God and ASDA

Stories and thoughts: past, present and future

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Then or Now?

I’ve often written what it was like when I was a child in the 1940s, growing up in post-war Britain, and a thought came to me this morning – was it really “the good old days”? Did we really have the fun we seem to remember whilst at school or playing our innocent games.

Innocence it certainly was, and for that I’m grateful that I grew up in those times. We didn’t have any of the pressures youngsters have these days, either in society in general or amongst our own peers. We really were innocent. I think that’s a point for the “Then” team!

Our teachers were respected for the most part, certainly in the early years of our education. We looked up to them, in more ways than height. We respected their seniority. Nowadays young people do not hesitate to call me by my given name, even though I am over half a century older than many of them. But would I like it if they addressed me as “Mrs.”: I think not – so that’s a point in favour of “Now”.

Getting away from relationships, we have the question of technology. When I first started work in 1958, I was using an Imperial typewriter, just like the one in the picture.

As you will see it was quite a hefty machine. The carriage moved across with each stroke of the keys, propelled by a ratchet, until, at the end of the line the typist would have to return it manually – and off we’d go again! The ink was contained in the ribbons seen on the left and right and as the key struck the ribbon, it would impress the letter onto the paper. These machines are very nice to have as ornaments or conversation pieces in our homes these days, but they were the latest in technology to us.

Today technology moves so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up – iPhones, iPads, Tablets, Kindle and so on. In my younger days an eye-pad was something you put on a sore eye, a tablet was medication you’d take, (probably for the sore eye) and a kindle was a piece of wood that helped ignite the fire (causing a spark to fly into the eye, requiring an eye-pad and a tablet no doubt). But I have to give the point to “Now” on technology.

We all moan at the length of the queues in the supermarkets and, when I hear someone grumbling about having to wait in line for a few minutes, I would love to take them back to my childhood days and see what they make of it. No Asda or Sainsbury’s then. Each commodity had its own shop and, sometimes, inside the grocer’s was a collection of counters where purchases made at each one had to be paid for there, not at a final checkout. Afterwards it all had to be carried home, probably on a ’bus, No, thank you, I certainly approve of supermarkets and give a great big tick in favour of “Now”!!

I could include many more examples of the difference between Then and Now and, looking back over this article, I see that I’ve ticked most of them “Now”, so maybe it wasn’t such a wonderful time after all – or was it?


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My Life in the 1940s – 1950s

Growing up, as I did, in the industrial Midlands of England in the 1940s/1950s, we were surrounded by the filth of chimneys, belching out all manner of foul emissions. This often caused terrible smog, bringing cars and buses to a standstill as it was impossible to see further than a hand in front of you. Domestic fires added to this through the coal and coke that was burnt.

This atmosphere, of course, was the cause of many health problems for lots of families. I suffered terribly from bronchitis for most of the year and had to wear something called “Thermogene“. This came in a roll of pink material like cotton wool, which was pinned inside Liberty Bodices and vests, to keep my chest warm and help banish winter ailments. Research on the actual ingredients of the material have proved fruitless, but whatever it was, it worked!

We also had to have daily doses of Cod Liver Oil, provided free by the Health Department, as well as orange juice. The cod liver oil was ghastly and almost made me choke, but if I managed to keep it down I was rewarded with the orange juice!

Another therapy I had to undergo was sun ray treatment, which took place in a large room in a local clinic. In the centre of the room was a huge lamp and we had to stand facing the lamp, wearing just our knickers and a pair of goggles, for about fifteen minutes. I remember feeling very warm. This course of treatment lasted for no more than four sessions. At least it was one way of getting time off from school!!

It’s also a well-known fact that children in the 1950s were often under-nourished due to food shortages, rationing or just hardship. We always seemed to have plenty to eat and I looked forward to our Sunday roast. Having bought all the necessary ingredients the previous day whilst out shopping, Mum would set about roasting the beef joint in her tiny gas oven.

When it was finished she would drain off the juices and leave it to set; this made the most delicious dripping which we would spread on toast. (Oh, my mouth is watering at the very thought!!)

On the top of the cooker she had three gas jets and these would be used for the various saucepans of vegetables. I found a picture of one almost identical, except that this picture is of a doll’s cooker!!. At least it will give an idea of the kind of equipment housewives had at their disposal in the 1940s.

So, to continue – we always had a sweet (or pudding as we called it) and my favourite was bananas and custard. During the war bananas were unavailable and so, when they were finally to be had again, they were something new to us. It was a special treat to have a banana. How we take things for granted these days, with such wonderful fruits from all over the world available in the supermarkets all year round.

Sunday tea usually comprised fish paste sandwiches, a fruit cake or ring of buns and a dish of peaches in syrup. We weren’t allowed to have the fruit until we’d eaten at least one half slice of bread and butter. This was probably to make it go further, as one tin of peaches would have to suffice for the whole family of five.

Incidentally, Monday’s evening meal consisted of minced meat left over (or put aside specially) from the Sunday joint, made into a shepherd’s pie. Pastry left from making that would be used to make an apple pie for pudding, probably lasting two days at least. (No fridges then, either!!). Very little food was wasted in those days!!

But, throughout all those days of hardship and shortages, I know that my parents did their best for us kids, no matter what. We always had warm clothes and even treats of comics (albeit second-hand ones from the market) and oftentimes Mum would pass her dish over to one of us saying that she’d had enough to eat. We never realised that probably there wasn’t enough to go round, so Mum or Dad would forego their own food for us.

These days, 63 years on, I live in a comfortable, warm home and to do my weekly shopping I just jump into the car and drive (less than a mile!) into Asda’s car park. I haven’t yet succumbed to home deliveries though!!

In the 1950s shops were certainly not open as long then as they are now. Opening times were usually 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. five days a week and on one of those five days all the shops in the town closed for half a day. There were no businesses open on Sundays back then. I often wonder what my Dad would think of my life these days compared to what he knew just before he died in 1972. So much has changed in the past 41 years.

Sometimes I think it’s moving too quickly. One day a new gadget appears on the shelves and within days it’s superseded by something bigger or better. When I was young a tablet was something you took when you were ill, an eye pad was something you put over an injured eye and a mobile was something that was suspended over a baby’s cot. Times have certainly changed since then, but much as I remember being very happy when I was young, I certainly wouldn’t wish to go back and live like that again. I like my comforts too much!!

And yet, you know, whatever happens in our lives, whether it be good or bad, is part of God’s plan for us. If we choose to follow Jesus and give our lives to Him, then we shall understand why all these things happen to us. Sometimes we might think of going somewhere or doing something but for some reason it just doesn’t happen. That’s God working in our lives, probably because what we wanted to do wouldn’t be good for us.

Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Romans chapter 8 verse 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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Supermarket Trolleys

You might think a blog post about supermarket trolleys is a little odd to say the least. Well, stick with it and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

When I was a child in the 1940s there were, obviously, no supermarkets in the U.K. and so we had no trolleys (makes sense!). Most women went to town on the ‘bus every Saturday, did their shopping, putting it into their basket or carrier bag (and I doubt much of it would have been packaged as we know it today).

In this modern world shopping is much easier. Jump into the car, park at the store, grab a trolley and off we go. We give little or no thought as to what happens to a trolley during its daily life; I know I never did. That is, until my husband started working for Asda and sometimes has the job of sorting the trolleys. And, you know, it’s quite interesting. You’ll be amazed where some of them end up!

    Or this one

    or this one

And we’ve all marvelled at some of the parking we see when we go to the supermarket – but this, surely, takes the prize.

This train of thought led me to thinking about how much we undervalue and take for granted the things around us just because they’re always there, handy to use, conveniently awaiting our purpose. We take so much for granted and very often don’t give a second thought to the very thing that’s so useful .

Just think about all the household gadgets you use every day – cooker, fridge, freezer, iron, vacuum cleaner – the list is endless. We don’t really value them once the novelty of newness has worn off. They’re just there. Am I right?

But the one thing that almost all of us will undervalue time and time again is God’s love for us. He’s there all day, every day (and night time, too!). If you just spend a minute or two thinking about what He’s done for you, you’ll be amazed. God made everything. Nothing was made except by Him. And He’s always there, caring for us, just as an earthly father would care for his children. He wants only the best for us and we shouldn’t take that wonderful Gift for granted.

Speak to Him every day; He loves to hear from us. Bring a smile to God’s face.

    Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
    I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvellously made!
    I worship in adoration -what a creation!
    You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
    You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
    Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
    The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
    Your thoughts -how rare, how beautiful!
    God, I’ll never comprehend them!
    I couldn’t even begin to count them –
    any more than I could count the sand of the sea.

    Psalm 139 verses 13-18 (The Message)

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I was doing my weekly shop recently (in Asda, of course!) and picked up a leaflet produced by the Marine Conservation Society. It’s a guide on how to choose sustainable seafood, showing which species are well managed, well caught and so on. This set me thinking about fish and fishermen around the world. We buy our fish from the supermarket or wherever but do we ever think of the way it’s caught, landed and prepared? I seldom did until I read this leaflet. So, from now on I shall never eat shark or ray!!

But seriously, fishing has been an important part of life for thousands of years. It’s one of those things that we, the consumer, takes for granted.

Fishing was also a part of my young life, but none of my “catches” were ever eaten.

We lived, as I’ve said before, in the industrial Midlands and the sea was something we visited, perhaps, once every couple of years – it was a big adventure! Nearby where we lived was one of many branches of the canal network that ran through the area.

Dudley Canal

This is where we would often go fishing , boys and girls together.

Unlike many of today’s children, we wouldn’t just pop down to the shops and buy all the gear – ours was made from scratch. Dad was very adept at making “something from nothing” and so it was with my fishing gear. He took a piece of wire and formed it into a circle, twisting the ends together to form a point which he would place securely inside one of his tomato canes. He then “borrowed“ one of Mum‘s old stockings, cut off the upper part and used the foot part for a “net“. This was carefully folded over the wire circle and secured with a few stitches. Voila, a fishing net!!

Next he found an old jam jar, tied string around the neck and formed a carrying handle.

Then, off we’d go down to the canal (known locally as the “cut”). We’d find a good clear space, fill our jars with water, lie down on our tummies and dip the net into the water. Whatever was in the net we’d tip into the jar, hoping for tadpoles or even a tiddler (our name for a stickleback).

I loved it when I caught something because I knew that Dad would be so proud of me when I got home. We’d watch the little tadpoles grow legs and marvel at their metamorphosis into frogs. (If they survived that long!)

Sometimes we’d take them into school to put on the nature table in the classroom. Our teacher would write our names on them so that all the class would know who had brought them in. This kind of recognition was very important to me at that age, being the middle one of three who usually took all the flak for the other two!! (I love you both really!)

My Dad had his own fishing rod at some stage and he always maintained that sitting on the canal bank with his rod and line often helped him to sort out problems; but my kind of fishing will always be a very happy memory.

Fishing occurs quite a lot in the Bible and Jesus often uses it to illustrate His stories and teaching.

He tells the disciples that He will make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4 verse 19)

And He uses loaves and fishes to feed the people who gathered around Him.

In Matthew 14 we see that the disciples were afraid that there would be too many people to feed so they suggested that the crowd be sent away to buy food.

Verse 18 says:

“Bring them here to me,” He (Jesus) said.

19 And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Did you know that in the years following the ascension of the resurrected Jesus to heaven, the Christian church grew rapidly. Christians soon found themselves to be the subjects of persecution by both the Romans and the Jews. In many places it became dangerous to be known as a Christian, thus, when two strangers met and thought maybe they were fellow believers, one of them would draw, on the ground, the upper half of the fish symbol. Recognizing the symbol, the stranger would add a second curved line and complete the drawing of a fish.

It is a very simple shape to draw – just two curved strokes. It could be drawn quickly, and erased just as quickly if there was no sign of recognition on the part of the stranger.

So next time you see a fish on the back of the vehicle in front of you, you now know what it means – the vehicle in front of you belongs to a Christian – it might even by me!!

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Making Lists

Have you ever thought how important lists are? Most of us at one time or another, or even on a daily basis, make lists of some kind.

I was once told of an old lady who could not function without making lists. She would have a daily bundle of lists covering all aspects of her day by day routine. There was a list called “Chores” on which she would annotate all the cleaning jobs which required to be done in the house. Another list was “Groceries” which, obviously, was a shopping list. If she had planned to visit someone it would be listed, as would any appointments of a medical nature. She then had her reminders for the next day, beginning with “Make Lists”!

I am not quite so pedantic as this dear lady, but, nevertheless, I have to make lists. Given that my grey cells are rapidly depleting, I have now placed a large calendar on my main table and write all the daily appointments I have for the month ahead, adding more as necessary. The only problem is that I often forget to look at the calendar!! Fortunately my husband’s brain is a little younger than mine so we have at least a 50% chance of turning up somewhere on the right day!

There was one very important list that we, as kids, used to make and that was the list to Father Christmas. At the appropriate time we would gather round in the sitting room and write our requests, guided by our parents. Obviously they wouldn’t want us to write down something outrageously impossible for them to produce, but we never knew that, of course. When all three lists had been completed, Dad would light the corner of each list in turn and push it up the chimney. (Don’t try this at home!). Up it would go, en route to Father Christmas. These days, of course, children email their requests, or drop them in the post-box at Asda!

Similarly when we go on holiday, even now, I have to make a list of every single item I’m intending to take in order to ensure that it all goes into the suitcase. Preparing for a holiday last year, I had made up the picnic lunch for the mid-journey break and put it in the ‘fridge overnight. It wasn’t on my list so it didn’t leave the house until we came back a week later and popped it all into the bin!!

We all of us have wish lists, even though these may not be written down. If you had to make a list of the best things that have ever happened to you in your life, who or what would be at the top?

Would it be the person you married, or a child or grandchild; would it be a special holiday or day out?

For me it has to be Jesus at No. 1. From the day He came into my life I have been so blessed, through thick and thin. He has the answers to all of life’s problems. When I asked Jesus to come into my life back in the early 1980s I became a new creation. I didn’t want to be that old person any more. I was changed – instantly!

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?”, “What shall we drink?” or, “With what shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34 NIV)

This is a promise from Jesus that if we seek God’s kingdom, of which Jesus Christ is the head, He will supply our physical needs. Seeking first His kingdom, however, does not merely mean “asking God for a cookie.” It means that following His commandments will be the single top priority in your life.

You, too, can do as I did. Just ask Jesus to come into your life and, if you really mean it, you’ll be amazed at the difference He makes.

God Bless You.

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Living Today

Around our town there are traces of Neolithic people; an army camp has been discovered which had at some time been occupied by the Romans. Coins and a pavement have been found and there are remains of a Norman castle.

Just imagine what those people got up to in those far off days. No Asda there then to do your weekly shop, no car park for whatever form of transport they used and, in their houses, no central heating, microwave, fridge………I could go on endlessly typing all the benefits we now enjoy in the 21st century. How fortunate we are to be living in this technologically advanced age. And yet, when I was small my parents probably thought it was a good time to be alive then.

My father was one of seventeen children and the family lived in a three bedroomed terraced house with a living room, scullery and an outside toilet. There was no garden, just a tiny courtyard, and no sunshine ever penetrated the rows and rows of houses back-to-back. It must have been pretty grim (and grimy!).

Here you can see my grandparents with their family in the back courtyard. There were still three more children to be born, including my father in 1914.

So when Mum and Dad moved into a much larger house after they got married, they doubtless thought it was absolutely wonderful. We had a long garden at the back of the house and Dad used to grow flowers and strawberries. In the greenhouse were lots of tomatoes. It was the responsibility of myself or my sister to water the tomatoes and strawberries each evening during the hot weather. I would have been about seven years old at the time. As I poured the water on the strawberries one day, I looked at those plump, luscious fruit and began to think, “Well Dad won’t miss just one.” Unfortunately, one turned into two, then four, then…..Oh my goodness, they’d almost all gone!! No doubt some form of punishment was meted out!

We had no television, of course, and our radio was the size of a small fridge! I remember Dad saying that we had to wait for the “green eye” to come on (I.e. for the set to warm up) before we could listen. There were only three stations – BBC Light Programme, the Home Service and the Third Programme. I can vividly remember times when my parents would make us sit quietly whilst they listened to Winston Churchill speaking, he seemed to go on and on! One of my many cousins was married to the scriptwriter of a BBC programme and we had to listen very carefully to hear his name mentioned at the end of each broadcast.

We had a huge gramophone that played 78rpm vinyl records. (The copper needle could only be used once). These records can now be purchased in second-hand stores, sometimes for a hefty price, but I remember Dad used to put the scratched ones into the oven for a short time until they softened, and then mould them into different shapes; so a technique that is now fashionable is not so new after all!

We had no telephone, and I was 15 years old before I used one for the first time. I think there was probably only one family in our road who owned a telephone. The British red ‘phone box is famous world-wide now and can often be seen as garden features, but then they were an essential part of life.

Hatherleigh to Iddesleigh 024

Each generation that has lived will probably claim that theirs was the best time to be alive, because, of course, they knew only of improvements on the ones gone before them.

I am one of those people fortunate enough to have lived through an era of dramatic change. Technology seems almost to be tripping itself up as it dashes relentlessly along. I often wonder just how much more advanced we can become!!

But one thing has never, ever changed since time began and that’s God’s love.

He loved us enough to give His one and only Son as the price to be paid for our salvation. Without Jesus’ crucifixion and death we would all be hurtling into an unknown eternity. If you have Jesus you have the sure knowledge of life after death when He comes again.

Don’t delay if you haven’t “sourced” Him yet. You’ll find He’s the best on offer for whatever it is you’re seeking. It’s the most important thing anyone can do.

    I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
    (John 10 verse 9a)

    Jesus said (to Martha): “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
    (John 11 verses 25 and 26)

    Jesus answered: I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.
    (John 14 verse 6)

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As Much As You Want

Someone pointed out to me recently that this Blog is called “God and Asda” and there’s been plenty of God but not much about Asda. There can never be enough God in my opinion!

Nevertheless, I suppose I ought to try and redress the balance. I don’t intend this to be an advertisement for Asda (other supermarkets are available in the town). So, here, for the first and the last time, is a photograph of our local Asda.

Newton Abbot 006

When I was young there were, obviously no supermarkets in U.K. and strict opening and closing hours were enforced. This meant that no shop at all should open on a Sunday. Mum just had to make sure that she bought all she needed on the weekly shopping expedition into town. Sometimes we would go to the small local shops – there were two grocers, a fruit and vegetable shop, a newsagent, a haberdashery shop and a fish and chip shop. (I visited there recently and they are still there after all these years!)

None of those establishments ever opened on Sundays. However one week, something must have been forgotten on the Saturday excursion because Dad and I went to the one of the grocers. I think he took me along as back-up defence or maybe he thought the grocer might take pity on a poor little child! I can’t remember what it was we wanted, but it must have been important for Dad to go and ask. Dad rattled the shop door, then banged on the window. Finally, the grocer emerged from his living quarters into the shop and started waving his arms about as if to say “I’m closed”. Dad pleaded with him to open the door, but the shopkeeper was adamant – he would not open on Sunday no matter what. Dad suggested that the transaction be done in the house part of the building, but the grocer simply said: “No, I’m not allowed to sell anything on a Sunday”. I can remember my father being, shall we say, somewhat irate, but to no avail. Rules were rules and that was it.

Now, of course, the larger supermarkets are open almost all year round with just a few hours in the week when they close. We shouldn’t really take this service for granted and those of us who remember “life before Asda” really appreciate it. Ever since the advent of such huge organizations, we can get almost anything at practically any time of day, including Sunday (until 4 p.m.!)

There is, of course, something that is available twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

Quite simply it’s God’s abundant love and mercy. You can have as much as you want and it’s all free. No special offers; it’s the same for everyone

Have you ever thought about God? I mean in a physical way. How do you imagine Him? We all have a picture in our mind’s eye and it’s probably something like this:

But, you see, it doesn’t matter how you picture Him, whatever you think He’s like, He’s always there, listening to your prayers and sometimes even delivering before you ask! His love never runs out, it’s always there. He doesn’t have holidays, He doesn’t have days off (or even off days!). He’ s there, just waiting for you to talk to Him. He’s your Best Friend, Your Counsellor, and He gave His only Son that you should have eternal life He knows you inside out because He made you in the first place.

Give Him a chance to come into your life. You won’t regret it.