Archives

Surviving Aldi: lessons from a successful shopper

You know I have dreams of having a beautiful garden, don’t you? 

Well, much like the person who buys all the cleaning products with hopes it will give them a clean house, I spied a magical piece of garden equipment that I thought would help us. A four in one garden trimmer, hedger, lopper thing. 

I knew it was good quality cause my step-father, who knows these things, said so. 

And it was cheap. It was an Aldi special buy. 

No, not the Aldi brand. One of those magical items – an outside well-known brand occasionally stocked by Aldi. The weekend special buys had all manner of gardening items included a lawn mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine, and my desired four in one, also with the Briggs and Stratton engine. 

I told my gardening friend I intended to get one. In fact I told all the ladies at work of my intended weekend purchase. “Could you get me one too,” a number said. 

“No worries,” I naively replied, “if I can, I will.”

My gardening friend, who is also an Aldi fan, said, “You will need to go early.”

“Yes, I’m going to be there at 8.30. You know how hard that is for me on a weekend.”

“Pfff,” she replied, dismissively, “that won’t do. It opens at 8.30. You have to get there earlier.”

“8.20?”

“No. That’s no good.”

“Really? Will 8.15 do?”

“Mmm. You may be lucky.”

Now while I have Aldi items too numerous to count, my only other early  morning, on-opening-time, expedition was years ago. I picked up a special buy on the way to work. Oh, it was a gentler time then! The elderly in the queue had given me tips on how to get the camera I wanted, where to queue, where to rush to. This expedition proved to be much different. 

On the morning in question I attempt to get Mr S to join me in leaving home just before 8am. “I’m not going that early. You go. I will be there at opening.”

Not well pleased, I head off, arriving at the designated Aldi by 8am. This is silly, I tell myself. This is way too early. So I sit in the car for five or so minutes. [First wrong move.]

Imagine my surprise when I get to the shop front at 8.10 to see this queue!

These people are clearly Aldi experts. My friend was right. I may not have been early enough. I spy my competitors. Men in gardening clothes. Pensioners whose love of early mornings is only surpassed by their love of a bargain.

I can see the face of the Aldi newbs like me. When they walk up the ramp from the car park, thinking they’ve arrived in plenty of time before opening, and see the queue, they momentarily pull their head back in surprise. 

Anyway, I get my trolley [second mistake] and join the queue. And wait until opening while texting my gardening friend with regular updates on the Aldi campaign. 

The queue continues to grow. Some people try not to join the queue but surreptitiously stay to one side. I know their game. They want to rush in with those who queued earlier. 

See the blue-shirt-squatter on the left of the photo below?

I had my eye on her. Not for her a queue. She looked around for where she could squat close to the front of the queue. Her chosen spot is in front of the queue that has now formed a right angle.  She is alongside the part of the queue that is in front of the door. If this was a junior maths lesson she’d be on the hypotenuse. Well, I for one would thwart her entry afor me. 

It’s getting close to 8.30 and no sign of Mr S. I’m getting nervous. How will I lift the thing?

At 8.27, they open the doors and the rush is on. Lucky I didn’t get here at 8.30!

Yes, blue-shirt-squatter rushes forward. I use my trolley to block her entry. But she is not my real competition. 

If you know the Aldi layout, they have the special buys in the centre aisle, down the back. Most of those in front of me run down the first aisle. They clearly plan on turning right at the fruit and veg. I take the centre aisle, the aisle less taken. 

What’s this?!?

A man blocking everyone from rushing down the centre aisle. He is walking with his trolley, ssslllooowly, nonchalantly, frustratingly, in the middle. 

Bastard! He is clearly working in cahoots with someone who rushed down aisle one. His partner will get the lawn mower and hedger while he foils the competition. In fact, those who were behind me in the queue but are rushing down aisle one, as we dawdle, will beat me. 

And now what’s this? Blue-shirt-squatter is trying to shimmy past. I swing my trolley. Success in blocking her again. But my foot is injured by my own trolley. 

I will not bow out. I am not yet hors de combat. 

I make it past the blocker. The crowds are already amassed around the two in demand items. Someone has sent in an 8 year old boy to duck under the adults and grab the dwindling pile of hedgers. I leave my trolley in the aisle. I duck under a man lifting up one hedger and put my hand on the second last one, to claim it. “Careful love,” says the man under whose arm I ducked. Someone else rushes in and says, “I want one like everyone else here.” Or was that me talking? In the emotion of the chase, the centre of the battle, all clarity is lost. 

But what’s this? I can’t slide my hedger off the shelf. The boxes are not rectangular. They are narrower at one end and packed alternately. I have my hand on the one with the narrow end to the for. It is the second last one. I have to get it out. I can’t lift it. The crowd are pushing on me. 

Where is Mr S?

The one with wider edge to the front is removed. I slide mine off the shelf, wide-eyes looks of envy on those around me. Actually, I think they are looking for signs of weakness. Will I falter? Can they swoop in and claim my item? 

No, I will put it in my trolley and leave. I can’t risk leaving it in the trolley to look at any other items. Someone will take the hedger. It’s mine. It’s my precious. Get back!

I turn to my trolley. On no! Blue-shirt-squatter is pushing it away. “Hey, that’s mine.”

“Oh sorry. I didn’t know. I thought I could take it. Sorry, I don’t have good English. I didn’t know these things.”

“No.  You have to pay for a trolley.” And in my head, “Don’t give me the no English excuse. You knew well enough. It’s why you didn’t get a trolley. You were right behind me. You saw me leave my trolley on the side.”

Struggling, I put my item into the trolley. Within a few steps I have someone else ask me where I got the hedger. It is 8.31. “Over there,” I point. “But they’re all gone. They opened early.” The last sentence said almost sympathetically.

Triumphant, I walk towards to checkout. 

It is then I see Mr S strolling in. “I’ve got it,” I call out, “Let’s go.”

“No, I want to look at a few things.”

I frown. I am not well-pleased. But he won’t be moved. 

I am asked by strangers again about my item. I keep my hands firmly on my trolley. People are eyeing the hedger off. I know if I leave alongside other crates of special buys, it will disappear. I cannot afford to lose it now. Not after the time and injury sustained. 

So the lessons I will share:

  • Go early. Very early. 
  • Don’t get a trolley. They get in the way of getting to the desired item. You can drag the larger item to the register if needed. 
  • Big garden items will be at the back. 
  • Work with a partner. They can bring a trolley up from the rear after you’ve claimed your desired item. 

And as to the garden. Nah, the hedger’s only been used once or twice since its purchase in March! I will have to find something else that will work.  

Like hiring someone. 

A spot of gardening

My very lovely friend, who knows I am off sick but is willing to keep me company and risk the infection, her argument being that if she was going to get it she would have already caught from me, contacted me on my sick day to offer her services to assist with a spot of gardening, slash weeding.

She knows how overgrown and overwhelming my garden of weeds is. 

How lovely is it of her to offer to help? She could be pottering in her own garden, reading a book, watching episodes of Wentworth.

On her suggestion we took before and after photos. She concentrated on the overgrown grass and weeds and prickly rose vine around my entrance and letter box. (The postie will be pleased.)

Before:


After:


She unearthed some very tenacious bulbs sprouting!

I concentrated on the part of the driveway where I park my car. I struggle to get out without brushing clothes against shrubbery and stepping in the dirt. Quite a few prickly things have self-germinated here. Plants which will grow into monsters that will take up too much space for a suburban yard, let alone fit along side a driveway. 

Before:


After:


My gardening rescuer also brought som bromeliads which have a new home under the massive tree. 

We filled a green wheelie bin and more. Look at this pile!


But it wasn’t only me who was pleased. A kookaburra came for a feast in the disturbed soil. He found some juicy morsels and then sat on a branch waiting for more worms and grubs to surface. We were so lucky! He didn’t mind us at all as we got up very close. Less than two metres away. What a handsome fellow! And what a coincidence after the previous  post this week about kookaburras!


What a wonderful birthday present from my friend!

Lunch shared is much more enjoyable than lunch alone. We had avocado on toasted multi-grain sourdough. And the obligatory cup of tea, made in a pot of course with loose leaf tea. Drunk from Wedgwood fine bone china. 

Heaven!

Jo, you are right. Gardening is so therapeutic. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start. A little guidance and direction from a friend, and working together, made it even more pleasant. 

Manicured

While there is plenty of raw wilderness in Tassie, domesticated nature is pretty amazing too. The parks don’t quite match those in NZ but they exceed those of Sydney. 

Take Launceston’s City Park. Sweet smelling grass and beds of flowers. 

 And some of the flowers in close up.

    

Inside the green house.     
 

 Walking down the stairs to the entrance of Princes Park in Launceston is a life-size statue of some founding father. Standing next to him, you realise how short they were a century and a bit ago; even with the hat I was taller. 

  
In the middle of Princes Park, a fountain.

   
 

The historic site of Highfield, managed by  Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife, has some lovely flower beds despite being perched on the wind-swept cliffs on the edge of the north-west in Stanley and baring the full force of the roaring forties. In the first shot, taken from the verandah, you can see the sea in the distance, way below the cliffs. 

 
  

Love the old-fashioned stocks!

  
  
  Private gardens are very pretty too. Flowers in Strahan include the perennial favourite, the hydrangea. Again, I haven’t seen many specimens to rival those gigantic flowers in NZ, but the shrubs do quite nicely. 

  
And this unusual colour and pattern caught my eye. 

  

Things I’ve learnt -pollarding

I first heard about pollarding from one of my favourite blogs – Ilona

A commenter thought it mutilation. Well, that person has obviously never seen how Australian electricity suppliers prune trees so they don’t touch the electricity wires.  A huge hole through the middle of the tree canopy or loping off half a tree without any consideration to aesthetics are the preferred practices. That’s mutilaion, indeed. 

Here’s some shots from around my suburb. 

   

  

    

In this next one it is hard to believe that all the growth to the left is the tree, a jacaranda, that has been pruned, I mean massacred, on the right. How unbalanced is that? 

 

Do you like the hole through the canopy in this tree? Sometimes the top of the hole closes up, leaving the tree to look as if a canon ball has been shot through it.   

Walking around London, I see pollarding seems to be the usual practice. 

A much better management of trees in the urban environment. I can imagine the fresh, green growth that will come in a few weeks. And the trees will physically fit in the area while still providing foliage and shade. 

Of course, we have eucalypts which don’t have a time when they hybernate. But there are still plenty of deciduous trees planted. Councils seem to think there are two choices for trees on street verges – pick an “appropriate” tree (ie one that doesn’t grow) or massacre it. 

I’ve seen a third way. Imagine if our arborists practised pollarding?  And not just for trees on the street verge. But in smaller plots. And let’s face it, Sydney blocks are shrinking, being subdivided to smaller and smaller plots which will discourage the planting of trees – because they “don’t fit”. Well, here’s our answer. 

  

  

Parks and Recreation

Over 25% of London is parks. And my shoe leather attests to our walking through much of it. 

As does the record of my steps taken. I left my Fitbit at home as my phone counts steps and wither my iPhone go-eth, went I. 

  

The day we walked 24 kilometres we traversed Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are really one big park. You can walk the four parks in an almost continuous stretch. 

People watching. Dog watching. Bulbs and blossoms. Old majestic trees budding fresh green shoots. Sculptures. Ducks and other fowls. People having fun. The contrast between nature, ordered though it may be, old and new building sets up lovely sights. 

Daffodils outside Kensington Palace

Dog using a fountain as intended in Kensington Gardens

A courtyard garden in central London

Garden in remains of church damaged in Blitz with St Paul’s in skyline

And a few snaps of the garden in the square of our street. 

spring garden bed

Camellia

  

Newly sprouting bulb

Why do we have nothing like it? Make sure you get out and about in London. We were about a 15 minute walk to Kensington Gardens. 

Maps like this one at Bayswater are everywhere showing how far to walk

Our last day was spent in Regents Park.  My only regret is that we are not staying a few more weeks. All the following shots are from Regents Park.

If it were not for possums my magnolia would look like this.

  

Willows are graceful. so sad they have had ti be removed for causing so much river damage in Australia

 

     

   

Run, squirrel, run. And they do really carry nuts in their mouths.

  

One white swan guarding his sleeping mate.

  

No idea what this is besides cute.

  

Babies!

   

Black swans, far from home, making a nest for spring breeding

* Mr S suggested the release of some possums would be good pay back for all the species introduced to Australia that caused so much damage and would put paid to the gardens. Possums would have a feast here. All those fresh shoots! Without any predators! The Kiwis know what happens. But as I said to Mr S, we don’t have to be jealous and it is not a competition. 

Budding

What’s this?

IMG_1874.JPG

Let’s look closer!

IMG_1875.JPG

Yes, it is a magnolia budding.

Nooooo. I actually like winter. I’m not ready for spring. I like the cold and wet. The hibernating indoors. Being able to go for a walk without dying of heat exhaustion. Snuggling in bed and having no trouble getting to sleep.

Actually it is not just spring I’m not ready for. The whole year is going too quickly. I haven’t done I whole heap of things I have been meaning to do.

Remember my Year of the Garden? Well, it hasn’t gone too well. I was planning on getting a man in to work on the garden. (Officially I have three men in my household but getting them to do anything besides mow and edge the lawn is a pointless exercise.) However, due to unexpected expenses (ie a trip to England) that is off the books for another year or two, so I will struggle on trying to keep the triffids and privet and wandering jew at bay.

Damn you, privet!

Unusually warm weather (“Global warming! What global warming?” say our Tory leaders across the globe.) has meant the plants in my garden do not know they should be slowing down.

In my optimistic state I thought I would have “degardened” (aka as decluttering the outdoors; the more prosaic among us may just call it overdue weeding) most of one side of my back garden by now, and be ready for planting.

But no! It’s been much slower than I hoped and slightly slower than I more honestly planned. All manner of obstacles have got in the way of gardening – death, taxes, work, court case, reading, rain, lunches out, holidays, TV/movie/DVD watching, bad back, red wine/beer/bubbles.

Anyway, this weekend I tackled another sneaky privet plant. It tried to camouflage itself among my mock orange hedge, and, except like the cuckoo, it grew too big for its home.

Another green bin filled!

I wish I had some beautiful vistas, cause the before and after photos would not show how much work I’ve done.

One day, dear readers, one day!

In the meantime please content yourselves with some flowers from my garden. (If we focus on the detail, we can forget the big picture.)

20140518-170541.jpg

20140518-170557.jpg

20140518-170610.jpg

And then there is the prolific lemon bush. Neglected, never urinated on (nitrogen, you know), never pruned, often overshadowed; still it produces.

20140518-170754.jpg

That photo was taken after I picked masses of lemons, a shopping bag full to share at work and a centre piece for my table.

20140518-170852.jpg

And although the photo of the lemon bush doesn’t show it (couldn’t get the right angle) there is at least two more shopping bags’ worth of lemons.

I wish I had time for a vegie garden!

Opps! The year of what?

It’s not like I forgot I wanted this year to be the Year of the Garden but I have been busy and we’ve had some very wet weather.

Anyway I spent three-quarters of an hour continuing my deforestation after work one day last week.

Privet! Nasty stuff! Read more about this noxious bloody weed here if you are interested. Chopped down and poisoned a plant growing near our pool. And I chopped a rogue branch of my crepe myrtle.

Only stopped as the light was fading.

There is one more privet next to the pool to go. And go it will. Here it is dominating my mock orange hedge. How’d it get so tall so quickly? Wasn’t there at Christmas. Nasty, nasty stuff.

20140504-141226.jpg

Luckily we have a large bin just for garden waste that the council collects every fortnight.

I chopped down more than one bin full. The bin emptied last week, I spent half an hour on the weekend cutting and snapping and sawing the cut plants to fit the bin again. And I still have more to fit in.

At this rate it is going to take me more than a year to clear the weeds and plants that are consuming my years, garden and house!

And the bin is quite a large wheely bin.

20140504-141051.jpg

Oh, and let me share a photo of a spider that uses the hedge and privet as anchors for its web.

20140504-141153.jpg

Nice, eh?

Bloomin’ in the Heat.

Just popped out to take a quick shot of two plants around my pool.

Again, not the most sensible plants to have around a pool, dropping petals and leaves as they do. Still better than a thorny rose vine. But my real reason was, I wanted to experiment with uploading photos via my mac as opposed to using my iPad for taking photos and composing posts. So feel free to ignore this entry. (And if it doesn’t get easier, I am going back to the iPad. Have I told you I luff, luff, luff my iPad?)

Crepe myrtle

Crepe myrtle

Star jasmine

Star jasmine

Well, that was easier. Don’t know what all that faffing about was for my earlier post??!!

Defoliation

I know I’m prone to exaggeration but here is evidence of the triffids that lives next to my pool.

20131226-144749.jpg
The tape is over 1.5m long. There are three rose vine canes next to it. Two of them were ONE cane. ONE cane that is over 4 metres long.

This triffid has perfected the art of ambush. It grows up through the beautiful and lush camellias that border my verandah, well camouflaged. Then, when you least expect it, it pokes out like a sniper and hits you on the head when you are sitting on the verandah.

Its partner from the other day is less subtle, preferring to stand in full view and use a frontal attack.

I am slightly worried that that they tap, tap, tapped prior to their demise and I will find more triffids tomorrow.

I am not sure if what I am doing counts as gardening. These photos of my two hours in the garden may attest to my acts of defoliation. Perhaps I should call on Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore? He’d do more, with less effort.

20131226-150059.jpg

20131226-150229.jpg
(And yes, I’m gardening on Boxing Day. Have to work off yesterday’s over-indulgence.)