Andy Richardson: What to buy drives me round the vend

By Andy Richardson | Weekend | Published:

A significant birthday for someone I love. She’s 53. Fiftythree. It’s absurd.

Decisions, decisions

I remember her as a 10-year-old, looking elegant and smart, being the one we all looked up to, the acme of style.

And she’s still those things now; if not a little more glamorous. She’s one of the brightest lights in my life and a birthday means it’s time to shower her with love; and compliments. . .

They don’t do birthday cards for people aged 53. Why should they? The action is all about the end of a decade, about notching up another 10 years of our three score and 10 – or, in my case, four score and five, for I shall live until I’m 85 if not considerably longer.

To mark her happy day, I did what all good people should: I bought two cards; one saying ‘Happy 50th birthday’ and another saying ‘Happy 3rd birthday’.

She can put them side by side and let other people do the maths. Or maybe she could fashion a plus sign from lollipop sticks and put that in between them.

Her present was what she’s come to expect from this loving-but-hopelessly-autistic-and-unimaginative young ‘un. Money. £53.53, to be precise. A pound and a penny for every year. Isn’t that kind.

She laughed on the morning of her birthday. “That’s great,” she said. “And so thoughtful. I tell you what, you’re 48 on your next birthday. So if I get you the same – a pound and a penny for every year – I’ll make a profit of £5.05 every year. Result. Let’s do that every year for the rest of our lives.”

We probably will. Traditions are born that way.


When the £48.48 lands, I’ll probably spend the loose change in the office vending machine. It’s the key to an unnutritious life for a group of bad-coffee-drinking, unhealthy-snack feasting wordsmiths. Not for us the procurement of crayfish and avocado salads, falafel mezze salads, Pret a Manager dishes called hip humble and healthy or an impressive spiced chicken, quinoa and cashew nut salad.

Instead, we can choose from flapjacks the size of housebricks that are loaded with cholesterol and chocolate that tastes like tar, packets of crisps fried in palm oil that has single-handedly led to the destruction of a hectare of rain forest and claimed the lives of three baby orang utans. Or, if we’re feeling weight conscious, a bag of Nobby’s Nuts – a bargain, at 70p.

I try to avoid the flapjacks. I fear them, like a drunk fears the start of a dry day. I know I couldn’t eat a whole one and besides, I’d probably leave crumbs beneath my desk – and that’s never a good look. It suggests dirty, it suggests a lack of esteem, it suggests a man who doesn’t bathe each night or shave with any degree of regularity.

And yet, the flapjacks still find me. Standing beside the vending machine, phone glued to ear, I debated the merits of Nobby’s Nuts versus McCoy’s Crisps. Nuts versus crisps. Nuts versus crisps. Nuts versus crisps. I opted for nuts.


And pressed the button for a flapjack. Damn my wonky finger and my lack of concentration. And damn that phone and its ability to make me buy flapjacks when I want to eat nuts.

Errant flapjacks are the least concerns of our office fashionista. When she gets a 15-second screen break she spends it glued to the screen. Today’s wish list item is Mongolian sheepskin. That’s sheepskin from a lamb that’s lived in Mongolia. Get it. Sheep + Mongolian = Mongolian sheepskin.

Fancy it? I do. It’s a thing, apparently. Welsh sheepskin and English sheepskin doesn’t cut it with discerning purchasers of textile fibres. But Mongolian sheepskin does. The sheep know how to grow their wool in Mongolia, apparently. And the sheep shearers know how to clip it.

My son doesn’t care much for Mongolian sheepskin. El Ginger Bonce has one concern in life: Lightning McQueen from the none-more-brilliant movie Cars.

The superhero racer has such popularity that without him knowing it, my son and his mates hold simultaneous discussions about his travails while his dad and his mates are doing precisely the same thing.

“It’s brilliant, isn’t it,” says a kid of four to a kid of four while a man a generation older offers a similar opinion to another father-fan.

My chef mate is busy debating the merits of rabbit skin, rather than creatures from Mongolia.

He’s just bought 30 – a perfectly legitimate transaction for a man who cooks – and they came covered in fur.

The compost heap or bin beckons for those beautiful furry pelts, unless he follows the instructions on a remarkable website called – which offers tips on bushcraft.

I misread it and thought it said – and offered tips on where to find a bag of scratching and a decent pint of Bathams.

Andy Richardson

By Andy Richardson
Feature Writer - @andyrichardson1

Feature writer and food critic Andy Richardson interviews celebrities, writes columns and hangs out with chefs for stories that appear across all group titles.


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