Sunday, 31 January 2010

Death on A592

Just where the worst potholes are on the A592 (near Hill of Oaks caravan park) there was a two car collision yesterday. A 42 year old woman was killed and two travellers in the other car were seriously injured. The reasons for the crash have not yet been established but, as the state of this road is now truly appalling, it would not surprise me if one or other of the cars had been taking evasive action around the potholes.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Mel's last day

Our Saturday/Sunday shop stalwart, Mel, is leaving today, boo hoo. She's gone and got herself a "proper" job teaching in Keswick. Since she joined us last April she's proved to be invaluable not just at weekends but any time we need an extra pair of hands and, not content in running the shop, she's also developed her own line of jewellery (guided by our master jewellery maker, Jules). Mel's Sparkly Swarovski Bracelets ("handmade with love in the English Lake District" of course) are really popular, particularly with young girls. We've never put them on but, in her honour, I'm going go get them on the site in all their glory next week. Mel was due to work tomorrow but the lure of a wedding fair at the Low Wood hotel beckons as she and Mike are getting married. We're gonna miss that girl.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Bye, Bye, January - thank goodness!

I've just met a fellow retailer who has had her very nice shop here in Bowness for the past 20 years. We discussed how quiet it has been in January and she admitted that it has been the quietest month she's had since she started in business. We've had 30% ,yes 30%, less customers than we had in January 2009 but our average spend per customer has been way up on last year so for that I am extremely grateful. Now Jules has painted every shelf in the shop (well, 4 to go and 2 sets of tables but let's not split hairs) we're ready for action and today has been our busiest weekday of the month, hurrah. New stock is starting to trickle in and it gives us a real buzz when it starts to sell. Today we got a delivery of lovely, quirky handmade cards designed by a guy who lives near Hawkshead - we think they're great and they're already flying out. Bring on the half term holidays!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Radio Cumbria Thursday

Listen to Louise blog on Radio Cumbria (@39 minutes)

If only it were true

Last year there was an investigation of Windermere to hunt for our very own monster named, imaginatively, "Bownessie". The search will be featured on the current series "The Lakes" on March 1st, but apparently there were enough grounds to conduct the search again this year.....mmmm.....I'm tempted to teach Casper and Dougal to swim underwater, tied together of course, as we could really do with a decent monster sighting and what better than a two headed, hairy beast from the deep.
I met up with one of our suppliers today for coffee and cake. She and her partner live in quite a remote part of Cumbria and she makes the most fabulous soaps and bath salts (Fanny and Claude on Her parting anecdote was about the time she was at Lowther Show and, desperate to get to the loo, she gently elbowed her way past a little old lady in her way, only to discover that it was the Queen! I was hoping to also meet up with one of my other suppliers, Karen, who makes stunning jewellery, but she couldn't make it. I've sold 2 pieces of her jewellery this week over the phone to customers who bought other colours in the summer so I really need to get her on as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Radio Cumbria Wednesday

Listen to Louise blog on Radio Cumbria at 45 minutes on this link.

Sleepy Bowness starts to come to life

Our neighbours from the Two Egg Cups cafe have just come back from Marbella so now, for the first time this year, everyone is open for business on Ash Street. A shop just just down from us which has been closed since October has a new owner who is refitting it ready for the half term holiday and Anne Wilson, a ladies clothes shop which has been on the market for some time, is holding a closing down sale as it has just been bought. The "mutter in the gutter" (I love that expression from Paul from the chippy) is that it's going to be another, more modern, clothes shop, but all sorts of rumours abound and the current owner is keeping schtum.  

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire?

John Lennon might have thought that was a lot of holes but I can report that there are at least as many on the A592 from Bowness to Newby Bridge. The journey to and from Love the Lakes now involves evasive action in many places and it has now become a bit of a game I have with myself to see if I can remember at night where to swerve to avoid the potholes. There is one hole by Hill of Oaks caravan park that is so deep that there is now an ever increasing pile of hubcaps littering the side of the road in it's vicinity. If the holes aren't filled in the next few weeks, I can see an awful lot of claims being made by irate motorists over the half term holiday or, even worse, the holes might become so big that cars are swallowed whole and we might be wondering 6 months later what happened to our tourist season!

Monday, 25 January 2010

My big moment!

Well I've finally recorded my 5 day diary and the first instalment will be broadcast on Radio Cumbria at 5.45 this evening. The programme is called "Little Cumbria" and I think there are several contributors each evening who have each recorded their diary for a week. It was a bit bizarre recording my bit in an empty studio with the tape running and I hope it sounds ok. Anyway, the 15 minutes of fame (or rather a couple of minutes) is not limited to me in our household as Sean is doing the same thing this week and his diary will be aired the week commencing the 1st of February. I wonder if Casper and Dougal allowed a supporting role....

Friday, 22 January 2010

Internet sales

Many independent retailers fear the rise of internet shopping. We set up our site,, not long after we opened the shop nearly 2 years ago. Specialising in locally sourced gifts, we knew we could offer something a bit different and after a lot of hard work, we got it to the top of the list when you google “lake district gifts”. Having worked in the gift industry for over 25 years, I was fed up of the influx of products made in China and I’m now really proud that we can support local, quality businesses both in our shop and on the site. Today, in deepest, darkest January, a dead month for retail in the Lakes, I’m sending out the most internet orders I’ve received in one day since we launched the site……Love the Lakes loves the internet.
P.S. Have sorted out a new electricity contract with, guess who, British Gas. That was a waste of approx. 6 hours of my life!


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Parents, who'd have 'em?

If I had a pound for each parent who issues the warning "look with your eyes, not your hands" to their children as they walk into our shop, I could retire right now. People with children divide into 3 separate camps: those who strictly supervise, those who leave one partner outside with the children and those who let their children run riot with or without intermittent warnings of dire consequences if anything is broken. Our first customer today came in with two gorgeous little girls, issued the classic warning (one more pound for me, kerching!) and then proceeded to take a phone call which lasted over 20 minutes as she wandered round the shop. I know it lasted 20 minutes because that's how long I sat on our windowsill and chatted to Grace and Gemma, age 4 and 6, living locally and loving our loveheart cushions......anything to stop them running riot!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Let the new season commence

January is a unique month in the Lake District calendar for shops like ours in that most weekdays we can count the number of customers we see during the day on our fingers, thumbs and, if we're lucky, toes. This January has, so far, been particularly grim as the weather has conspired against us - after floods, snow and ice we expect the plague of locusts to arrive in May. However this week, along with the slow thaw, has come a trickle of visitors to Bowness and today the trickle has been almost nonstop all day. The other fact of note is that, for the first 3 weeks of the year, the vast majority of purchases are made by credit card whilst this week the split between cards and cash is almost 50/50. What does this mean - have people received their January paycheck or are their cards up to their limit? See what happens when we have time to navel gaze...all these questions and more...perhaps we'll start a survey.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Buried in paperwork shredded by Dougal

I've had a paperwork day today, only lightened by dog number 2's insistence on getting his head stuck in the wastepaper bin not once, not twice, but three times in his quest to shred all paper in the house. The third time he got his head stuck, he tried to sneak out of the office without my noticing and only succeeded in banging his head (in the basket) on the door jamb much to my amusement and his mortification...daft pup. 3 hours of my time has been spent trying to find an electricity provider for the shop as my current supplier (who shall remain nameless....oh, go on then, British Gas) has promised to fix my prices for 2 years at nearly double the rate I currently pay. I went through this rigmarole last year and remembered to keep all the details I need to hand as we have 2 meters, 2 different tariffs and a plethora of reference numbers to quote. 3 hours later and I've still not sorted it... a glass of wine beckons.

Monday, 18 January 2010

London's calling

We've been to London for the weekend to catch a show and go to a trade fair. The show (Hairspray) was great and Sean sat next to Niall Quinn (Chairman of Sunderland FC) who, despite his team being thrashed
7-2 by Chelsea, seemed to enjoy himself. Today, in contrast, I walked Casper and Dougal (who you'd think we'd left in kennels for a month rather than 3 days) at Millerground and, as I gazed across the misty Windermere searching for remnants of snow still clinging to higher ground, I couldn't help but contrast frenetic London with our little piece of paradise. London came out poorly! As we've been basking in heady temperatures approaching double figures, the shop has been relatively busy today. Please let us have seen the last of the snow for a little while.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Snow Grabbers

After slipping and sliding around on the ungritted paths around here for the last week or two, I decided it was time I got some of those low level crampon type things that slip over everyday shoes or boots. Believe me, the low level paths are much worse than those on the high fells but I don't think it would go down so well walking around Bowness with full blown crampons and B grade boots on!

I had to hunt around a few shops in Ambleside as they all seemed to have sold out and they had no chance of getting new stocks soon. I eventually got the last pair of anything in the shop and seemingly the last in Ambleside - they were ArtiMate Snow Grabbers which are of rubber construction and really easy to slip on and off with no faffing around. I can confirm they are absolutely brilliant after my first time wearing them and dog walking will never be the same again with those babies on; they are suitable for anywhere that is icy, which seems to be the whole UK at the moment.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Is a thaw coming our way?

I never thought I'd say it but thank goodness it's raining today. In the space of a few hours the roads and some of the pavements in Bowness have cleared of ice and snow and folk are able to stride out rather than shuffle along like penguins with their arms out for balance. We're painting the shelves in the shop today (once again, this is the royal "we" as Jules is doing a sterling job and I'd hate to take the paint roller off her) and all around the village there is evidence of spring cleaning/sprucing up going on. There was even a queue in the local DIY store when I went up there for white spirit earlier. Top seller today is definitely "Spring Clean" Reed Diffuser.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Mystery solved

OK, I now realise that our mystery celeb was not Dawn Steele but Natalie Robb - an easy mistake to make (dark hair, Scottish). She wasn't actually in Wild at Heart - blame Mel for that one. You can tell we have time on our hands at the moment: googling of potential celebs, random mopping of floors etc. We've also moved all the stock to new locations in the main shop (that's the royal "we" as actually Jules has done it all) and next week we'll be repainting all the shelves and emulsioning some of the walls. Sean had more exciting plans for today: a foray up to the Old Man with Casper was in the offing. A pile of extreme weather gear, ice pick and flasks of coffee were all loaded into the Jeep first thing and off they went leaving number 2 dog whining and pining and generally looking for mischief (a large terracotta patio pot bit the dust today). However, an hour later they returned, beaten back by the snow and doomed to a day of domestic chores (Sean, not Casper). Ah well, tomorrow's another day and methinks it will take more than a bit of snow to stop Sean and Casper venturing out again.....especially as I've got another list of jobs waiting to be done.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Take your shoes off before you enter!

With the majority of the pavements finally gritted, our incredibly neat and tidy team are now hot under the collar about the white salt trails left by customers walking round the shop. The floors of the two shops are now being mopped twice a day: Mel has suggested that we cordon off the small shop and ask customers to point to which items they want to buy but I think we should ask customers to remove their shoes when they come in. I don't think they'd mind: its only 5 below 0 oustide and I'm sure they'd welcome walking round on the cold slate floor in their socks! Anyway, my suggestion is now probably academic as we've had a further dumping of snow today, along with most of the UK.

Monday, 4 January 2010

A celebrity in the shop...we think

A celebrity has been in the shop and has bought a hamper full of local goodies. At least we think she's a celebrity. Mel says she was in Emmerdale for a while (I can't comment as I don't watch it). Mel says she was also in Wild at Heart (again, I can't comment) and she's also positive that she appeared in Monarch in the Glen for a while (see previous comment, ie. no comment). Obviously we won't be able to confirm exactly who she is until she appears in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here or Celebrity Big Brother, but we're sure she's famous!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

South Lakeland Council's answer to the icy problem

Since well before Christmas we've endured incredibly icy conditions underfoot, in fact you take your life in your hands walking down any pavement in Bowness and the state of the main car park on Rayrigg Road is beyond belief. Of course we're not alone and, inevitably, there has been an outcry in the Westmorland Gazette and I'm pleased to report a dramatic response by South Lakeland Council. Yes, last night, under the cover of darkness, a man in a SLDC luminous jacket was seen scattering grit from his bucket along the main pavement in Bowness. I think he only had the one bucket full but we shall be eagerly awaiting his return, hopefully tonight. The business owners and residents of Bowness will be eternally grateful to this solitary hero.....