A trip to the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds lays behind door number 18 of the Strachan advent calendar. A sojourn I’ll be embarking on with my trusty wingman Mrs Margaret (Maggie) Strachan of East Ardsley parish. She of the good heart, quick wit and penchant for asking me the same chuffing questions every week.

Our odyssey a habitual trek allowing the septuagenarian, who bore and carried me for nine months during one of the worst winters in living memory (no not Mike & Bernie Winters), to restock her larder. 

A weekly routine we follow commencing with a Costa coffee, prior to purchasing of a few bits of posh scran from M&S, a light lunch and a slightly less posh food shop in Sainsburys. It’s not as regimented as I’ve painted it above, however should that itinerary ever not be followed to the letter I won’t be responsible for the consequent OCD fuelled tantrum it’ll waken.

It’s a time of the week where mater and me get to have our most meaningful conversations. Most of the other times I’m with Mags (as my late dad called her) I tend to be either writing, cooking or undertaking an odd job for her. Occasions when I’m more distracted and concentration levels are diminished.

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In Costa coffee, under the glass roofed halls of the White Rose Shopping Centre, I’m bereft of distraction. Allowing me to fully concentrate on mum’s tales of yore and Connie club goings on. Yarns furnishing me with material for my narratives – Inspiring epiphanies for future literary cascade.

I mentioned above that I’m far less distracted when Mrs S senior and I cordially exchange banter over a coffee. Sadly Maggie, whose need to people watching is far greater than I, can occasionally be distracted by passers by on both mezzanine and lower floor levels.

Sometimes resulting in her providing an answer to the question I’d asked prior to my most recent query. An example of which is below:-

Me – “What time was our Ian’s train back to Newcastle last Sunday, mum?” 

Mum appearing oblivious to my enquiry, leaning on her mezzanine located seat watching a group of guffawing shoppers on the floor below.

Me – “Did you watch that documentary on tiger packs last night?”

Mum (still staring at the consumers on the lower floor) – “It was the 11.43 train from Leeds.”

Me – “Was our Ian impacted with the weekend industrial action on the train network?”

Mum (now tutting disapprovingly at the ZZ Top length beard of a guy Frankie & Benny bound and still distracted) – “No I didn’t see the tiger pack documentary…… I saw an advert for Kelloggs Frosties; there was a tiger on that pack……. Was that what you were referring to?”

Me – “Why the hell would I ask you about the breakfast cereal commercials you watched yesterday evening’s TV?”

Mum (looking back through the adjacent glass partition at the centre’s lower aisle) “He said they were slightly delayed. Nothing too dramatic though.”

Me – ” Incidentally mum, when’s your ‘Keep Fit Christmas dinner?”

Mum – “I was merely clarifying what you meant by tiger pack!”

Me – “Do you reckon quantitative easing advocated by Keynesian economists, increasing aggregate demand to keep base interest rates low, is sound economic strategy?……. Or do you subscribe to alternative solutions for maintaining low cost borrowing and the subsequent increased availability of funds for new investment projects?”

Mum – “Wednesday lunchtime at 12.30.”