I'm not a fan of supermarkets, preferring as much as possible to shop local, so much so that just over 12 years ago I was part of a successful campaign to keep Tesco out of our community, due to its threat to local shops. But time marches on, and peoples attitudes change. Recently, one of the cut-price supermarkets, Aldi, opened on the same contested site. I've never shopped in one of their stores, but you can't forge an opinion on something without at least trying it once.
This time of year always encourages me to make homemade soup for the freezer, and last weekend I did just that. For some reason, that I cannot fathom, the soup turned sour overnight. I recall this had happened previously, and by leaving out most of the root vegetables it seemed to solve the problem. Anyway, down the toilet it went. Desperate to replace it I ventured along, with low expectations, to the new Aldi, using the opportunity to buy more ingredients there.
Well, I am surprised to report, it was really rather good. The layout was organised, not hap-hazard as I had been told these stores were, and the staff were very helpful. OK, so I did not recognise a single brand, but I was here for veggies. Another surprise then at the checkout when I paid, that pound for pound, the bill was far less than I had spent on the first batch of soup. And I don't mean pennies, but almost £2 cheaper!
I felt a little guilty at not having bought from my local shops, but that same day another opportunity arose to redress the balance.
A few years ago a number of long-time residents got together and decided that they would organise and promote a late opening night for local shops on the approach to Christmas. They were wise to set a date a few weeks before the madness sets in, and his year it was last night that the doors were open late.
Pauline and I wandered along the street taking in the atmosphere, passing colourful window displays, the warm light from inside inviting us in. Each shop was very busy, which was a great sign that people were supporting them.
The busiest stores were those selling arts and crafts and quirky items. Both Pauline and I bought a couple of gifts a little less ordinary, one of which was a fun bean-bag Santa for my tree. It's still a little early for the tree to go up, but there's nothing like being prepared.
Along the street mulled wine was being handed out with mince pies and other free treats from a few of the shops.
A little further and the Portobello Community Choir were out, with renditions of our favourite Yuletide songs.
They will appear again this Saturday at the market.
At the town centre the Christmas tree had been put up, but sadly the illuminated decorations had developed a fault and couldn't be repaired in time. But we had a fab time soaking up the atmosphere.
And anyway, who needs twinkly lights when you have such a strong community spirit, and a pot of homemade soup waiting at home.