Queens of Shops

We watch too much television. One show that the whole family enjoys is Mary, Queen of Shops, one of a seemingly endless string of programmes where a bossy Englishwoman strides in and instructs people how to reorganise their lives (think Trinny and Susannah, Kirsty Allsop etc). In this case the bossy Englishwoman is called Mary Portas and we have all relished watching her cruel-to-be-kind efforts to revitalise sagging retail businesses.

It became obvious that Alice and Evie had been paying a little too much attention last weekend when they played shops at their grandparents' house. Alice set up a homewares business at the foot of the stairs, ransacking the kitchen cupboards for her stock of tea towels and lemon squeezers, produced a catalogue, and embarked on a marketing campaign that warned us to "Get in now, as prices are set to skyrocket!" A series of rapid calculations on the back of an envelope produced the reassuring information that she had made several hundred dollars in invisible profit.

Meanwhile Evie had set up her own business in the junk room and issued all of us, her employees, with phonetically spelled identity labels. I was "Kathren Cook", Nana became "Janes Canseltunt" while Papa was "Wellyum Inspekta." An emergency staff meeting was called to brainstorm ideas to improve turnover, which wasn't easy since none of us were exactly certain what the business actually did.

I learned that window-dressing is really not my forte, and that a freebie hotel soap can retail for up to twenty dollars. It was all very exhausting, but I must say it was educational.

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