Shoplifting Woes and My Deepest, Darkest Secret.

Unlike a lot of teenagers, I didn’t go through the ‘shoplifting phase’ that a lot of them go through.  There is a reason for this which I will now share, although it is my absolute deepest and darkest confession and one which I have only ever told a few people in my life.

I can’t quite remember how old I was, but I know I was young – maybe five or six, when I did The Bad Steal.  My family and I were shopping in Derby and I was loaded up with riches in the form of a £5 BHS voucher.  At that age, most children’s grasp on the value of money is fairly unrealistic so I imagine I had a whole shopping basket of goodies planned.

After a look around I found the thing I wanted – a pale pink spotty pencil case which had a big bow on the corner.  It was £4.99.  Perfect.

But then I spotted a matching pale pink spotty fountain pen which was £2.99.  I asked my older brother if my voucher was enough to buy the pencil case and the pen.  He said no and told me that I would have to choose between the two things.

I wanted the pencil case and the pen.  But my voucher wouldn’t cover both of them.  So what do you think a sweet, innocent and very young child did next?   I genuinely shudder when I think of the deviousness of my next move:  I put the pale pink spotty fountain pen inside the pale pink spotty pencil case with a bow on the corner.  And I went to the till with my £5 voucher, heart pounding.  I was almost certain that if I got found out then I would go Straight to Jail so I knew full well that what I was doing was very wrong – but that still didn’t make me back out.

When I got to the till, the lady smiled, cooed at how cute I was and scanned the pencil case.  I handed over my voucher and it was all over.  She didn’t realise that there was a terrible secret stashed inside that pencil case.

Having the pale pink spotty pencil case and the matching fountain pen did not bring me happiness.  Every time I looked at it, I was reminded of what I had done, which I guess was probably the first intentionally Bad Thing I had ever done.  The guilt gnawed away at me for a couple of years, until I rather theatrically buried both the pencil case and the pen into a bonfire that my Dad had built and watched my secret burn away.

So this is why, a decade later, I didn’t go through the shoplifting phase that a lot of my friends went through.  I think the guilt would have killed me. 

I’m telling you this because I think all this is what makes it difficult for me to understand shoplifters.  As a small business owner with a large shop, it is an issue that is almost impossible to battle with.  It makes it harder to cope with all the many other day-to-day issues of running a shop when you have to be on high alert and suspicious of everyone all the time

I always try to understand people’s actions but I do admit that I struggle to comprehend how people’s consciences can allow them to just take whatever they want from whoever they want.  I can just about understand why teenagers do it – testing boundaries/rebelling and all that, but I can’t understand how people can reach adulthood without a moral compass which stops them from stealing.  Of course it would be very naïve to not expect to have issues with shoplifters when you have a shop filled with beautiful things, but the stress of it all is a killer.  Quite simply, I never imagined that the problem would be as bad as it is. 

I’m glad that my crime spree ended before I had lost all my baby teeth, but I do wish that I understood a little better why people can see a shop like ours and decide to steal from us.  I often wonder if they even consider how the consequences of their actions are affecting us, and what it will mean for our business and our lives.

Anyway, despite feeling completely disheartened about everything right now, I’m glad I have confessed my Deepest Darkest Secret to the world! 


Why I’m supporting Jeremy Corbyn – Part 1

OK – I’ll admit it…I once voted Liberal Democrats.  In my defence, I was young and someone told me that the Lib Dems were going to legalise weed if they got into government (this was my first and foremost political concern at the time).  I quickly realised the error of my ways.

I was brought up in a Tory-tastic, Daily Mail reading environment.  I can remember the 1992 election very clearly, and my Dad using the fridge magnets to spell out ‘JM IS PM’ on the dinner table when my mum got home from work.  I couldn’t understand why they were so happy that the grey puppet from Spitting Image was the Prime Minister.  And, as a kid, I once saw Edwina Currie in Belper Safeway carpark getting the trolley lad to load her shopping into her car, which made me think that all Tory MPs were dicks.

Secondary school history lessons were my first introduction to a slightly wider world of politics.  Despite hating my history teacher at school (it was definitely a mutual thing), I always enjoyed learning the subject.  And despite that teacher telling me that I would most likely end up as a drug addicted prostitute (a man who really knew how to inspire his pupils), I managed to scrape together a B grade at GCSE and retain a love for looking into past events and seeing how society had evolved.  I remember so clearly learning about poor houses, debtor’s prisons and huge social divides, and all the while believing completely that these issues were in the past.  My youth and blinkered life gave me a strong faith in humanity and the belief that All the World’s Issues were now sorted because everyone had learnt lessons from The Past.  And of course, only fools would repeat the same mistakes that lead to poor houses, debtor’s prisons and widening social divides, right?

Up until the 2010 election Labour had been in power all my adult life.  And up until my Lib Dem wobble, I have always voted Labour – maybe initially to rebel against my Tory upbringing, or maybe because Tony Blair had a good PR team (‘he parties with Noel Gallagher! He must be cool’).  But during these years I never really felt a connection with any politician – they all seemed a world away from my own reality and, for me politics always seemed like a strange archaic performance.  Surely these posh shouty people aren’t the ones in charge of the country?!  The way I saw it as a young teenager, the way that politicians behaved would have resulted in a month of detention.  My view on this has remained.  I find PMQs and parliamentary debates utterly cringeworthy to watch.  In what other profession is jeering at and openly mocking your peers an acceptable practice?

I hate the fact that it feels so clearly that history is on a repeating loop.  Many of us feel it and can see the social injustices going on right in front of us.  I’m cautious of sounding like a stereotype, but for the last few weeks I have often wondered if we are heading towards some kind of revolution.  As ever more underhand moves are played out, the numbers of the disillusioned hopefuls grow and we are desperately looking to someone who we can believe in.

This post initially set out to explain why I am supporting Jeremy Corbyn, but instead I have explained some of my life experiences and feelings which have lead me to believe in the things I believe in.  I’ll do a Part 2 on this subject, but right now I urge people to register to vote in the Labour leadership election (see link below – you have until 5pm today!).  The £25 issue is beyond shocking and I know this will put a lot of people off, but if you do believe in Jeremy Corbyn then please show your support.  We all need to show our commitment to helping to create a fairer society – all the old ways (Tory, ‘New Labour’, Lib-Con Coalition etc) haven’t worked so please help by being a part of a new approach to the issues which affect us all.

Why Brexit made me cry

I am not ashamed to say that I cried every evening for a week after the EU referendum.  In an attempt to avoid thinking about it for as long as possible, every evening I would prolong my children’s bedtime routine, read them an extra story and hug them for a little longer than usual.  But as soon as I sat down, there ‘it’ was – on the news and across social media and it felt impossible to escape from the confusion and chaos.

As the days rolled on, I found it harder – not easier – to digest.  I felt a weird sickness all the time and the moments I spent not thinking about it were fewer than the hours spent talking and worrying about it.  It got to the point, maybe 3 or 4 days after the result, whereby I was genuinely afraid of what each new day would bring.  Watching the news scared me.  With monumental events occurring so quickly and in such an unprecedented manner, it made it difficult to keep up and take stock of what exactly was going on.   Political analysts struggled to make sense of it all so there was no hope for me.

So, why did I cry every night for a week?  Was it simply because I was a sore loser?  Was it because I don’t like it when I don’t get my own way?  Or was it because I am a ‘lefty liberal’?  (just a few of the common jibes from some of those who voted Leave).  Maybe there is a smidge of truth in the first one, simply because I didn’t believe in a million years that we would have a Leave majority.  And of course, because of my lifestyle and social beliefs, I would be described by some as a ‘lefty liberal’.  But this is far preferable to the alternative term of ‘right-wing loon’.

The reasons I cried (and still cry now) are many.  I cried initially from the shock and the worry of the complete unknown, and then for the immediate spike in racists jumping out of their racist little closets, believing they were suddenly legitimised to spew out all their sick predicable bile at anyone who spoke a different language or had a different skin tone.  I cried for many personal reasons; our dreams of moving abroad in the future seemed suddenly less achievable, and the knowledge that our children wouldn’t be able to rock up in Amsterdam with 50 euros and get a job a few hours later, or pick strawberries in Denmark or have any of the other amazing experiences that I was able to have across Europe with ease.  The breadth of their futures were limited overnight.

As the news did begin to sink in, I also began to realise the potential effect it could have on our business – a business still in its start-up years and a business that would suffer greatly if we were dealt with another recession.  It felt like all our years of hard work could slip away from us because of something completely out of our control.

Overall, the thing that I feel saddest about is the fact that I now truly feel that I have nothing in common with a huge proportion of the British population, and the fact that things just feel different now.  I do believe that a large number of Leave voters did so based on issues surrounding immigration – some deny it, yet some wear it as a badge of pride.  From my exchanges with Leave voters, it seems that they do indeed blame immigrants for everything from housing issues, GP waiting times and school places.  But instead of directing their anger at the real people responsible – the government, they read their inflammatory News Corp headlines and tell Polish families to ‘go home’.  Instead of the culturally diverse and accepting society that we currently have, these people want the complete opposite. 

For me, the shock and grief has finally given way to a more productive anger.  Although my initial feelings were that I just wanted to run away and live in a forest, right now reality prevents this so we’ve got to battle on.  And besides, I never like to give up on things.  Admittedly I have limited my social media and news intake over the last week which has helped me to focus more on my business and worry slightly less about things that I really can’t control.  The more I know, then the angrier I feel about it all so I needed to take a step back.

Amidst all the chaos, a great many of us looked for a leader that we could believe in – something to cling on to when it felt like everything that was happening was just a frat boy game to many of our politicians.  I can’t even bring myself to write a blog about how angry I am at Cameron (a man who put his penis in a dead pig’s mouth – please never forget this), Osborne, Farage, Johnson and many others, so instead my next blog will be about the person whom I have chosen to put my faith in – the first politician I have ever truly believed in.  During these past couple of weeks, this politician has given me the only glimmer of hope and sanity in this sea of madness so I will be happy to explain my reasons for why I will be standing firm for Jeremy Corbyn.