The Art of Mooching

As part of the Shop Local campaign, Jane Fae writes about the art of mooching around her favourite places in town while bagging a bargain. 

Remember to shop safely! 

Lockdowns, eh? Doncha just hate them!

Well, no, actually. I don’t. Not entirely, at least. I am a pretty private sort of person: a writer, journalist and occasional stand-up. And if you think the latter means I am an extrovert you really don’t understand the comedy vibe. For there are none so anti-social as those that enjoy making other people laugh.

Otherwise, writing is an activity that works very well in the privacy, seclusion of my own home, where the only thing to disturb my peace is a cat who seems to reckon he is in charge.

Still, I miss the challenge of live events. You cannot gauge audience reaction over zoom: and though I have done the occasional performance that way, it’s really not the same.

Also, I am a moocher. Not rich: but what I lack in cash, I more than make up for in time. So, for me, one of the happiest ways to pass an afternoon was in a long, slow amble round town. A quick browse of the charity shops – Garden House, Mind, Age UK – where I can usually be found eyeing up impossible furniture and buying jigsaws.  £2 or £1.99 in Age UK. Or at least that was what they cost pre-lockdown. Naming no names: but I am looking at YOU, charity shop that has recently bumped the price up to £3!

Next, over to No 12, where I used to enjoy a cortado while monopolising the window seat and watching the world pass by on Leys Avenue. Sorry, I am old school and you won’t find me joining the amazingly healthy folks imbibing vegetable-based food. I am so much more a Greggs girl. If only they would invent a calorie-free sausage and beans slice!

Then a bit more of a wander: a browse in David’s bookshop; almost without exception a friendly chat or two with the town centre regulars, before dropping in to the Broadway cinema, where, pre-lockdown, I used to review new film releases.

And finally, across the road to Morrisons, there to fight off the other bargain hunters “of a certain age” (who? Me? I can neither confirm nor deny…) and assuage what little remains of my hunter-gatherer instinct by pinning down a pack of reduced-price pork chops and dragging them back to my lair.

In between times, there is the library, which now counts people in and out by means of a lego brick system: though not entirely impressed by one of their door attendant’s choice of a large white lego piece to represent me.

Iceland. The veggie stand in Garden Square. Home Bargains. Poundstretcher.

OK. I can see this is making me out as something of a cheap date. Let me assure you, though, I’m not. But there must kebabs and tequila shots. And you promise to love me and my cat forever. 

So, on balance, I do feel not so much put out by a lockdown, but constricted. It is not life-shattering for me (and I know that is a privileged position to have): rather, it puts a crimp in my style. It that chafes and stops me from being, from enjoying who I am.  Which, I should mention en passant, is also your newest governor.

At any rate, do feel free to drop me a line about local concerns. I can’t promise to solve everything. But I arrive with a lifelong record of campaigning on community issues, an involvement in promoting the rights of LGBTQ folks, and much empathy with that segment of the Letchworth population that is currently struggling: older, also facing lockdown, unsure when life will return to any semblance of normality.

And when it does, I look forward to seeing you all again. Out in town. Mooching.