Life, the Department Store and Everything

I went shopping today in Ipswich. The first priority task was to make a pair of jeans safe.


I have a system with jeans. At any one time I have at least  two pairs – an old pair for wearing in the muddy countryside and a new about town pair. When the old pair are too holey to keep, the newer pair is promoted and I christen a brand new pair. As jeans are heavily discounted in periodic sales, I often anticipate, so I have a battered old pair, a decent middle-aged pair and a new unused pair.


In the last Christmas sales, at the turn of the year, I bought a new pair in Ipswich. There are two towns with extensive shops within reasonable reach for me, Ipswich and Colchester, both easy enough to reach by a short train journey or by car, but other things take me to Colchester quite often. Ipswich I visit maybe once a year for shopping. I stored the new pair away and as I don’t wear jeans in the summer it was a long time before I needed them, having chucked out an old, ragged pair. I went to put the new pair on. They still had a security device attached. I didn’t realise what it was and spent a while trying to remove it before I noticed small lettering warning that on being forced off it would release a jet of dye. I still had the bag I bought them in but not the receipt.


The chain concerned, Blue Inc, have a store in Colchester too. I took my booby-trapped jeans there as I had other business in the town. The staff were sympathetic but said they didn’t use the same security system. I’d have to take them to Ipswich. As I had no other cause to go to Ipswich, likeable town though it is, I waited until there were other things to do there. It took about ten seconds for the Ipswich store to take the device off, apologise and hand me my jeans. Happy, I went on to do my shopping.


I was searching for a tea-strainer (hard to get now few people use loose tea) and bathroom scales. In this search I entered a department store (big shop with a wide range of merchandise in sections), Debenham’s. I thought the section “HOME” would be the one. Such stores have signs displayed for classes of items – FOOTWEAR and so on. I saw a sign which said LIVING. Living?? How did that help identify what was there? What might a store sell which could not be put under LIVING? Coffins? I couldn’t see any and there was no corresponding sign BEING DEAD.


I remain without functioning bathroom scales, but I found tea-strainers in the pound store described as SMALL SIEVES.


Here’s a short poem I wrote about that sign.




I asked the assistant

For a tea-strainer.

She couldn’t help

And it seemed to pain her.


The sign in the store says “LIVING”.

Is that something I can buy?

Is that everything we need

Before we die?


What’s not included in that section

That might be in stock?

Coffins? Shrouds?

Asteroid rock?


I don’t see any of them

Or a sign that says “DYING”.

Is a tea-strainer part of life,




Leave a comment


  1. Loose tea is kind of trendy now where I live so I’ll send a strainer over 🙂

  2. That’s really interesting. It must be one of those ways Canadians prove they’re not (US) Americans. Mind you, isn’t there something called the Loose Tea Party?

    Ipswich has a Whittard’s shop and Whittard’s specialises in tea and coffee, selling about equal amounts of tea-bags and loose tea. They also sell extremely expensive crockery…but not tea-strainers.

    Never mind – the “small sieves” work perfectly well and indeed I bet they actually are tea-strainers but Pound Shop, at the bottom end of the market, didn’t recognise them.


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