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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Not long now...

Not long to go to the opening of the new Tesco store and the start of a new job for me.

The new Tesco store opens in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, on November 1st 2010 and myself and my new colleagues from the counters section have been in training with Tesco since November 8th. This has led us from initial induction processes, till training, food safety /hygiene and learning about legal structures to do with being safe at work to working in an actual live store, and more.

All along the way we have begun to get used to our fellow members of the counters team and immediate management. This is from management downwards across what is known as the counters section. This means the fresh fish counter, the meat counter, the deli section and the hot chickens counter known in Tesco speak as ‘hot chicks’. And there was me thinking that we would be working with pretty young ladies collectively known as the ‘hot chicks’. Whereas in reality the counter is for the preparation of and selling of cooked chickens and associated hot comestibles.

Andrea, Steven, Paul and Phil outside Tesco's Toton.
Myself and the other counters members of staff then went on to be trained in store at various Tescos stores around the Nottingham area in places like Toton and Top Valley and Mansfield. My new friends, Paul, Andrea, Steven and I were sent to the Mansfield (Jubilee Way) store where we spent five days learning the way that counters were run and had experience of actually serving the customers as well as replenishing the counters and cutting the produce. We also had to learn the bookwork and records that go with working with raw and cooked foodstuffs. I think that we all learnt a lot and the staff at the store were very professional and friendly as we all hope to be when we start at the Beeston store. We had some early starts, setting off at six am in the morning from Toton and Paul drove us all safely up to Mansfield and back each day with the help of Andrea in the front seat and the satnav. We had some good chats and laughs along the way.

The time in store went remarkably quickly and I particularly liked revisiting my old butcher’s skills in prepping the meat for the counter as well as serving the customers and looking after their needs. It was all very satisfying and it gave me hope for the role I will be taking when the new Beeston store opens. I think we all felt the same in our own sections.

Mansfield Jubilee Way store
For the last two days (Friday and Saturday) we have been in the Beeston store helping to stock the regular shelves. There seemed to be thousands of products and an equal amount of barcodes to visually scan in order to match the shelf space to the products. It has been quite hard work and by the time we all return to the store on Thursday it should look like a supermarket ready to be opened.

This Tuesday coming we (all the counters staff) will be going to the Toton store to run the counters on our own (with management help) in preparation for the further technical training we will get between Thursday 28th and Sunday 31st October. Then on Monday 1st November the Beeston Store officially opens. All along the way we have had super training from Tesco and that with the background in food that a lot of the counter’s staff already have it should be a fun and interesting place to work.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Shopping in Derby in the 1950s and 1960s.

Back in the 1950s there used to be an open market in an area called The Morledge. It sat next to the art deco bus station on the land that now houses the County court and the hotel/casino and spanking new, yet characterless, bus station.

The open market was a splendid covered market full of Derby’s characters and good natured banter and tons of verbally competitive atmosphere abounded. It was built in 1933 and was focal point for most folk shopping in Derby town centre. In my childhood visits two old dossers used to slump in the corner of the market by the bins, billowing newspapers and rotting vegetation. They were often found drinking slyly (or sometimes obviously) in public and looked very red about the gills. The man was known as Bocker Wright the woman’s name I’m not sure of. They seemed to have a very booze driven volatile relationship with each other and both were rather malodorous.

On the pelican crossing to the market would be a policeman or ‘Bobby’ dressed in the police uniform of the day, all helmet, black jacket and big white gloves. To my childish perception of things they were all the kindly Dixon of Dock Green come to life.

Our family used to go to Radcliffe’s toy shop on Cockpit Hill to buy my toy soldiers and Airfix model airplanes and occasionally we would eat at The Boat fish and chip restaurant. My Dad told me that it was famous for its steak and kidney suet puddings. The visit to the café/restaurant was considered a big treat and yet it was only a posh version of a working man’s café. On the cobbled rise of Cockpit hill there was another small market but it was no match for the covered market on the Morledge or the Market Hall by the Guildhall and Market place around the corner.

The afore-mentioned covered Market Hall was a magnet for shoppers with many a fresh fruit and veg stall, at least a dozen butcher’s units, a fish market with its gleaming scales, watery floor and faintly fishy smell. On the outside of the market stood a few independent shops including one that specialised in tripe and onions and cow heel. Opposite the fishmonger’s market stood the premises of the original Derby Evening Telegraph newspaper. The entrance was very grand with polished floors and shiny brass fittings and rails and a sweeping staircase akin to an Opera house or theatre foyer which it may well have been in a former life.

There were several other places that we used to go shopping in town and remember, for those that know Derby, this was before the Eagle Centre ever got thought of or built in the 1970s. There was a real excitement about visiting the larger stores like Ranbys (now Debenhams), the cavernous Midland Drapery on Albion Street and the main Co-operative store on East street adjacent to the ABC cinema. Boots the Chemist used to stand on the far corner of East Street opposite Midland Drapery and on the second floor you could buy LP records. The first ever LP record purchases I bought there were Marie Osmond’s Paper Roses and the soundtrack from Godspell! Later on I got into early David Bowie and Leo Sayer.

Sadler Gate was a major but narrow shopping street with lots of individual shops like Roome’s the fishmonger , Dewhurst the butcher, a cobbler’s, an opticians, a barbershop with a barbers pole, a busy greengrocers owned by a man called Ted and a quaint smoky old newsagents amongst the other establishments like the reputedly haunted Old Bell Hotel. At Christmas time I loved going down this street to see the pretty Christmas lights and the fat turkeys hanging outside the butcher’s shop. Sadler Gate in those days wasn’t a car free zone and was always snarled up with delivery trucks and cars coursing through the town.

There was a weekly Saturday market on the Market Square as well as the open market by the bus station and it was extra-ordinarily busy considering all the other markets going on in Derby town.

As a family we seemed to find ourselves invariably drawn to Bennett the ironmongers on Iron Gate, usually to purchase those inevitable screws and nails and nuts and bolts my Dad always needed to buy and store away for a rainy day. Personally, I always loved to get a chance to haunt the only real bookshop in town which was Clulow’s and situated across the road from Derby’s cathedral in what is nowadays imaginatively known as The Cathedral Quarter. Clulow’s was an idiosyncratic little family run store and had the added excitement of being on two levels, street level and an underground section accessed down a metal spiral staircase. I think I got my love of books from haunting that place.

On St James Street stood the cavernous St James’ Street Post Office in an old fashioned, possibly Victorian, building with two big brass lights guarding the main entrance. Further back down St James’ Street stood Jimmy’s pub (just waiting until I turned 18 years old) and Birds the bakers.

Round the corner on the Cornmarket there was Rydes the Butcher’s, the Kardoma Café, the side entrance to the Market hall, Littlewood’s store, Lipton’s grocery store, three major banks and a jewellers. Around town there were a lot more independent shops that we see today and many of them had awnings that jutted out on to the street. On the main streets would run trolley buses with electrical poles that were connected to overhead power lines and sparked a lot. I recall there were at least half a dozen cinemas or ‘picture houses’ in the town centre too. Amongst the tobacconists, card shops, gift shops, cafes, wool shops, electrical goods shops, tailors, toy shops and florists were those typically British establishments that now sound so old fashioned, the haberdashery. People like my Mum still made their own clothes and knitting and embroidery were very popular past-times.

The shopping parades of Derby in the 1960s also had a lot of cake and pastry shops offering a choice of luscious cream cakes as a treat for the weekend. Post War rationing was over and treats were now welcomed with open shopping bags and purses.

A typical high street would be teeming with cyclists, some family cars, delivery vehicles and in Derby’s case the cream and green liveried Corporation double decked buses. Eventually the trolley buses would disappear from Derby’s streets. Old style telephone boxes and post boxes stood on most streets, the phone boxes utilising the old A and B coin slots for the pre-decimal coinage.

Nurses in capes and starched hats would be a familiar sight walking into town down London Road from the Royal Infirmary, only the older men wore hats in the street and sixties fashions were starting to add colour amongst the shopping crowds. Mini-skirts were even seen as quite daring and when hot pants came into fashion for the girls road accidents went up ten-fold.

On many a street corner stood the paper men selling the latest edition of the Derby Evening Telegraph or as their bellowing voices had it, “Telly graaaa! Eevin’ Telly graaaa!”

Thursday, 7 October 2010

I bought a bull today.

Yes folks, I start my new job as a butcher with Tesco tomorrow. I have a day's induction and I start my training on Monday 11th. To celebrate I bought a bull and took him to the local park to have a photo shoot. He is my new lucky mascot. I'm calling him Eric.

Wish me luck in my new career with Tesco.

Here are the photos:


Me and Eric.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Mmmm! Garlic!

Garlic: A member of the onion family, which is sold dried only. The white or pink skin encloses small, curved segments known as cloves. These are surrounded by a thin layer of papery skin which must be peeled off. Buy garlic in small quantities only, as one bulb goes a long way. Store in a dry, dark place. Season:All year.

Reader’s Digest. The Cookery Year.

Pink garlic
 I love the taste and smell of garlic and have fond memories of hiking up in Derbyshire on the latter part of the Bakewell to Buxton road and getting a hit of wild garlic growing in huge swathes along by the river Derwent. I have also had a similar experience when cycling locally in the summer, along the tow path that runs alongside the river Trent, skirting Clifton village. If you stop to look (which I often do) the white flowers and big leathery leaves look super and the pungent aroma is powerfully sweet issueing forth, en mass.

I expect my first taste of garlic in cooking would have been in garlic bread in the 1980s when I started to appreciate food more after leaving home and living with my actor friend Mike. Mike liked to cook and was older than me and I learnt a lot from him. It is unlikely that I would have been ‘brave’ enough to use garlic in my own cooking at that time in my life. Mike also introduced me to Indian restaurants where it is very likely that the bulb would have been used in their cooking. When I lived with my parents garlic was just something that was mentioned on the Cliff Mitchelmore Holiday tv programme or in the Dracula films. My Dad couldn’t stand the smell of curries or ‘foreign muck’ as he used to call it. There's a blog post all of its own. Hold that page. Actually, hold several pages!

As is well known, the French use garlic a lot in their cuisine, mainly in tomato based dishes and with shellfish, stews, soups and in herb butter. Of course there are also the well known dishes of chicken with forty cloves of garlic and the rich garlic soup, Tourin d’ail, from Gascony. They also enjoy garlic croutons, garlic gratin, garlic prawns, pistou and snails (escargots)with hot garlic , which I love.

Nowadays, I use it in my own stews from time to time and add half a dozen cloves into a roasting dish to enhance the flavour of the meat. You can also roast whole garlic heads and when mashed they taste creamy and mild, not at all overpowering. Occasionally I will anoint my stir fries with a crushed or finely chopped clove. When nobody else is around to smell my breath a clove eaten raw can taste great and it keeps away the vampires!

knocking up a stir fry

PS: Am I alone in this? I love the sound of the garlic being squeezed out of the garlic crusher and the feel in my hand of the pressure as it emerges through the holes.

PPS: Did you know that the Romans used to eat raw garlic before going into battle and they believed it gave them strength?