Friday, 30 September 2011

It's because he is a Northerner.

Do people mistake your choice of lifestyle for stinginess?
I have sometimes been judged for my choice in not spending money on things that other people spend money on and have often heard the phrase 'it's because he is from the North'. I am not entirely sure how Northerners ended up with a label of being less forthcoming with their money than others but I am proud of where I come from. Perhaps it is partly why I have never really fitted in living where I do? I have a good friend who is almost the entire opposite of me, spend, spend, spend, and not little purchases, massive ones, is there ever a reason to have more than one car when you are a single person? I respect the way he lives and he respects my choices, but we have such differing views on why we do what we do. I have taken a few years to get to the mindset I now have, but I have never knowingly wasted money in my life and it is only as I have got older that I have now much more care about the impact I, personally have on the World around us. I have wanted to get back to nature for many years and have only really felt totally comfortable and at home when I am wandering in the countryside, quietly, upsetting no-one. Now that I am finally making positive steps towards that I feel more at peace than I have felt for years. I have moments of wondering if I am crazy, moving somewhere that I know very few people, where I have only one real friend and where I am going to cause myself problems with working (a lot of my work will still be in London) but then I think about the countryside, that will be on my doorstep and I know that I am making the right choice. You may wonder why I have not done this earlier? after all, 19 years living somewhere I don't like sounds ridiculous. I always had it in my mind that perhaps it is something I would do with a partner, something we would do together. But one day I woke up and realised that this was just an excuse and if I waited until I met the right person then I could end up never doing it and another 19 years could pass living somewhere I don't like.

Anyway, as ever, my un-concentrated mind has wandered from my original subject.

The other day I listened in to a conversation between two colleagues, one of which had just spent a large amount of money on something completely unnecessary. To hear the justification in the mindset of why such a large amount of money was used was quite amusing. One said to the other that sometimes it is necessary to spend just to make yourself feel good - an all too familiar analysis. Surely if you recognise this in yourself it is easy to undo? I happen to think that it is more that people are addicted to a lifestyle, the lifestyle that they think they ought to have, based on what other people have and want. Once you break that habit everything seems to fall into place and you find other ways of filling your needs, saving becomes your addiction more than shopping.

So yes, some people may think that I am a tight-wad (I'm not), some may think that I am judgemental of the way they live their lives, I certainly am not, we all have a choice and I have chosen a way to be that is different from the crowd, but everyone is free to make their own choices and live with the decisions they make, who am I to say otherwise? I am far from perfect and still have a whole load to learn, mistakes are made every month, but it is a great personal journey and one that hopefully will end up here:

Thursday, 29 September 2011

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well!

I am on a bit of a frugal overdrive this coming month as September turned out to be a rather expensive one, thanks to my trip up to Lancashire - the price of petrol sort of blew all my budget. Never mind, I will rise to the challenge of eating well and saving money, I am now just £250 off my savings goal of £10,000 to go towards the new house buy, so I feel immensely proud of myself for having saved that, even if it has left me short every month, the challenge has been a fun one in many ways, and I am sure a lot of you out there can appreciate what I mean when I talk about fun in connection with saving money. A lot of people simply wouldn't get that but I know you fellow bloggers do get it. Every month has been a challenge of making the money go a little further so that I can put it into savings, when I move house I will know that it will have been worth it.

Which brings me nicely to the subject of today's blog. I wanted to spend no more money on food until next Tuesday, partly because I am cross with supermarket shopping at the moment, and partly because I am just slightly overdrawn until Tuesday and want to go no more into the red.
So with this in mind I made a list of the stuff I had in my larder, the stuff I had in the freezer and the fridge and decided to come up with a list of food I could make out of it. Now, the freezer is surprisingly empty at the moment because I was purposefully letting it get low so that I could defrost it (it is a bit of a disgrace) but even so I managed to quite easily come up with 10 different meals I could make just out of what I had without setting foot in the supermarket. This includes such delights as spicy pumpkin soup, paella, cauliflower and potato curry, meat and potato pie, Chinese noodles, and more. Yesterday I made a lovely butternut squash and orange bake, this morning I have made the pumpkin soup and a new potato, tomato and egg salad,. The results of which are sitting in my fridge now in all looking welcoming in their Autumn colours, wholesome and bright. It made me reflect on the nutritional excess of being frugal, I have more ready to eat delicious food in my fridge than plenty of people who go to the supermarket and spend hundreds of pounds every week with little to show for it. I feel richer than these people by far because I have found a way of living in a contented fashion on less and without going hungry - far from it.

Other news from me is that my flat viewing went very well, the lady loved it and is coming for a second viewing this evening and bringing her sister to see it too. The cottage I went to see in Lancashire was perfect too and I am trying not to get too excited about it, because a lot can happen in the next couple of months, still, there is hope that it could all work out.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

From the cold North

Hello everyone and welcome to my newest followers, it is nice to know that at least 30 people get something from my musings.

Update on house viewing is just annoying news, the woman didn't turn up on Saturday, but she did postpone until Monday. Now I couldn't be in on Saturday because I am away up North (more of that in a bit) but my estate agent was taking her. I am not one to lay judgement on estate agents usually (although they do make this difficult) but when I get a phone call later in the day telling me that he had 'forgotten to take the keys with him and so couldn't show her' it is hard not to think of appropriate names for him and his kind. The goodish news is that she is keen enough to still want to come (amazingly) and so will be viewing it this Saturday coming.

Now the reason I have not been at home this week is because I am in Lancashire, visiting parents and sister and brother etc. I have also taken this opportunity to view a house tomorrow. Now I know that it is silly to get over-excited about a house I have not seen yet, especially with no offers on my own flat, but this one really does tick all the boxes and is the first house details I have found that does this: large garden, not overlooked, very quiet area, nothing but countryside out to the back. Don't get me wrong, it is no mansion, tiny little 2 bed cottage (can you use the term cottage for something built in the 1980's?) although it does have a garage that can be converted somewhere down the line and coming in at a lower than you would expect price, certainly within my budget. Like I say, hard not to get excited but am trying to keep a reign on that. So that is what tomorrow will bring. Today, I am going to get out into the countryside for a walk around Rivington Pike and gardens with a friend hoping the weather holds out. It is a beautiful area and I am really looking forward to it. Will let you all know how the viewings (house and my flat) go.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

At last

Finally reader, a viewing on my flat today. First one in 3 months. Now obviously I am not going to get my hopes up too much, but what about this, the name of the woman viewing the flat is Hope!

I did indeed drop the price of the flat £5000 earlier this week and I have noticed that since it first went on the market prices seem to have dropped a bit more in general. Strange how annoying estate agents are though, so happy and jolly and full of enthusiasm when you first meet them and sign on the dotted line, and then so full of gloom and doom 3 weeks later when they have your contract.

The pay off is that the price of houses in East Lancashire has also dropped, so really it will make little difference in the long run. I suppose it is just easy to get bogged down on what the flat used to be worth. Can't think like that any more or you drive yourself mad. At least I am still in profit.

So wish me luck.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Small and very nasty beasty.

Hello dear reader, today you find me nursing a blood test hole in my left arm. I am always surprised when I get to the blood test centre at 6.45 in the morning (to avoid the horrendous queues later in the day) to find 13 people already ahead of me with the same idea as myself.

So why, you may ask, a blood test? Well about 8 weeks ago a very strange rash appeared in a very strange place - my bottom, to be precise. Now the first couple of doctors threw around such foul words as ringworm or fungal infections, which always sound rather distasteful. However I was lucky enough to find myself (after a few visits and none of the creams I had been given doing anything at all for the rash) in the presence of a really wonderful doctor who thought a little outside the box and wanted to investigate more than just the most likely cause. Well to cut a long story short it turns out that the rash was a little more serious than was first thought as it seems I had been bitten by a tic and that tic had infected me with lymes disease! For someone unfortunate enough to live in inner city London, this seems unlucky indeed, but on a working trip to Devon in late July, I was aware that there were tics about and one of these little buggers obvious decided to crawl up my leg to find a dark warm spot to have his lunch and try and kill me.

Joking aside, I feel very lucky that my doctor was on the ball, because undiagnosed lymes disease can be very nasty indeed with very long term damage. Fortunately for me I have finished a 4 week course of antibiotics and hopefully the results of this mornings blood test will reveal that I am now free of it. Let's hope.

There are more dangers than I thought living in the country, I was thinking that the worst that could happen would be an occasional sting from a nettle or accidentally stepping in a cow-pat.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday morning

Sunday morning is one of my favourite times of the whole week. It is a time totally and selfishly for me. I am an early riser by nature, regularly up shortly after 6 and at that time on a Sunday morning it feels like everyone else is sleeping. This morning I looked out early to see some fog hanging over my garden (sorry, this is not a photo of what I saw - but rather a photo of what I wished I saw from my window) I brew some coffee and sit by the window looking out at the birds and what a collection of birds there is in my garden at the moment. I see the usual pigeons and magpies, crows and much more interesting, a group of parakeets in the trees, very naughty birds.

This time of peace and tranquillity is important for me, it is a time to reflect on the week past and the week ahead, to reconnect with the nature around me and to enjoy the peace of the world before it rises. Me time.

Some people prefer to stay in bed and who can blame them, for it is a time for us to relax however we can, but for me: I would never give up my Sunday morning ritual and miss seeing the World wake up as I drink my coffee by the window.

I am working later today, so all too soon this wonderful time of the week will be gone - until next Sunday when I can do it again.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Housing update

Well it is a sad fact that until I got first hand involvement, I didn't really appreciate the state of the housing market. My flat has now been up for sale for 13 weeks and the truth is that there have not been any viewers at all, not a one! Now I am faced with a bit of a dilemma. In 2008 before the property crash, the flat above mine (which is identical in every way) sold for £8000 more than mine is even on the market for. Now I am also prepared to take another loss when it comes to negotiating, but where is the cut off point? Should I reduce the price to get rid? When I consider that every month I stay here costs me £450 in mortgage payments (most of which is interest) it makes me wonder if it is important to get the highest price possible if it means 6 months of mortgage paying for a flat I don't want to be in.
Anyway, I am going to take the weekend to think about this and next week go and talk to my estate agent and see what is what.

Meanwhile I now have to pull my socks up and find a way to save a bit more money, I have to work out where more cuts can be made. I have been through my direct debits as a start and there is one decision there which I can't quite get my head around. 5 years ago I (perhaps misguidedly) took out British Gas home plan insurance for my boiler. I say perhaps misguided because my boiler was only about 5 years old at the time, so truly, in the last 5 years I have just paid out and never had anything for my money. I now realise that far more financially sound an idea would have been to put that money into a separate account every month which by my reckoning would have come to approximately £1200, more than enough money to cover any boiler costs. I suppose it is like any insurance, you get worried about not having it, it prays on your fear of something going wrong. Now in the future I would not bother with this boiler insurance, but I would, indeed, put some money into an account every month. My dilemma now is whether or not to stop this insurance for the rest of my time here, it really would be sods law if something happened to it now and I have to sell my flat with the boiler in perfect shape. What would you do?

Another way I can cut back further is my mobile phone. I need a phone for work, but I certainly don't need a new one and I certainly don't need the package I have. I have 1000 minutes a month and I recently checked with them and the most I have ever used in one month is 450 minutes. So for 2 years I have had a minimum of 550 unused minutes which I guess I am paying for. So it is time to change - my contract is up in the next 2 months, so need to start checking out new deals that don't provide a new phone, but do provide value for money.

Where else can I cut back? Any suggestions?

Times are hard, especially for a single man who has no-one else to rely on when things get tough financially. London is a drain on the finances and coupled with how much I loathe being in this city, I am finding it tough to not get very frustrated with my present housing predicament.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Sorry for my lack of posting recently, August was a nightmare work wise, and I have been working away from home and out of the country for the whole month.  My garden (window boxes and pots) is dead, my diet went to pot thanks to having to eat out for a month (all paid for though, so none of my own precious gold was spent) and it has taken me a few days to be used to being home again. Well I am back and I hope I haven't lost my 25 regulars and others who are interested come back and give me a chance with my meagre offerings of badly written words.

Well I have achieved something that I didn't think would be possible 3 months ago, (insert drum roll here!) I have stopped using any commercial toiletries and am making all of my own from scratch with one exception, which is soap, and that is something that I hope to rectify before too long too, by making my first batch before Christmas.

I feel like I should be drinking a beer and watching rugby now to reaffirm my masculinity because, lets be honest, making your own toiletries is not the most macho thing you can think of, well, is it?

So with my masculinity in jeopardy I will take the risk of continuing with my story anyway.

I have been thinking for a long time about chemicals, the long list of things that are not even pronounceable in beauty products and coupled with this, a very close friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago (don't worry, he is completely 100% recovered and well again now I am so happy to say) and because it was a cancer of the lymph nodes he was advised to not wear normal deodorant any more because this could have an effect. Well armed with this determination to become more self-sufficient and to put less and less chemicals in my body, I set out on a mission earlier this summer, to collect ingredients. Some were easy high street stuff, others were readily available on the internet. Most of the things we put on our skin are absorbed into our bodies so would you, for example, eat an unknown chemical? No, of course we wouldn't, yet we blindly put these products on day after day. Now I am not being preachy here, because I hate that: this was my choice and I am sure a lot of the chemicals are harmless and most people will suffer no ill effects at all. But I just no longer want to take that risk or buy into the beauty market.

Now, I won't lie to you, the set up costs, ie, the array of ingredients, was not cheap particular, there have been quite a lot of different essential oils involved, carrier oils etc and these can easily cost up to and beyond £5 for 10ml. Holland and Barrett often have buy one get one free offers and essential oil bargains can be found on ebay too. I have been collecting the ones I thought would be useful for a few months, so £5 here and there has actually amassed me a large quantity over time.

First thing to go was shower gel though, and I went back to good old soap. It takes a little getting used to at first as at first it feels a little dryer than gel, but you know what? it is not even noticeable any more. My skin is happy, soft and clear of blemishes. I went for a very basic and natural olive oil soap from a health food shop, about 65p or something like that and lasts for months. Eventually this will be replaced by home made, but that is something for the future.

Next to go was shampoo. Now I know that a lot of women with longer hair struggle with this one and I can only say trial and error is the order of the day. I have short hair and am prone to a dry, itchy and flaky scalp (don't use the D word!!!) So I have always used head and shoulders. Now word on the street is that shampoos like this do deal with the problem, but don't cure it, as it is not in their best interest for you never to need their product again. I can certainly get on board with that idea, being cynical about big business. my own recipe is based on a liquid soap stew (found in this book with oils and essential oils added. I will give anyone recipes if they want, for any of the products rather than write each one down here.

It took a while, but my scalp is now very healthy, it is advised to put some jojoba oil on the scalp with some cypress oil and evening primrose oil once a week and it has done the trick. My hair is happy and my scalp is free of any scary white stuff.

Moisturisers have been replaced by home made face oils and body oils, I even have a home made hair wax, which, again, is ok for my short hair, ladies may struggle more than me.

Deodorant was a challenge, but I have been using a rock crystal for years now anyway. I am using that still, in conjunction with a home made spray, which used witch hazel, oil of cloves, vegetable glycerine and other peppermint. Seems to do the trick, at least I haven't lost any friends or seen anyone looking pained and holding their nose and I am a very active man who sweats a lot when I am doing sport.

Shaving foam was replaced by shaving soap some time ago and I am going to make my own when I do the soap anyway. I also use a home made shaving oil with this too now and it works beautifully and I have quite a heavy beard growth to contend with.

All in all it has been an interesting journey and I am feeling great and looking the same, no skin, hair or scalp troubles and a bit of fun making the stuff.

Here are some of the books that helped me:

So, now I am done. As I say, if you want to know more about any of the recipes, then let me know and I will do my best to give them to you.

Right now, I am going to go out and play some football and drink some beers to reaffirm my manhood!