Monday, 23 April 2012

You keep me sane

Homesickness is beginning to set in now. I miss my connection with the outdoors. I miss the feeling that working in the outdoors gives me. I miss acres of countryside around me. I miss that sense of space. I miss seeing the puppies grow.

But there is more that I miss besides the obvious.

I miss the attitudes of people who live in a s smaller place. I miss the direction that my thoughts turn to when I am at home, the plans that I have, to make things work.

Where I am staying now is definitely a different world, one that I don't entirely belong to and don't entirely not belong to, it is a strange feeling. I enjoy my work and, obviously, I need to earn money, but I just wish my work was not city based.

It is a blip, yesterday was a piss poor day and I felt very low coming home last night, watching the miserable faces and needing that hit that only home can give.

So, thank you to my fellow bloggers, because reading your blogs/comments seems to connect me back to my home in a way that I would not have believed possible a year ago. When the people around me don't seem to understand me, I know there is a whole community of people out there that does,

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Commuting and rehearsing.

I've been thinking an awful lot about lifestyles and the differences between the people I have got used to at home and the people I am now seeing every day on my commute. The difference must be money, surely? You would not put yourself through the commute unless you were getting rewarded for it financially, would you? Well, that seems logical to me anyway, however, what I am actually seeing is people in fairly ordinary jobs who are having to put themselves through one hell of a commute every day, I can't believe that the financial rewards are always worth it.

I am staying with friends in a small hamlet near Dartford and the train journey into London is 50 minutes (to London Charing Cross) and costs pence under £70 a week. It's basically taking me 2 hours in each direction (including walking, tubes and changes). If I were doing this every day it would cost me £3600 a year in travel and 1000 hours commute a year. So are the financial rewards still worth it? The friends I am staying with are a lovely couple, one of whom, for 16 years, had done this commute and he will hand on heart say that it is not worth it. He has recently given up his job in central London and is working down the road, short term, for less than half the salary he was on. Long term, they have wonderful plans - they have bought a 3/4 acre plot of land in France and are starting to build an eco house there later this year and will move over with very little money but embracing what life is really about, it doesn't include 1000 hours a year commuting funnily enough.

I am thrilled to hear of anyone who is changing their lifestyles and suddenly I am surrounded by people who are living differently in certain ways. During the rehearsals for the opera I am doing at the moment there is often hanging around to do and people fill the time in different ways. What is interesting this time around is that one girl is currently spending this time crocheting and has shown me photos of the huge blanket she is doing out of granny squares (I was proud to know the term having read your blogs). Another girl, who is singing the very famous part of the Queen of the Night, is sitting in the corner wearing a home knitted jumper and a knitted hat and is currently knitting something else (another hat I reckon), She looks like she would be more at home on a farm than in a rehearsal room really. As do I. Why do I have so few clothes that don't have holes in or paint splattered somewhere on them (sigh)? The girl who is the wardrobe mistress recently moved, with her husband, to a little cottage in Norfolk where they have access to a field, besides growing veggies, she is currently owner of 4 chickens and 2 pigs. being wardrobe mistress has massive advantages because she can basically make anything! I have known her for 10 years and have so enjoyed watching the transformation of her happiness since she moved there. Her long term plan is self sufficiency.

So are we at the edge of a frugal living revolution? are more and more people getting it? I hope so, although I doubt it when I look at the miserable faces on the commute. But every single person who gets it a bit, is a step in the right direction and I am certainly seeing much more of it than I was before.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Kindness of friends.

I am lucky. While I have been working in London and continue to for the next 6 and a half weeks I am staying with good and very kind friends. They have opened their home to me and given me their spare room and this makes such a difference to me, not only am I living with friends, but I am looked after and it is this that is allowing me to continue to work in London when I have a contract.
Things are going well, but I have a terrible cold. I have been fine and so well while I was living in my home, for months, but within 10 days of being in London I came down with a sore throat that has now made me completely lose my voice. In my job, this is not really the best thing that could happen. I'm sure I probably caught it from someone on the tube.
 Today I have a day off and I am spending it resting and keeping warm and not talking, in the hope of ridding myself of this so that by next week I am back on form. My opening night is 14th May, so no worries as I have weeks to recover yet.
I am keeping up with all your blogs when I manage to get myself online and that is keeping me sane while I live a slightly crazy lifestyle for a while.
That's all for now.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


So how does it feel being back in London? Not so bad really. I don't want to live here any more, but working here for a bit feels ok when I know that I have my home in the country waiting for me! The thing that has always got me about living in London has been the sheer quantity of people and that will never change. I don't suppose anyone really likes pushing onto a crowded train and standing nose to armpit with someone, but some people seem to accept it as something they have to put up with. I suppose I could never really accept that. The amount of times I have let 2 or 3 tubes go by because I refuse to squash, you wouldn't believe. So yes, the worst bit for me has always been the crowds, with particular reference to public transport. The difference I notice massively is kindness. Now, obviously there are plenty of kind people here, but I mean general kind to a stranger sort of niceness. It is very lacking here. Where everyone says hello or stops for a chat where I live, very few people even make eye contact here. I suppose it's big city complex or some such thing.
1 week down, 7 to go.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A year ago today........

I started my blog a year ago today, so it is as good an opportunity as any to look back on the last 12 months.

To say that the last 12 months have been a significant turning point for me is an understatement, so much has happened and so much has changed in my life.

I started a blog, like most people do, as a sort of online diary, for my own benefit. It is a good way to order thoughts and keep a record of things I have done or things I have liked. I just looked up my very first entry from 10th April 2011, which you can find here. It is hard to imagine that I wrote this while I was still living in London, still with this house I now own just a dream and when I was making my first tentative steps towards a new life style and goal. One year on and it is all different, but I am happy to say, that I have achieved a lot of what I set out to achieve and that is something I can be proud of.

I was inspired to start writing myself after being an observer on many other frugal living blogs, there are so many wonderful ones out there. When I got my first few comments I was delighted, at least what I was doing meant something to someone besides myself, enough for them to read it and write a comment. What I have discovered, of course, is that I am not alone in the way I feel about modern living, my desires and dreams for the future, something I had always felt a little isolated and alone about, suddenly there were others who understood these things and how lovely that was for me.

My life has changed for the better and every day at home I appreciate what I have done, what I have got and the joy that it brings me.

So it is with some irony that today, 1 year on, is the first day of a  2 month job back in London for me, leaving my dream cottage alone for some weeks. The city that I learned to dislike so much will once again become my home for a brief while.

However, lots has changed. Being here as a 'guest' is different from being here as a resident. If I have a hard, horrible day, with all the ghastly crowds on the public transport, and just by closing my eyes I can be back in my home. Knowing that it is all still there, waiting for me makes a very big difference to my attitude. 8 weeks will, hopefully, fly by and it will be an opportunity to catch up with those friends that I left behind here, all those that thought that I was mad and tried to talk me out of moving. Well, thank goodness I didn't listen, because I was right and they were wrong!

It seems fitting that on the event of my blogging aniversary I should perhaps set out some more things that I want to achieve in the coming year 'til April 10th 2013:

This last year, I got the house and got it largely sorted out. So, the next year will be a lot about the garden. I have good plans for it, because, although I want it to be a place I can utilise to grow food, it is also to be a place I love to be in. I have a plan and plenty of inspiration. Some if it costs money I haven't got yet, but plenty of it just involves hard work and imagination - I can do all of that.

My working life, well, I have posted a little about this before, I need to get some sort of balance between what I do, what I want to do and what direction I am taking. Not necessarily any massive decisions, but I would like to have some clue about what I want in the future. Perhaps that will all become self explanatory when I have lived and settled in Lancashire even more.

More practically, I would like to have the opportunity to live, with equal financial freedom, but able to put aside a little for savings. Not everyone cares about this, but it is a long time since I was at financial rock bottom - of course that was bound to happen this year, when I threw everything I had at this house. Now It is time to give myself that little bit of security that I like. I would like to start overpaying on the mortgage that I owe, so that I can achieve that financial goal of clearing it within the next decade and develop a small emergency fund.

One thing I would really like to do, is to learn more about foraging natures larder. I have used the elderflowers, elderberries, nettles, wild plums, blackberries and wild garlic and I feel confident with all of those delicious ingredients, but I want to know more. Sadly, being away in London will make my explorations of the country through Spring, few and far between, so I will miss a certain amount of the ingredients this year, but I am sure there is more through late summer and autumn, just waiting to be discovered.

So there it is. One year on and I have loved the journey so far. It has also been lovely sharing it with like minded people on here, so thank you for being followers, thank you for your much appreciated comments - sorry if I have ever missed replying to some, I try my best, but some fall through the cracks when I am busy. I promise, I enjoy reading every single one. And thank you for all your encouraging words and advice when I have needed it. Also thank you to those whose blogs I enjoy reading so much. Catching up on them all is a lovely part of my early morning.

Here's to another year of frugality, country living and happiness.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Today has been a big gardening day for me. I am going away with work soon and I wanted to get as much done as I could before I left. Started out mowing all the lawns - very satisfying - and then I got down to making somewhere to get some veg in. I dug out the area around the new apple tree and the rhubarb, not necessarily the best place for veggies but this will be just for this year, plans for the gardens will mean this bed needed digging out anyway and the tree and the rhubarb are not going to get massive this year.

Now the problem with my garden is that, being built on a hill and near a quarry, it is full of rocks. Turning over a bed like I did this morning is back breaking work that requires hours of digging out rocks before you can progress very far. 3 hours on and I have all of them out (5 boxes full of rocks!), added in some compost and raked it all over. A job well done.

I have put in peas, onions and some new potatoes (nicola variety, which I have had before and which were delicious) It is not a particularly organised bed, I know where everything is, but it is not in neat little rows, again, that is a one year thing, I just wanted to get them in so that I can go away and leave them.

I also planted another blackcurrant in a pot this time, and some potatoes in potato bags, see how they do in there, my mum has had a lot of luck using them.

It is an absolute pleasure working outside in the garden and I could spend all day doing it (unlike my neighbours, who hate gardening so much that, at this moment they are having the entire thing decked, every last little square inch - not my kind of garden at all)

I have made a master long term plan in my own garden. At first, I wanted to give the back over to veggies, but I then realised how much I love beautiful ornamental plants as well. So I am going for a true cottage garden with a mixture of veg and ornamental, all growing in a planned haphazard way. I am going to put a couple of full size trellis up along the top of the slope at the far end of the garden which will be used for growing clematis, roses, etc and in front of that will be a patio area that will have a small table and some chairs. I decided to use the sloping part for raised beds, will be a lot of work to dig out, but will be worth it in the end I think to utilise the space. The other part of the slope will be used for fruit bushes as in the original idea. I will separate the flat garden from the sloped veg garden with the trellis and a hedge which will give me some much needed privacy from neighbours and then I will get more beds in where I can. I am lucky with a due South facing garden, so whatever I do, I never create much shade and it will always be lovely and sunny, weather allowing.
All this will take a long time to do, but I think it is best to have the plan as a starting point, then I won't make so many mistakes when I am deciding to put something in. As all of the work will be done by me, It shouldn't cost too much, which is good, as I need to put some money aside to replace the fence within the next 12 months.

I will try and scan in the plan some time and show you all.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with another couple of pictures of the puppies (see last post)

Friday, 6 April 2012


This last week, I had the wonderful experience of being at the birth of 5 puppies. My friend has a cockapoo and she gave birth to 3 girls and two boy puppies. I missed the birth of the first 2, but arrived in time for the last 3. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be there for such an occasion. Talk about making me want a dog! I have not given in  yet though, I don't think it is fair until I stop going away with work so much. The moment I do, I will be getting a dog for sure.
5 minutes old

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The snow is back

How crazy is this? I am snowed in again. last week was summer temperatures and now, I have slept through a snow storm and woken to a white world. OK, so I have enjoyed how pretty the snow is once this year, now, I have had enough. Today I was going to mow the grass!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Every little helps.

I think that most people who are careful with money and live a fairly frugal lifestyle are aware of how the big boy supermarkets manipulate their prices to fool the public into thinking they are getting a deal, but I have been reading just how low those depths go.
Last month asda had a deal on readybrek, 2 for £3. The actual price of readybrek was £1.50 but at the same time as putting on this offer asda increased the price of readybrek to £2.19. One of their many scams.
It seems the most recent practice is to increase the price and put an offer onto it, just like this, and then at the end of the offer 'roll back' the price to a more expensive one than the original. That way they are increasing the price of the item, but making it look like they have rolled it back.

In a difficult economic time like this, to me, this seems like a very shady practice. If they are putting the price up, just be honest about it and let the customer make an informed choice instead of fooling them into buying something so they think they are getting a deal.

I pick asda out as an example but we all know that Sainsburys and tesco etc do the exact same practice.
Another practice is to subtly change the amount of contents the product holds. Recently red wine vinegar went down in price, but now instead of getting 500ml you get 350 ml, making the over all price much higher.
Have any of you noticed that 4 cans of branded tuna is regularly £6 now, which is outrageous, so people automatically reach for the own brand label which retail at about the £3 something mark. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but didn't branded tuna used to retail at that price? Another ploy to make you buy their own brand at an inflated price.

I do most of my shopping in Aldi or Lidl nowadays, and in a local butchers. I would shop more in local shops, but thanks to the big boys, there is not even a fruit and veg shop anywhere in my town.
How lovely it was to go to Bury market this weekend and talk to market stall owners who could tell you where produce had come from and give good prices.

Lining the pockets of the main supermarkets is not what I want to do with my money. The slogan Every Little Helps should read Every Profit Helps.