Saturday, 31 March 2012

Be extraordinary

My mum is afraid that I am missing out on life by saving money and paying towards a future with no mortgage and no debts. She things that I should have some fun sometimes. It got me thinking about how the world perceives money savers. It is no surprise that the national average debt is somewhere between 4 and 6 thousand per person, excluding mortgages and student loans when the attitude of exceptionally sane people like my mother still equates fun with spending money. I have had the most wonderful, enjoyable and yes, fun, week with my friend and the sum total we spent was some petrol, but not much as I only did about 20 miles in the whole week and £1 in parking. Food, except for a cream tea, was eaten at home and cooked in the kitchen, as it normally would be for me. Because I am a good cook, restaurants are often a disappointment. How often do you find when you are paying a restaurant bill, that you start thinking about how much that would have cost if you had made it yourself and how much better you could do it. Could I have had more fun by spending large amounts of money? I doubt it, because the fantastic company of a really good friend, the wonderful English countryside and the joy of fresh air was something that can't be beaten.

I have, in the past, been on dating websites - they have never lasted long because in the end, that is not how I would like to meet someone and there is something a little sordid about many of them. But one thing that I notice is that in the list of hobbies, one of them that often comes up as a choice is 'shopping'. Since when did spending money become a hobby? How did materialism really take over peoples lives so much that shopping became a solution for having fun?

I was paid a huge compliment a few years ago by a colleague of mine. She said that she had always respected me so much, because I was never drawn in by the crowd, never followed what everyone else did and never minded being different. That I didn't shout about it, I didn't preach about my life, I just led it in a different way. It is something I am proud of.

One of my favourite films is 'Dead Poets Society' and one of the phrases that I have always loved in that film is when Robin Williams takes the boys out into the corridor to look at the old photos of past school boys and quotes the poem 'Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may'. He reminds the boys to 'be extraordinary'. Nowhere does he say,' and remember to have fun and spend lots of money'. Just live your life differently than the crowd.

I am lucky, because I have seen the world through my job and travelled extensively with it, so spending money on holidays has never been important. Yet of the three big holidays I have had, the best by far was also the cheapest - hiring a little cottage in Scotland, for very little money. Beat going to the caribbean, or, horror of horrors, the trip to Egypt I had, which cost me an arm and a leg. It is so often about the company, and not about the money spent.

Most people think that if they have not something new and shiny to show for their lives, for their money, then they have somehow failed and sometimes I think people spend so that they can show other people what they have. Possessions have become more important than what is going on inside. They think that others judge them on what fashion they are wearing more than what are their values and morals. Sadly, this is probably true. When the country was struck by horrible looting last summer it wasn't a stand of people trying to fight for what they believed in, but the dregs of society trying to get more possessions for free.

A large part of the blame for all of this is down to people trying to emulate what others have. Following a celebrity culture that shows that you can have what you want and that you deserve it. It is down to media and reality tv making the very worst kind of people into stars which the young look up to and wish they had the same things, when wise people such as frugal Queen and mean queen should be the real stars. Instead, people who have good values are made out to be a bit eccentric on shows such as Superscrimpers.
How wonderful would the world be if people started saying NO and turning away from celebrity culture, if people started to be extraordinary in a different way.

by Robert Herrick

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may, 
  Old Time is still a-flying: 
And this same flower that smiles to-day 
  To-morrow will be dying. 
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,         5
  The higher he 's a-getting, 
The sooner will his race be run, 
  And nearer he 's to setting. 
That age is best which is the first, 
  When youth and blood are warmer;  10
But being spent, the worse, and worst 
  Times still succeed the former. 
Then be not coy, but use your time, 
  And while ye may, go marry: 
For having lost but once your prime,  15
  You may for ever tarry.


Friday, 30 March 2012


Another lovely day yesterday before my friend left back to the States. Hopefully not another 9 years before we see each other again!
The plan yesterday was to climb the hill that I can see from my window. It started out a little frustrating, because, armed with my OS map, we set off on the path that was shown, but time after time we were thwarted by lack of signs, lack of path and too many brick walls that it was impossible to get over. Finally, after climbing over a fallen down dry stone wall from the cemetery, we found ourselves on one of the paths shown - well it was all worth it. Once we were beyond the houses and farms we found ourselves in open moorland, hills and rivers with breathtaking beauty and unbelievable views. Our plan was to walk to Watergrove Reservoir and after 2 and a half hours of wrong turns we got there, after a break dipping our tired feet in a beautiful river. Watergrove reservoir is really lovely, with small beaches and little groves of trees all around it. It took us 2 and a half hours to get there, but only 1 and a half hours to get back, once we knew where we were going - I've stored the route away in my head for the future. On the way home, we met a charming old couple who had lived here in Whitworth all their lives and knew the hills like the back of their hands and were able to give us a great route back that comes out really near my home. They also told us an interesting tale of how during the 2nd World War, the army had used two old ruined farms as target practice and how, as a boy, he had dug around the ruins and found all the old shells, using them to add weight to his home made bows and arrows. He pointed out so many different walks and routes in the area to us that my head was spinning and I was unable to remember most of them.

While we were out, I came across the tell tale smell of wild garlic and there was acres of it. We gathered a few handfuls to bring back for the evening.
We decided to make a sort of bacon pasta carbonara using the wild garlic and some pink peppercorns that I had picked and dried when I was working in the South of France last year and it was really lovely. The wild garlic gives such a wonderful and subtle flavour offset by the sharp taste of the peppercorns. A meal to be proud of and one made all the nicer by the foraged ingredients, the good company, the fresh air of the day and our sun-pink and happy faces!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Seeing my new area through another's eyes.

I feel like I have been absent for ages! I have been up since 5 this morning and have caught up on all your lovely blogs which was a nice early morning treat. I have had an old friend staying with me this week, one who I have not seen in 9 years because she lives in New York and it has been such a lovely time. I have not been working at all (because my departure back to London for a couple of months work is on 9th April)  and the weather, as you all know, has been absolutely glorious.
It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore my new area with someone who knows it even less that I do and it has been enormous fun.
On Tuesday we took a walk down Healey Dell, which is a nature reserve, local to me and spent a lovely morning following the river, looking for kingfishers (we found none), wagtails (we found one) and trying to spot fairies in the faries chapel (no luck there either). In the afternoon we wandered over the hill behind my house and to the reservoir.
Yesterday we went to Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley which was such a beautiful building. Sadly it doesn't open to the public until this coming weekend, but people are free to wander through the grounds. We then had a cream tea in the tea rooms - essential for such a visit I think.

Gawthorpe Hall

We rounded off the trip with a drive to the incredibly pretty village of Barley, which nestles under the shadow of Pendle Hill, famed for its connection with the Lancashire witches. What a lovely village, highly recommended if you find yourself in the area. We paid our pound parking (which delighted us by being charged on the honour system) and walked to the base of Pendle Hill. Neither of us had quite enough energy or the correct gear to climb the hill, but I would love to go back one day and do it.

Pendle Hill

Today we are going to try and climb over the hills that separate my little town of Whitworth with Hollingworth Lake. It may to too far a walk, but  we will see how far we get. It starts with climbing the hill that I have been looking at from my living room window for the last 2 months and I have been dying to know what is on the other side!

In other news, my compost bin has arrived and last night I put in my very first load of compostable kitchen waste. It may not seem very exciting to most people, but to me it was a real event, something that reinforces a connection to the garden cycle and it felt quite significant.

Welcome to my new followers, there seem to have been quite a lot of you recently! Sorry that I have posted little of late. It is always nice to here from you, so please comment and introduce yourself, or just say hello, if you feel like it. We are a very friendly community!

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Thank you to those yesterday who helped me to identify the tree. Here is some trivia about it that you may or may not know - new to me anyway, but those who new the tree may know this. The Berberis is originally from South America and the berries it produces in Autumn are edible and make a very nice jam apparently. Anyone tried this? Full of vitamin C it seems.

I have company today, a very good friend is coming over from Cheshire to see where I am living and to have lunch (which is lucky because I have to stay in for a delivery today as well). Now I don't think I have spent very much at all on food this month, I had a lot in the store cupboard and have just topped up on basics now and again, probably about £20. Having said that I have spent excessively on gardening stuff, which is fine, but it has been done with a certain amount of gay abandon. I just feel that I have no idea what I have spent and I need to very much get back on track before I decline into overdraft. So with that in mind, yesterday I set about cooking. I didn't particularly wish to get the car out and go to the delightful Rochdale supermarkets so I took the 20 minute walk to the co-op instead. My co-op is a very expensive shop! There are rarely any bargains to be had (although I did pick up a couple of little gem lettuces for 49p) and so I shelved my original plan of making a Thai green chicken (or prawn) curry because the chicken and the prawns were just too expensive in there. Instead I opted for using up the rather large amount of eggs I had nearing their use by date and to utilise the fact that the oven would be on by filling it to capacity and beyond. So £5 was spent on a piece of gammon that was over a kilo (apparently half price but I know that a piece like that was never really £10 to begin with - they are such cheaters). Still, not a bad price for a large piece.

Now before I start on the food, I would like to just point out that my photography does tend to make anything like deeply unattractive, the camera on my phone gives most things a slightly orange tint that makes the food look rather ghastly. I promise you, it looks better in reality.

So last night, first I made an apple cake to use up 3 rather sad looking apples and 2 of the eggs.

and then I made a banana loaf to use up another couple of eggs and 2 black bananas. Sampled 2 slices.

Third was the tortilla which used the remaining 4 eggs up and some old potatoes. Instead of frying the potatoes (a job I hate) I actually just oiled them and put them in the oven to roast as it was on and then transferred them to the frying pan when they were done. Made life much simpler and no real difference to the end result.

and lastly was my gammon, which I boiled first and then I blackened in the oven with a honey and mustard glaze.

Along with a salad and some fresh bread which is cooking now, I think that all of this will provide us with a nice lunch and will leave me with great leftovers for the next few days.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Anyone know what this tree is?

I have a tree in the garden and I would like to know what it is, so anyone who knows or has any clues please tell me. Sorry some of the close ups are bad - not a good photographer!
Its a bout 9 feet and has thorns. 

yellow, orangey berries.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Bookcase project

I have a lot of books. I have been collecting books since I was a teen and as I am regularly re-reading books I never get rid of one unless I hated it. I don't buy so many now, just the occasional second hand or 1p amazon special now and again.
Storing my books has been a problem over the years and this is probably the first time in about 20 years that all my books have been in one place. I have had hundrends stored in my parents loft for many years and in various other cupboards. Finally I have them all here leading to problems with having them all out. One day I will have floor to ceiling bookshelves (when I convert the garage in a few years, but until then I would like to be able to get at most of them without hunting through boxes.

This week my project was to build a nice bookshelf for a small selection of my books, out of cheap flat pack furniture, modified by my own fair hand to look a little better and more in keeping.

So I went through the hateful experience the is shopping in IKEA. Where else can you get a flat packed bookcase, nearly 2 metres high for £19.99? So home I came with a KILBY bookcase which was swiftly put together.

First thing that I added was a moulding around the top and down the sides....

As this is to mostly contain paperbacks, this bookshelf has a monumental amount of wasted space between shelves, so some extra shelves were needed. I cut these out of plain cheap white covered chipboard. Making it a much more respectable 7 shelf bookcase (8 if you count the top)

I then primed the whole thing...

and added some brown paint to the edges and corners..

and finally gave it a couple of coats of cream paint (the same as the colour on the bedroom walls).

A bit of discreet sanding allowed some of the brown paint to show through a bit at the edges and corners...

The back was added (not sure I should have left that grey, but it can always be changed at a later date)...

Finally some of my books were put in and I think it looks much better than the original piece of flatpack that it was. The beading was the biggest expense coming in at £10, and the extra shelves cost me another £7 (although I still have enough particle board for use in another shelf in a future project.)

Now I have to come up with some more places to put more books, something for the kitchen I think.......

Monday, 19 March 2012

A few garden photos.

I've been busy in the garden the last few warmish days and getting some things done.
Indoors I have seeds on the go

5 different types of tomato here. Lots of seeds all done well, so I will be giving some away to friends.

Leeks on the left, marigolds on the right.

I've always wanted a rose growing up the front of my cottage and finally got one in yesterday. Thought it would be problematic as it is a North facing wall, but after some research it seems that this rose (Zepherine Drouhin) does very very well on North facing walls so fingers crossed. It has lovely red flowers and is thornless.

Another rose in the front, this is a golden wedding floribunda.

Victoria Plum tree.

Kept my rosemary planted in a pot for now.

2 little box trees in my home painted pots.

Considering my profile photo, I thought that this Green Man would be lucky, watching over the garden.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Hello all,

Sorry, all been a bit quiet from me in blog land this week. Had some house guests (and more on their way). I'm being taken out to dinner by them this evening as a thank you for staying, which is a rare treat for me, and I intend to enjoy it thoroughly.
I have one or two projects on the go which will be blogged about on completion later on this week (unless of course they turn out disastrous, in which case, I will just pretend they never happened and never mention them again).
I have been gardening off and on, weather allowing and the results of that will also be blogged about later this week, Victoria plum tree in, some roses (always wanted climbing roses on my house).
Also later this week I will post a photo of a tree I have in my garden, which I can't identify. If anyone can I would be very grateful.

So lots of promises of things to come but not a lot of action today.

Enjoy your weekend one and all.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Gardening opinions wanted.

I have been working in the garden any spare chance I get while the sun has been shining. It has been lovely!
Here are the photos of what I have been doing.

First tender rhubarb stem appearing.

My bramley apple tree.

2 gooseberry bushes, a nice big healthy plant in the front and a smaller one behind.

2 Blackcurrant bushes.

Now although I am a theoretical gardener, that is, someone who has read a ton of books on the subject, but has not necessarily had tons of practical experience, I am looking for opinions from those of you who are much more knowledgeable
As some of you may have noticed, from the photos of my house, there is a section of my garden that is quite sloped (ok, very sloped) If you look at the photos of this post you can see the slope in some of them.
So I want your opinions on how best to use this slope to my advantage and I will tell you what I have been planning. Bearing in mind that I can't afford to do anything that costs much - I am sure there is plenty of great things I could have done if I paid money to put terraces in etc, but I have to do all the work myself on the cheap for now. So far I have planted my 2 gooseberry and 2 blackcurrant bushes on the slope and I was thinking perhaps that it could be a good idea to use the slope for fruit bushes in general, that way, there is initial planting and then they can be left alone more than other things could. I have 2 redcurrant bushes waiting to go in and I would like to add raspberries  to the mix. What would you do with it? Do you think my idea is a decent one and could work? I don't want to cause any damage to the 'structure' of the natural slope and cause the earth to slide or anything like that. All advice and opinions are welcome.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

My story, final part.

Hello again everyone and as usual, thank you all for your comments.
First off, for those who asked, here is a link to a brief sound clip of me singing something 'light'. A quick duet encore from Guys and Dolls (not my usual repertoire) with my best friend singing with me (my onstage wife). I only start singing about 2 minutes into the clip. Hope you enjoy, sorry about the cheezy pictures.

OK, here is the third and final part.

I learnt so much in those two years of saving. I found out how much money was saved by turning everything off at the plug when not in use. I learnt to not heat the house ridiculously and get used to living in a cooler environment. To have throws on the sofa to wrap up in on a cold day, to turn the heat off in the rooms it didn’t matter about and just to heat the rooms I used. I learnt to switch the tap off while I was brushing my teeth and a million other small things. All sounds so simple now, but it was a learning curve at the time.
Finally I did it, saved the £10 grand the month that the flat went on the market and around the time that I started this blog. So now I had £47,000 when it would sell.

I gave myself a budget limit for buying my new house and kept as much to it as was possible. Yes, I could have afforded more, but why should I? I want to be mortgage free, I don't want to owe anything to anybody and I want to live my life peacefully with security. I don't need a massive house filled with the latest gadgets. I need somewhere to sleep, somewhere to have friends round, somewhere with room too cook and a garden to grow.

So my final bit of advice to anyone who wants to downsize in their life and spending, to live a better life and to get closer to nature is to just do it! Don’t get sucked into commercialism, learn to laugh at how ludicrous advertisements are, once you get into the habit of looking how they work, you realise what nonsense it all is. Don’t get sucked into random supermarket shopping, don’t be embarrassed to buy nothing but value ranges if necessary or yellow label food, learn how supermarkets work, they just want to part you with your money, they don't need to be the cheapest, they just need us to believe they are the cheapest, which means that we have to do the hard work of knowing where to go for what. Don’t be embarssed to say to friends, NO, I don’t want to go out for dinner because I can’t afford it, but hey, why don’t you come over to mine for dinner instead? Try living on the bare minimum for a month and then once you have done it, cut the budget down again to push yourself even further. Stop buying alcohol, it is a real money drain, so just have it on special occasions, or better still, try making your own, forage for some of the free items you can use for nettle beer or blackberry wine. Get rid of credit cards and make clearing debt a priority. My life is so much richer for what I have done and I will never tire of it now.

The only thing that has changed now and has more room for change in the future is my attitude towards work. I no longer want to spend months away from home (letting my poor veggies die in the process) and I am putting a lot of thought into what happens next for me. I want to have a dog, a cat and maybe a couple of chickens. I have had a good 15 years in this profession and have enjoyed a lot of the experiences I have had, but I can see a change coming. Maybe it will take a year, maybe it will take 5 or 10 but I am looking ahead and seeing what possibilities are there. Believe it or not I am already getting long in the tooth, at nearly 40, for the profession I am in – the roles of the 'father' are increasing and the role of the 'lover' diminishing. Like so many other ways in life, sadly the way we look is becoming more important than the way a singer sounds and youth rules. Sad to say, it is generally worse for women, as I know plenty of wonderful sopranos whose careers are coming to a close in their mid 40’s because people want to see someone young on stage (or at least companies believe that this is what people want to see). Commercialism and celebrity culture is infiltrating everywhere and even long established art forms are suffering for it. I am not sure how long I want to be a part of it, but time will tell. I feel that I have made the first leap and I have completely different priorities now than I had 10 years ago.

So what does the future hold for me in my little cottage? Who knows, no point in second guessing it. I have to go to London for 2 months, mid-April and to be honest I have mixed feeling about that. I am so settled here that I don't want to go really, but I know that once I start working I will enjoy myself. I will be staying with very kind friends to keep the cost of living there down, but with the best will in the World, the travel at least will be an unavoidable expense. I have organised friends and family to come and water my plants while I am away, as necessary, although Lancashire weather may just mean that won't be needed. On the other hand my utility usage will go down to nil while I am away. I am able to teach both singing and piano and music theory, so when my present contract is over (October) I am looking into the possibilities of maybe doing some teaching to make some extra cash. I will certainly be taking a local job if I can get one for the 'inbetween contracts' time, I'll turn my hand to anything. 
One thing I do know now, is that I have found the place where I am meant to be and am enjoying the way my life is going, then there is no stopping me. I have loads and loads more to learn. This will be my first year of 'proper' gardening, and I am sure I will make mistakes. I still waste money sometimes and often am annoyed when I think, well that could have paid some money off my mortgage. But the secret is to never beat yourself up over mistakes. Just learn from them and then carry on learning in the process.

Incidentally, I went out to a friends house last night and we had humous and bread and then chicken and chips. There were 2 good sized pieces of chicken left and half a tub of now out of date humous (only by a day) and my friend was chucking them out - so guess who came back with a little tin foil package. Lunch is sorted!

Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

My story, part 2..

Thank you for reading yesterday and for all your nice comments.

I bought my first home with my, then, partner and it was an ex council house that I picked up for a song (£77,000 in the South East with was a real bargain at the time) and was in need of an awful lot of work. I love to get my hands dirty, so I did 100% of the work myself and sold it after 2 years for £110,000. I tried everything and learnt any new skill that I needed by reading books and just giving it a go with patience. Making some money was just a lucky circumstance. Unfortunately we had got into debt because we had had to take a loan out to make up the deposit and our relationship just couldn’t stand the stress, so all in all, I came out of that experience £13,000 richer, but life poorer and more stressed than ever. Shortly after this I bought my flat in London and that was an expense I could, fortunately, at the time afford, although only just. I was comfortable but very discontent in a city I hated. The thing it allowed me to do was to sell up and move here with a small mortgage of only £46,000. Which makes me a very lucky man indeed.

As I have hinted, I had become increasingly sick of people wasting money and began to look back with shame at some of the ways in which I had wasted money in the past. It is so much easier to just do what everyone else does, but I think in this way it is easy to lose perspective on who you really are and what you really need.

I bought some pots and started planting my own veg and to be honest, I think my real journey began when those first green shoots appeared in my tomato plants. It was a revelation to me that I could grow something from a tiny seed that could eventually feed me. I bought a guide to self-sufficiency by Dick Strawbridge and devoured it, borrowed gardening books and read them from cover to cover and a plan took seed, just like those first green shoots of the tomato plants. I had become increasingly depressed and stopped going out much, not just because of the money but because of my hatred for where I lived. I saw that I had to make a long term plan. Being immobile was not an option.

Stage one of my plan happened about 3 years ago, when I started taking driving lessons, I knew that if I was going to live in the country, I had to be able to drive and until then, it had not been necessary. I did this, passed and bought a car.
Stage two was saving, saving and saving some more. I knew that I would have about £37,000 once I had sold my flat, so knew this would buy me nothing in the South East without a wopping mortgage and anyway, deep down I wanted the county I was born in. It was a slow realization. I was born in Lancashire and I am a Northerner at heart and was never meant to live in a Southen city. So lucky for me that house prices are very different in the North than in the South, I could have never done it the other way around. Having said that, I can honestly say that I would move anywhere to have improved my lot. 

And that would be my first piece of advice to anyone wanting to do something similar. Don’t be afraid of moving or trying something new if it could improve your life. Move to a modest home and look at your serious priorities. I think a garden was a top priority for me because it gives me the means to grow my own food, to get my hands in the earth and to build that connection up again with mother nature.There is nothing quite so calming as spending an afternoon working in the garden. My wish list had a sunny aspect garden at the top of the list – I felt it to be more important than the house actually – which made estate agents roll their eyes at me! Next I wanted a fixer upper, learn to do whatever can be done by yourself. Don’t pay someone if you can do something yourself, however busy you are, you can find time, think of all the time you save by not going shopping!

Anyway, back to the story. After passing my driving test, I gave myself 2 years more (was stuck in a fixed rate mortgage) and decided to make myself save another £10,000 in that time – no mean feat on a fairly low income with a mortgage to pay. I literally reduced my spending down to the bare minimum, I learnt how to cook everything from scratch and experimented with learning how to make just about any product that could be bought, from scratch. I tried making baked beans, tomato ketchup, shampoo, washing up liquid (not successful) etc etc, you get the picture. When you begin to break things down to the basics, you realise that most things can be done yourself, for a fraction of the cost – not always cheaper, but mostly.

So second piece of advice, learn to cook! Go to the library and get cookery books, or beg borrow and steal them. Buy a freezer and make large amounts of everything and get it frozen. Never throw a single piece of good food away and if it looks like it might go off, do something with it and freeze it! If you don't need it, don't buy it.

That is the end of part 2 and tomorrow I will post the final part of my short journal.

Friday, 2 March 2012

My story, part 1.,

One of my fairly new followers asked me recently if I had ever written a post about the journey which got me to this little cottage in the North. Of course the blog has been an online journal of that journey over the last 10 or so months, so there is no real individual post about it, so I thought that, despite the possibility of boring you all, I would say a little more about me and how I end up here. Sorry if it is a bit long and rambling, but I won’t be at all offended if you get bored and can’t be bothered to read on much! It is a long post, so I have decided to split it over a few days. First part is a little bit more about me and what I do.

As some of you may know if you’ve read enough of my comments, I have the rather unusual job of being an opera singer. I am, by no means, famous in this field of work, but I am moderately successful, which means basically that I have never had to do anything else to earn my money (except a brief stint as a personal shopper for Tesco when money was tight a few years ago) and that I have only had to accept decent solo parts rather than going into a chorus (which surprisingly pays better than solo work, but which gives less satisfaction). I come from a musical family (mother is a piano teacher, sister is an opera singer) and it was inevitable that I would do music in one form or another, so I got a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music when I was 18 (20 years ago) to study piano and soon swapped to first study singing because my voice was ok. When I graduated with a first, I got regular work singing small roles with opera companies and eventually moved onto bigger roles. It may surprise you to learn that an opera singer really doesn’t earn very much (unless you are Kiri te Kanawa). Our time is paid for by performance and the months of rehearsals are done for as little as £300. Yes, that is £300 a month working Monday to Saturday! We are supposed to make up for that when we start the performances. I say supposed to. I have never earned more than £17,000 gross in one year and that was a good year.

The thing about my job is, is that I come in contact with enormous amounts of serious wealth and enormous amounts of waste. At first it was exciting to be at after performance ‘do’s’ that had cost thousands, to be involved in enormously expensive productions. But soon reality takes over and you begin to realise that money should not be wasted like this. To give an example, a few years ago there was a production of an opera that had 2 fully automated animals in it (don’t ask). A big cow and a big horse. Each one had moving mouth, eyes, eyelids tails and feet. And each one cost in the region of £25,000. On the dress rehearsal, the director decided he didn’t like the horse and it was scrapped. Yes, I mean chucked out and never used in a single performance. In the bin. That sort of thing makes me sick (and goes towards the reason why opera tickets are so expensive). Anyway I digress (told you it may be rambling)

The wealth of people who don’t have a clue how ‘real’ people live became a bit sickening to me, although it was a long and slow waking up process. At first I was as guilty as the next person for wanting more, wanting to emulate the lifestyle and spending more than I had, getting myself in debts. But something was changing in my life and in my attitude towards money. Maybe I was growing up or maybe I was just becoming the person I was meant to be.

Will post part 2 tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Making my mark

Today I planted my apple tree out in the back garden. I know it will be a few years before it bears fruit, but I will enjoy watching it grow while I do. I can't tell you how much pleasure it gave me working in the garden all afternoon in the lovely warm sunshine that we were blessed with today.
3 neighbours stopped by for a quick chat 'over the garden wall' and one of them told me some of the history of the place, having lived here for over 40 years. As you know, I am on the side of one of the Pennine Hills and just over the brow is a quarry. This would explain all the rocks I hit as I dug down in the ground making the hole for the tree! It is a labour of love pulling out all the stones. I went walking the other day up the hill and past the quarry and here are some picture.

The Rossendale countryside is pretty stunning I think you will agree.

More gardening this weekend if the weather holds.