Conversations with Strangers: Cakes and Suitcases ✈️

Every now and then, conversations with strangers occur.

Some are funny, informative and not too much trouble – others are not.

Conversations with Strangers: You Look Familiar…

Not long ago someone came up to me in a supermarket (while I was moving from the freshly baked bread to the fresh fruit juice) and said he thought he knew me from somewhere. Bit awkward – we were both wearing a face covering so he was either blagging or highly observant. 😷

I knew very well I certainly didn’t know him from anywhere. When I asked where he thought he might know me from, he got a bit shifty and said “just around”…. anyway that’s another story – I’ll spare you that one. 🙄

I think I told you about some other conversations with strangers a while back, one of them being on my way to another supermarket….well here’s another – it’s been a while since I shared one.

Everything ‘but’ the Great British Bake Off!!

I’d decided to bake some cakes before the weekend.

I nipped down to a supermarket the following evening.

I had cake tins on the shopping list, amongst other things…. 📝

After wandering around the homeware section – (my favourite section) I stood looking at the cake tins, with two already in my basket, but still wondering about the others on display. 🤔

A man sort of said hello as he walked past/behind me – I didn’t see him until I turned and saw his back as he walked off. I wasn’t sure he’d said it to me, but I politely said an airy ‘hello’  – just in case!!

Next thing you know he did a U-turn and was standing with me looking at the cake tins.

We’ve all had that heavy feeling of ‘oh no – what does he want, I just want to get away now…’ but he got to the point quickly, and began telling me that the tins in my basket were not the best choice and recommended I went for the most expensive ones – no question about it.

He doesn’t buy the ‘cheap’ cake tins – he said.

Until this point I can honestly say I’d never given ‘cake tins’ any serious thought – I mean its not like I use them on a daily or even weekly basis – just now and again….and did he just indirectly label me as a cheapskate….? 😯

I’ll call him Barry.

Now here’s the science bit

Barry shared some insight into the use of high quality cake tins.

A lot had to do with the way the heat flows in different types of oven, and how all of this can impact on how effectively your cake bakes. 🔬 🧪

Barry wants to get a range oven but not sure he’s got enough space – he’s also toying with whether to go electric or gas – he’s heard good reviews about the electric ones.

“These will last you a lifetime” he said – holding out some heavy duty tins (with prices to match).

Was he a secret sales person for the store – he ought to be!!

Piece a’ Cake

Are you a professional cake maker, a chef? Laughing out loud “no” says Barry.  🧁

Barry bakes cakes, fruit cakes, and not (as he put it) ‘plain cakes’.

He bakes them for family and friends at Christmas.

I suggested he think about making his cake making talents pay – turn it into a little sideline.

🚦 The conversation took a sharp turn into ‘the cake making industry’ and how tough it is, how much painstaking time and effort has to go into it – especially the decorating side for events and parties….carving and sculpting, working everything to perfection. 🎂

It’s a hard industry, difficult to make a profit sometimes due to the number of costs that go into making the cakes – but if you get regular bookings for big events you’ll probably be alright he said.

Barry knows a couple who do a handful of catering events each year (including the Notting Hill Carnival, London) and that’s them done for the year, income -wise. They both love events cooking and baking – they make a great team.

Barry reflected – it would be a lot harder trying to do it on his own.

Now don’t ask me how, (for the life of me…🤨) but somehow – the conversation sprawled like green ivy into all of the following:

Holidays and Travel: Nothing to Declare?

Barry packs the night before a flight – I was horrified – we discussed and debated this pressing matter, including the value of making lists to avoid forgetting things. I said “lists will make you feel more in control”. He thinks I must be super organised and reckons my house must be all very well presented (remember – we were standing in the homeware section). ✈️ 

Matter of factly, Barry says there’s no point going to the Caribbean and only bringing back a couple of bottles of rum – he brings back more than this and has never been stopped by customs in his life.

He’s brought back all sorts of food too – including soursop (a delicious ‘super’ fruit and very hard to get hold of in the UK). 🥃                 

We agreed that maybe this lack of getting caught might have something to do with flying via the US (instead of a direct flight) – and maybe UK customs are less worried if US customs have already checked everything….but are they more liberal in the US with alcohol then???

Barry’s brother once brought back 12 bottles of rum from the Caribbean (one for each month of the year by the sound of it 📆 😅), he didn’t get stopped by customs and was due to fly out there again in a weeks’ time.

Barry knows lots of people who do this all the time.

I wouldn’t dare. 😬

Free Images above

No Where Else But London

Barry insisted he wouldn’t and couldn’t live anywhere else in the UK apart from London – he said his job has taken him all over the UK, including Scotland and back down again.

London is the only place he thinks he could live.

Anywhere in the North is ‘the country’ to Barry (aka the countryside), even if there are no fields in sight. 🐄

Barry did sing some praises for ‘Sheffield’ though – apparently Sheffield used to produce some very good quality kitchen utensils in the past but it’s hard to get hold of them these days.

…and it continues.

The property market (in Wales and the UK)

So……Barry has a relative in Wales who bought a huge house “…’all’ for herself, she’s the only person living in it” five bedrooms I think he said, along with a basement and attic/loft…all for one hundred and something thousand pounds.

You get more for your money in Wales…(well anywhere outside London really, unless your main aim is to capitalise) but this would never persuade our Barry to part ways with the UK’s capital.

This led into a chat about WFH (working from home) and how this is having an impact on buyer behaviour and property prices – priorities are changing and shaping the market like never before…..

Barry also made a point about some of the down sides to working from home:

….the younger ones won’t always get to learn from the older one’s and sometimes they need this in order to learn properly. 

Barry said he was amazed the first time he saw someone he knew accessing all her office things from home (basically the tech side of it all).

Honestly, you’d think we were down the pub or something, having this chat….not blocking the way by the cake tin shelf at XXX supermarket!!!

At this point I’m starting to anticipate the announcement about closing time on the supermarket tannoy system and I’ve still got a long list of other random things to find.

My instincts told me Barry needed this chat…and so it continues….

Lead pipes and drinking water – in relation to health

Now how did this come up – Oh yes – the conversation turned back to kitchenware, and investing in quality pans – “not aluminium or titanium”...I’m more of a cast iron/stainless steel fan, and pointed out the long history of aluminium being linked to health problems (including Alzheimer’s).

Barry reckons another big cause of modern day Alzheimer’s is lead pipes – apparently a lot of people don’t know they still have lead pipes – especially running underground where they’re out of sight – they’re not always/all copper. 🧐

Barry seemed very surprised when I said I only drank bottled water – due to things I’ve read/heard about tap water – I buy a batch every month. (I think this is a lot more common these days – esp. in London with all the limescale and hard water we have put up with).


It was daylight when I entered the supermarket and black as midnight when I left the exit….taken slightly off guard for a minute – like ‘when did it turn into night time, the clocks haven’t even changed yet?’

Barry didn’t have a trolly or a basket, just his umbrella, and he’d been in no hurry to get any shopping done – I wonder if he just popped down to the shops in the hope of a chat – any old chat… ☔️

COVID, lockdowns and social distancing are really putting a dampener on human contact, especially for elderly people who live alone and those who may already have been struggling pre-COVID.

I’m glad I let this one roll… sometimes conversations with strangers might work more wonders than you’ll ever know…

As for Barry, hopefully he’ll start making lists, pack before ‘the night before’ his flights and start drinking bottled water (I sound like his mum 😆 ) while I start buying more expensive cake tins! 🤔 😊 🍰

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