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The best things in life are free...

Updated: May 13, 2019


This morning, I made my thrice weekly (it seems) foray into the wonder-house of treasures that is Aldi. However hard I try, we always seem to be running out of something in our house. All too often it is my patience; also - apple juice then randomly: bleach, baby wipes, oven chips. Let's not get into the environmental no-nos listed hitherto: that can be the subject of a different blog (please, I can't cope with the guilt right now...) Flour we will absolutely never run out of, but as it gets lost in our corner cupboard I frequently think we've run out of it and buy more. This can also happen with tomato purée and rice.

Anyhow, back on topic. This morning at Aldi, I spotted an older gentlemen in biker gear looking slightly lost amidst the nappies and flavoured water section (yes, I agree – a strange combination but one I have adapted to with ease). No wonder he looked a little confused. I gave him a reassuring smile. At the checkout, he approached me and asked if he could go ahead of me as he only had one item, which I said was absolutely fine. He then offered to give me the remaining 6 of his 8 pack of bottles of flavoured water. “Really? That's very kind!” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “I'm on my bike and I've nowhere to store these. I only need two.”

Strangely, I have been thinking of purchasing said water for my kids, who I'm trying to wean off apple juice (see above). I duly thanked him after checking he really didn't have space somewhere on his bike for them and then, lo and behold, discovered he was parked next to me in the car park and we chatted a little more. He was heading up to Scotland to meet other like-minded bikers and go on a tour.

This is not the first time recently that I have been given something for free. I have just sent back a Hoover I ordered. The replacement model that I want is £1 more expensive. The lady at Direct Vacuums says she won't charge me for that.

A few weeks ago, I had a brief chat with a chap who worked at M & S about the sudden friendliness of the self-checkout, which alarmed me when it introduced itself as 'Amanda' (“Oh it's Amanda Holden, we're doing a campaign with her at the moment...”). As I left the shop, he gave me a basket of beautiful hyacinths, which apparently had to sell that day. (Anyone who knows me knows I am not good with plants, and I'm afraid they didn't last long. I felt very bad, especially as they were a gift. When will I learn that simply looking at a plant and thinking “I'd better water that” does not constitute adequate plant care?)

The other day, I returned a paddling pool and a pump to Argos, having bought another paddling pool the day after. The multiple purchase of paddling pools obviously confused the (I thought wholly computerised??) system, and they have refunded me for both pools. And the pump. I should probably mention this to someone.

I feel sure that there are many other occasions that I have missed. Apart from concluding that I am always shopping, this process has led me to ponder over giving and receiving. Did I receive these gifts because I made polite contact with the giftee in an otherwise sometimes hostile world? Not in the case of Argos. What else do I receive for free and more importantly, what do I give to people? A smile, yes. Do I give them enough time? What did I last give away with no thought for anything in return?

On that note, I've decided to run some free creative writing workshops - watch this space. Also, to look in my corner cupboard for anything unopened and unloved and donate to the food bank. (Not the three bags of flour, all opened, of course). Also, to keep smiling at people. And to think about giving things away if I have too much of something (again, not the flour). Oh, and to thank the universe for all the many gifts it has bestowed upon me. And to remember that love and kindness make the world go round, not money.

Thank you Mr Biker in Aldi, Mr Attendant in M & S, Mr/Mrs/Other computer in Argos, and the lovely Ms Cheraldine at Direct Vacuums. Your little bits of kindness, and those of many others, go a long way.

And now I suppose, ethically speaking, I should probably contact Argos about the 'free' paddling pool...

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