, but something which spoiled the reading for me. I’m a fussy bugger!
I did see the twist coming – but only a few pages before it happened – and found the ending of the book to be satisfying. The way is left open for further books, and I would be happy to read more in the series. But I do suggest the author, who I believe is American, just checks his “Britishisms” a little more carefully. I say I “believe” he is American as the Author biographt part of my Kindle edition  included no biographical detail, but rather instructions for the publisher – that also needs sorting!
I’m giving this 3.5 stars on my blog, but 4 stars on Net Galley – I’d rather mark it up than down!
PUBLISHING DATE: 07. 01.2020 – so you’ll have to wait to read it!