Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009 ends with a flourish

Hoteliers may have complained that Christmas was quieter for them than usual but every single B&B has "No Vacancies" signs up tonight and we've been really busy in the shop today. I think, in general, money off sales tend to go on for too long and are now so often that they devalue what stores do for the rest of the year. Therefore, my bold move is to have only one sale a year which starts on Boxing Day and ends tomorrow at 4 pm. After that, our Spring stock will come out and we can look forward to lighter nights and clement weather. There you go, ever the optimist, always looking forward. Happy New Year to everyone.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Floods, snow and now power failure!

It's busy again in Bowness - lots of people up for New Year's Eve - but fate is once again showing its fickle hand as the power has just gone off in half the village. Our store is actually two shops joined together and, whilst the power is still on in the largest shop (where, thankfully, the till is located), the small shop is in darkness. It's ok, if anyone wants to buy food, a card, a throw or some mugs, we'll hand them a torch! The floods and the snow didn't stop us and we won't be beaten now.....

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Best of Both Worlds

Back to reality after Christmas: people are braving the cold weather and seem to be coming to the Lakes in droves for the New Year. There's a lovely atmosphere in Bowness today as everyone is full of festive cheer and yesterday we were in Manchester, which was also full of people spending lots at the sales. We were there for the Miley Cyrus concert on the 27th (one of Connie's Christmas presents). If you're not familiar with her music, she's a worldwide superstar, having starred in Disney's Hannah Montana series for the past three years. Miley is only seventeen and is worshipped by millions of 5 to 14 year olds, many of whom who in Manchester in Sunday night. She put on a really good show and we were all hoarse yesterday from singing along (yes, sadly, even Sean and I know the words to all her songs).

Thursday, 24 December 2009

More Dougally Doings

Father Christmas delivered some of our presents early last night and, obviously, we're all on special Dougal watch as none of said presents will bear chewing. However, to our surprise, our barmy pup is not intent on destroying the parcels: his more benign mission in life is to sit on them. Already this morning he has been hauled off his present nest three times. He has been banished outside and the tree is now surrounded by barbed wire: well, not quite, but it doesn't look very festive as anti-Dougal devices include Connie's guitar (in its case), the chewed Next catalogues (see previous blog) and, in fact, anything that came to hand that will do the trick. Will the presents make it through to Christmas Day? Have a Merry Christmas everyone: I'm escaping to the shop for a bit of peace.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Why, oh why, oh why?

Jules "Disgruntled of Kendal" wants to know why, even though the snow stopped over 24 hours ago, there is no sign of any ploughs or gritters in Kendal, making a journey anywhere on foot or by car extremely difficult. Here is Bowness the roads are clear but the pavements and main car park are still covered with snow and, now the sun is starting to set, we're wondering if we're going to be skating home rather than driving. Anyway, musn't grumble as it sounds like the rest of the country is in the same boat. The owners of the restaurant next door have gone away for Christmas so, when the alarm went off about an hour ago, Jules nipped round with our key to turn it off.  As she reached for the keypad a green vision floated down the stairs......Jules screamed and I thought that she'd been attacked. It turns out that one of the owners' friends was staying there for a few days and was in the middle of applying a face pack (!) when she inadvertently triggered the alarm.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Winter Wonderland?

There was plenty of snow around yesterday and we had the most magical afternoon in Hawkshead where it was a lovely Christmas scene which really got our family into the Christmas spirit. Given that the snow was well predicted and there was snow yesterday, how did we manage to end up with such chaos on out roads again today?

The A592 at fell Foot

When I reached Greenodd on the way to Bowness this morning, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and turned back as the main road was so bad I had to go and get help (Sean in his Jeep!). The traffic was at a crawl all the way to Newby Bridge in heavy snow and it didn't look as if a gritter or a snow plough had been anywhere near the place. It was the same along the A592, snow and slithering cars all the way. One day the powers that be will get their act together and work out a way to manage days like this, after all it only happens every winter!


ps the stunning scenes at Bowness made up for all the drama, it looks lovely in the sun and snow - see the photos at

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Lovely customers

A popular seller this year has been our Love the Lakes gift boxes which you can fill with gifts of your own selection from the shop which we then finish off with a big bow and a flourish. Today we had a lady in who browsed for a good half hour before bringing an empty box over to the counter. After enquiring whether she would like to put some items in it, she replied 'Oh, I thought you did that'! Certainly madam, that will be £250 please...

The best moment so far today though is the internet order which we had to query. When I rang the telephone number supplied, a lady replied so I asked for Arthur, the gentleman's name who had placed the order (name changed to protect the innocent!). 'Certainly you can speak to him', she replied, 'but he's our dog'!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Dougally Doings

Sean and Casper sneaked off before the crack of dawn this morning and, as soon as they'd departed, there came a "Woof" from the utility room, aka Dougal's cell. As I didn't want the rest of the household to wake up before the crack of dawn, I trudged downstairs to release dog no. 2 into the relative freedom of the living room. Obligatory greetings of the usual nature (ie. I haven't seen you in weeks, where have you been, how could you leave me) over with, I nipped back upstairs to get my computer and some paperwork that needed filing. A mere 2 minutes later I came back to find the Next catalogue chewed on all 4 corners and cast asunder on the rug, the wastepaper bin upended and the contents scattered around the room, including on the couch and dog no. 2 busily gnawing on the wooden frame of the patio door. Good Morning Dougal.
On the plus side, when I took him for a walk through our local wood I saw deer and rabbits galore as, for all his numerous faults, Dougal doesn't bark when he's outside (unlike Casper). I've left him on the patio in the dubious charge of James, our son. I'm glad I'm not going to be home first!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Fame at last!

BBC Radio Cumbria have been in touch with me. They've seen our blog and want me to write a diary over 5 days which I then record at our local studio and it will be played early in the New Year. The feature goes out at 5.45 pm. each evening. I was hoping to cover the next 5 days as the run up to Christmas should be pretty interesting but they've said, as it's going out in January, it's best not to mention Christmas....mmmm, could be tricky!


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Oh no, we're doomed: Dougal's chewing habit is in the blood!

The owners of Dougal's Dad have just been in the shop, having tracked us down through Bertie, proud father of two litters so far, sounds delightful: a lovely, bouncy Beardie. However, he chewed everything in sight as a puppy and has never stopped, so much so that he is NEVER left in the house alone and the utility room in which he sleeps resembles the cell of a condemned prisoner. He has even chewed the skirting board in his beardie cell, so much so that very little remains. Great......does anyone want a nearly new beardie pup for Christmas? Only joking, I think.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Grand Day Out in Bowness

My apologies for not blogging for the past few days - we have been very, very busy not only in the shop but also with internet orders. Excellent. Today, there's a buzz in the air in Bowness as no less than Kevin McCloud and the Grand Designs team are mooching about. There's a house on the Crook Road which has been under screens for some time and, rumour has it, is featuring in the next series. Jules is going to leap out of the shop if she spies Kevin to ask him how far the project is overbudget, which of the inevitable hapless couple is assuming the role (usually inadequately) of project manager and will they manage to pull out all the stops to get the project done in time....
We don't get many famous people popping up in Bowness: our only regular celebrity visitor is Victoria Wood, who is a patron of the Old Laundry Theatre. She has been in the shop a few times but always looks like she doesn't want to be recognised so we always pretend we don't...hope she's not offended!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Night of the dogs in Bowness

Thanks to everyone who visited us last night at the shop. I think we had as many dog visitors as we did humans and when the young Dougal got together with some of his Bearded Collie chums it all got a bit excitable for a tranquil Thursday evening in Bowness. The highest drama of the evening was just after 5 pm. when Dougal, in Connie's charge at that point, managed to get his paw stuck in a bench at the end of the street. At the noise of Dougal squealing and Connie sobbing we rushed to her aid along with two bystanders: Dougal was released unhurt (daft pup) and Connie was consoled with a bag of chips from Vinegar Jones. Peace reigned until doggie arrivals were energetically and enthusiastically greeted by Dougal whilst Casper looked on with dogged patience. Christmas cake and Damson gin was consumed and a good time was had by all!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's beautiful in Bowness

Drop whatever you're doing and get to Bowness right now! The weather is absolutely lovely today: the early mist has now cleared and we have a brilliant blue sky and, most importantly, no wind, so Windermere is like a mirror. It's late night shopping here tonight and we're already much busier than the same day last year. I've been talking with some of our neighbours about forming an Ash Street traders' committee to see what we can do to up our profile in the village....suggestions on a postcard please!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Dry weather is on the way

On the way to work this morning the Radio 5 weatherman reported that after 50 days of rain, dry weather is on the way. As the weather can make a massive difference to our sales each day, I keep a daily weather record and, after checking our statistics, I can confirm that in the past 50 days we have had only 9 when it hasn't rained versus over 30 in the same period last year. No wonder Jules and I are going a bit stir crazy, prone to fits of giggles for no apparent reason - it must be our soggy brains. In the shop we frequently hear the same statements over and over and yesterday the giggles came when a lady announced that the jewellery was "too pretty" for her friend. Did that mean that her friend was too ugly for our jewellery? We sincerely hope not but this oft used phrase inevitably sends us into the office to regain control before we face the customers again.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Does anyone know where Pillar is?

Well, yes, of course everyone knows where Pillar is - except Jules and I. Jules has an excuse as she's an offcomer from Derbyshire, but the lady who was buying one of Sean's cards today looked at me in disbelief and some amusement until I eventually dragged from the recesses of my mind "Somewhere near Great Gable....I think". OK, here's the (not very well kept) secret, it's Sean who is the expert on all things to do with the Lake District, not me. In my far distant past my Dad was a Lake District Warden and I was dragged up every flipping mountain in the Lakes before I was 7! It put me off walking for a fair few years and now my ignorance is bliss....happy to bask in Sean's reflected glory until I get caught out by a customer. Excuse me while I do my daily study of an ordnance survey map.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Late Night Shopping

Last night was the first of 2 late night shopping events in Bowness. Although it was quiet for an hour or so around teatime, overall it was a success for us. I think it helped that Costa Coffee is now staying open until 9 pm every evening as not everyone is keen to go to pubs for refeshment, particularly when they have children with them. The next late night event is next Thursday, the 10th, and our family is planning on being here for the evening. So, if you'd like to come along and chat with Sean, Connie and me, plus Casper and Dougal of course, you're very welcome. We'll also be doing damson gin and christmas cake tasting - an added bonus!
The guy who owns Wilf's cafe at Staveley has just been in and reported that there was no flooding at Staveley yard. He, like I guess every business in the Lakes which relies on visitors, is very frustrated by the negative image many people from outside Cumbria seem to have of the situation here. It was reported in our local paper last night that Windermere Tourist Info Centre has been receiving calls from people asking if food supplies are getting through ok - for goodness sake!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Oh, what a beautiful morning

Wow, its lovely today. A combination of mists and sunshine as I came past the lake and very, very still. A bit warmer than yesterday and, already, there are people out enjoying the weather. On my way to work I took a detour to the bridge by the Whitewater Hotel at Backbarrow to see if there is any reconstruction work going on but, unfortunately not, although the walls on either side of the bridge have been taken down as if ready for rebuilding. The lake is now back down to near normal (for this time of year) level.
Dougal has just learned how to jump in and out of the car and I had to laugh this morning as, when he jumped out, he leapt like a spring lamb OVER MY HEAD and landed perfectly on the drive behind me......

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

All's quiet on the western front

It's extremely cold here today, probably not helped by the snow leaden clouds: we're due a heavy snowfall tonight. It's also very quiet here today, possibly because the forecasted snow may have put off some daytrippers. Apparently, someone with a TV camera has just taken some footage of the front of our shop but, as he didn't call in, I have no idea what for. That's about as exciting as its going to get today I think. The Christmas lights down our pedestrianised street are a tad boring (white and a quarter of them blown already) so a few of us have been discussing how we can do something ourselves next year to make the street more christmassy: the consensus so far is for small lit trees angled out from the walls at 1st floor level. Someone suggested a snow machine but I think the Health and Safety Executive might have something to say about that!