Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Buy as many as you like and get the lot free!

They don't call me @AusterityDad on Twitter for nothing you know.

Long term readers and book fans will be well aware of my many hours rummaging around in the supermarkets seeking out bargains and some times spotting mistakes on offers and taking advantage. These haven't always been successful. That row over the wrongly priced "Now 83" in Tesco still rankles with me but I'll let it go.

I've always dreamed of finding the perfect offer and today it arrived! I went in to Sainsbury's, mooched on down to the deli counter to see if there were any good reductions but no joy. So I headed on round to the cooked meats aisle (my second favourite after the crisp aisle) to see what offers were available and my eyes were drawn to a shelf edge ticker that read "Buy 1 get 2 cheapest free" on some of Sainsbury's Taste The Difference packs of ham and pastrami.

Now I don't normally buy these - because at £3 a go for a few flimsy slices they are very overpriced. But my interpretation of this offer was that I'd be getting 3 packs for the price of 1 so I popped some in the basket and headed towards the tills.

I was a bit wary of this offer because it seemed too good to be true and there have been many occasions in the past when I have gone into Tesco and others and seen such an offer but when I've put it through the till it hasn't come up leading to wasting time at customer services trying to get it sorted out. So I asked the lady at the self-serve checkout if we could check it. I wish I hadn't now, because when we put them through they came up as £0.00 to pay. The offer had given me the lot - scot free.

Cheap at double the price! Which would still be zero!

Unfortunately the supervisor was now aware of this - and although she let me have them - she couldn't really do otherwise, she then called her boss to try and get it sorted out. Which to me meant they would be removing them from the shelves. So I pretended to leave the store but doubled back, got another basket and headed back to the aisle to stock up with some more as I knew this couldn't last.

I got a few other bits of shopping too as I knew I could not go back to the self-service checkout and I didn't want to arouse undue suspicion so headed for the main checkouts where I had the misfortune to get stuck behind a woman doing a £174 shop who spent 5 minutes trying to find all her vouchers and nectar card. The pensioner in the queue behind me started moaning to me about it. For once I had to agree. Normally this wouldn't bother me, but I was running against the clock here and I could see the supervisor from earlier not far away and I didn't want her to clock me. I put my hoodie up and looked the other way.

Anyway, all went through smoothly with my other bits of shopping masking the low overall price though the cashier still commented on it. I had got away with 12 packets in total for free - 6 ham, 6 pastrami.. I declined to use my nectar card and paid cash so as not to leave a trail. As I walked out of the store I felt like a criminal and that I was going to be collared at any moment for shoplifting or fraud - but I knew this was a foolish way to be thinking. I had done nothing wrong, I had all my receipts, and now I was off home for a masssive sandwich! Cheers, Mr Sainsbury!

My only regret is that it didn't happen in Tesco as I would have got immensely more satisfaction out of that. I also wish this had happened a year ago as it would have made a great anecdote for my book Austerity Dad which has a new cover by the way. Check it out here:


Monday, 21 April 2014

Saying Goodbye

One of the hardest things about a holiday coming to an end is the having to say goodbye to all the new friends made. I have had many holidays and met all sorts of people on them - and in some cases when I was younger those who became more than friends.

At the end of two weeks, it's quite a wrench having to bid goodbye to people we feel as if we've known forever. Yes, a cynic may say, it's an unrealistic way of making friends - throw some people together for 2 weeks with no work, lots of fun things going on, sun, booze, and everything that makes holidays great and yes they are bound to seem like the happiest most amazing people ever.

I sort of worked all this out some years ago so try to make the most of these friendships while I have them. I don't tend to exchange contact details any more with people except for one or two notable exceptions and it's probably the same reason why many holiday romances don't work out. What may have seemed like the love affair of a lifetime under palm trees and blue skies sipping a tequila sunrise tends to lose it's edge back in the grim reality of old blighty when one of you is laying bricks in the pouring rain in Sunderland and the other one's scanning barcodes in Tesco's in Merthyr Tydfill.

Unfortunately Ollie doesn't know all this yet and has become very upset in the last day or so. He has had another crush - this time on one of the entertainers here at the hotel, Adi, who is some 20 years his senior. Ollie can get very attached to people, it is part of his autism and Adi has been so good with him, he's become besotted with her.

Adi and Zolo are the two main entertainers here and they are brilliant at their jobs. I initially had reservations when I got here to discover Thomas Cook had been kicked out in favour of a cheaper option but the Sunny Animation team soon disspelled my misgivings. Zolo is amazing fun - I guess he is around late 20s, speaks every language under the sun and has a very distinctive look - with his long hair he could have stepped straight out of a 70s formula one team. I have gotten on really well with him and Adi too - she is a very fit and friendly young lady you can't help but like and so good with the kids.

Ollie's grown very attached to Adi but as the time for us to leave approaches he's become heartbroken at the thought he'll never see her again. She is very fond of him too and it all very sad but such is the nature of holidays as I said at the top of this entry. These entertainers have a constant train of people coming in and out, friendships are quickly formed and short-lived and it must be sad for them at times too,

What can I say to Ollie? I've done my best but I know only too well the gut-wrenching pain of being torn away from someone special when young - my own first love when I was 16 in France whom I've never really talked about before but even now thinking about her I can feel that pain still buried inside. Despite how I may come across in my writing I was (and still am to a great extent) an incredibly sensitive soul back then and losing that girl for no other reason than we lived in different countries felt like the end of the world at the time.

Ollie is only 6 yet I can see in him all the teenage angst and pain I had, come 10 years earlier and seemingly every bit as intense as mine. There's  nothing I can do to help him through this situation other than be there for him and give him all the love that I can because truly I do understand. Already he has spent a lot of time crying in my arms and there will be more to come before we bid Adi farewell, but at least he does have me and he always will. I think there will be many more such occasions in the years to come.

I too shall be sad to go, but I always try to take the view that we have been fortunate to have been here at all.

Jason x

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hell hath no fury... a Jason riled.

It's not often I blow my top at someone, but when I do they know about it. In fact blowing my top is an apt phrase as anyone nearby will be in about as much trouble as the residents of Pompeii were in AD79.

I did not blow my top today but very nearly could have done. Not so much because of what happened but because of the way another parent chose to deal with an ïncident".

I've been coming to Corralejo on and off for 19 years and don't think I've ever had a cross word with anyone until today. Nearly everyone I've met in this hotel, the Oasis Dunas, has been lovely. This is our second visit and we have made many friends.

Today however we had an incident. Now the boys have been very well behaved on this holiday and I have been so pleased with them. Lst night we went out to a very nice restaurant that seats only 24 people and is the #1 rated of several hundred in Fuerteventura on trip advisor. Round the pool they have also been good. At the start of the holiday I bought them both some cheap water guns that cost 2.50 euros each and they have been really careful with them. They haven't fired them in people's faces, or out of the pool at people's sunbeds and they have taken care of these things as they can break fairly easily. NB: Don't get the ones from Poundland in England. They last about 5 minutes.

So 10 days later these guns were still going strong and Ollie had looked after his and made a special effort not to break it. Then this happened. He went back to the room for a wee - we are right next to the pool which is great so he can go on his own as he is in sight at all times - plus Claire was in the apartment anyway. He left his gun by the side of the pool and returned less than 5 minutes later, looked for the gun, but it was nowhere in sight.

We then noticed a couple of teenage boys wrestling with an identical gun in the middle of the pool, fighting over it and pulling it from both ends. I called out reasonably politely "Is that yours?" One shouted back something along the lines of "that girl said we could play with it", pointing vaguely in the direction of some non-existent girl. They then threw it to Ollie, in mid-air it spitting in to two pieces because they had clearly broken it. Ollie instantly burst into tears. I reprimaded them saying "You've broken it!"

Ollie was heartbroken and came straight over to me in floods of tears while these boys (aged about 14) went over to their mum. Next thing I know she's steaming over to me like some fish wife accusing me of telling off her sons. She backed up their story that a little girl had given it to them and also came out with the classic "My boys would never lie to me".

I was all ready to let rip but held back. Why? Two reasons. One was I had Ollie sobbing in my arms and Jamie stood right next to me and I didn't particularly want to them to see me lose my rag. Secondly I could not be 100% sure at that point as I had not actually seen them pick up the gun and I would have looked bloody stupid if I'd had a go and then someone had said "Hang on is this yours" and produced an identical gun from underneath a nearby sunbed. So I bit my tongue to some extent and made some sarcastic remarks along the lines of "well obviously it's just a coincidence that my son's gun vanished and the only other one like it in this pool got broken exactly five minutes later". At which point she stomped off. She then called her boys out of the pool, they took their things and then left sheepishly. She knew she was in the wrong, I know but wouldn't admit it. Their skulking off elsewhere to get away from me was proof enough.

A subsequent search around revealed no sign of the missing gun so I am 100% sure it was ours.

I'm annoyed for 2 reasons. Nothing to do with the cost of the gun but a) Because Ollie was upset and b) A pet hate of mine is parents who can never see when their children are in the wrong. Yes of course we stick up for our children and defend them but to blindly believe they are little angels who never lie and never do wrong is just stupid and the parents who do it are the ones who are raising the problem children.

What would I have done in identical circumstances? Well firstly, Ollie would have owned up - he has been taught that way. And even if he hadn't I would not be so blind as to not see what had happened. I would have marched him round to the nearest shop, bought a replacement and gotten him to take it over to the other child and give it to them with an apology.

Sadly this is not the way everyone does things it seems, so my rosy coloured view of the world where everyone is honest and does the right thing is just a little tainted today.

No matter, what is done is done, he's over it now and we are off out for another lovely meal and then we are meeting some friends we have met at the hotel - big karaoke fans including another host with seven years experience for beers and drinks up at Flintstones with our old friend, the karaoke legend that is Big Al.


Thursday, 17 April 2014


I'm midway through a two week holiday in Fuerteventura. I haven't blogged up until now as we came to the same place last year and I covered it extensively then. Plus the fact that it's absolutely full on with the kids now so there simply isn't the time.

Any of you finding this will be aware I'm away from facebook too. In fact I deactivated about a week before I came out here. I have to be honest, I'm not missing it at all.The novelty has well and truly worn off for me. Everything has its day. Still on Twitter though!

I brought the laptop out in the hope I might get some time to work on my novel but with the kids it is all go from first thing in the morning until we get back to the room at night - normally about 11pm. I did manage a couple of thousand words one night when everyone went to bed early but that was about it. I'm really happy with what I've produced so far though and happy to give a few more details. It is a sci-fi novel (I can hear the groans already) but not a hardcore one. It's very much set in the real world with plenty of humorous dialogue. Anyone who remembers those plays I used to write eons ago will know the sort of thing.

I'm probably aiming at a teen/ young adult audience as my principle characters are a bunch of A-level students - but there's no reason why older audiences shouldn't enjoy it too - in the way that people my age can enjoy the In-betweeners - the teenagers are of that age group. There's also a touch of romance in there -  nothing sickly though - this isn't Mills and Boon, and a possible murder mystery over a missing girl - can't say any more as I'll be giving the plot away - then of course there is the sci-fi element - fairly low key though so as not to alienate the casual reader!

Writing this book has to take priority for the next few months so I am afraid blog entries are going to be a bit on the thin side, but I shall try and check in as often as I can. I managed to find half an hour this morning as Ollie went to the kids club and Claire and Jamie went to the Hiper-Dino which is the Fuerteventura version of Sainsbury's. Food is very plentiful and cheap out here - helped by a favourable exchange rate so I am sure you will hear I am eating well! I can get a decent packet of Serrano Ham for 1 Euro here or a massive fillet steak in a restaurant for a tenner - I'm talking something like 16oz! And infinitely tastier than any bland Tesco offering. Though I'm not gaining weight - I'm playing sports every day - you should see me at the water polo, you wouldn't recognise me. I'm teaching Jamie and Ollie to swim too and they are doing well. And I'm easily clocking up my 10,000 steps goal every day too, so all is good! Good health, good tan, good food, good fun. I am setting myself up nicely for the summer. Back home in Bicester I shall be out and about in the daytime - if I'm still not on facebook and you see me in the street, come up and say hello and have a chat. I think it's time we gave life back a bit of its personal touch.

Adios, amigos.

Jason xx