Sunday, 20 January 2019

Update: week four, 2019

I mentioned in my last post that I had taken myself off social media for three months. My social media presence is only FB because I quite frankly can't be bothered with anything else. I've found it easier than I thought to remove myself, partly because I'd already cut down over the previous couple of months, so am pleased that I don't have any withdrawal 'symptoms' from it. I also figured out how to remove the news headlines from my Google homepage on my iPad, so I don't even see those. I only hear sound bites via the radio, so am blissfully ignorant of (most) of what's going on in the world right now. And I'm okay with that for the time being.

The idea behind this was for some self-care - which is not only a physical thing but also mental, emotional and spiritual.

Back in October, I (kind of) started a bullet journal, attempting to keep myself in some kind of ordered chaos. I've (kind of) kept it up, but left myself a bit more flexibility in it as we entered the new year. I keep track of the books I read and review (those ones -->) and am making a list of things to do this year, as well as trying to keep track of my debt, my habits, my reading, etc. My words for 2019 are 'joyful adventure' - I think to remind myself to just let go a little bit and say 'yes' to necessary/scary changes. Following on from my self-imposed social media ban, I decided that each month would have a word associated with it, as a way of paying attention to what I need (whether it be good food, a walk, to stop being so hard on myself, watching my thoughts, decluttering my room, etc.). 

January's word is 'Discover'.

I watched Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up' show on Netflix. A gentle, mindful way of decluttering your home. The 'KonMari' method works seemingly contrary to most decluttering rules, by keeping only things that bring you joy. This mindful approach is the way to a clean house apparently, so I have a few notes to review.

I decided that I need to focus at work, doing the best that I can and not being such a complainer. My colleague reflects a lot of my own stuff at me (passive-aggression mostly, also victim/martyr issues), and I've vowed to pay close attention to that this year. A couple of weeks ago I offered to change my lunch hour with her because she's always 'absolutely starving' when her lunch rolls around at 1:00 (she starts work at 7:30!). But no, 'it's fine.' So I'm not going to offer again and take that on board. It's not my problem.

I want to be more present and make sure that I'm a little more measured and thoughtful in what I say, rather than spitting out the first thing that pops into my head, in an effort to try to be funny or whatever.

I watched a show called 'Addicted to Food' last week, about recovering food addicts. Both ends of the spectrum were shown, the bulimics and anorexics and the obese. The woman who runs the treatment centre is lovely (and a recovering alcoholic/binge eater herself) and pointed out that although what they treat at the centre is food addiction, the fundamental issues for any addiction are the same (trauma, abuse, neglect, etc.). One client was determined to leave about 10 days before the end of the programme, and one thing that stuck out to me from the conversation the director had with her was that the client's first instinct is always to 'cut and run, and what would it take for you to commit? What would it feel like to commit?' I do this. When I get bored, frustrated, etc., my first instinct is to 'cut and run'. My decision is to commit to my job - despite being bored, frustrated, whatever - and just be there for it, instead of day-dreaming of 'better'. Whatever I imagine that to be. After all, in the current climate, I could be in a much worse position.

I have also decided to do this with my book. Just commit to it and get it done. How would that feel?!

So, January has been pretty good, so far!

What else? My car is fab. I'm still getting used to it but took my cousin to the little village of Burley last weekend. I wanted to get a crystal of sorts for the rearview mirror but didn't find anything. I bought some chakra-themed candles instead (abundance, joy, motivation and compassion) which smell lovely and will help clear the air around here.

We got our quarterly electric bill which was a huge shock - £706!! I was expecting it to be around £350, but not a bill that rivals a month's heating in the Yukon in mid-winter. We don't have gas, so everything is electric. The heating is via night storage heaters, old, notoriously expensive and fairly inefficient. Realistically, we can't cut ourselves off, so we've been trying to figure out the best way to deal with it. This means turning off the rads during the day (they 'charge up' overnight, on the much cheaper tariff, and release the heat during the day so I'm not sure how this is going to help...but I've agreed to try it). I had to use my travel fund to pay my share of the bill. It means I have to start from zero again, but I'm glad I had it.

My biggest (arguably only) hobby is reading. I read ALL. THE. TIME. I love it. I review pre-release books (over there -->) and currently have a backlog of about 45 books to read and review. Phew. I'm struggling to keep up. It doesn't help when you come across a book that just doesn't do it for you, although you do have the option of not finishing it. As a result, I'm beginning to resent it, as I have loads of others to read yet feel obliged to read all of these first. I got myself into this dilemma so if I can get through a couple of books a week, I'll clear up my backlog relatively quickly and will take a break from reviewing after that. When it stops being fun, stop doing it.

I had bought a book released earlier this month and which I decided to return to Amazon. The return options have changed a bit which is frustrating, and instead of printing out a return label for the item, you're now issued a scanning option which you need to take to a post office (depot) for them to scan and print. Can I be bothered? No. And the book does fit perfectly into my January 'discovery' theme, so I'm keeping it after all.

I've been walking every day at lunch, too. I manage about 1.5 miles in 30 mins (according to my app) which is quite good, but I am noticing that my breathing is starting to labour again and have a call with my doctor on Tuesday to hopefully get things arranged for a new blood test and some iron supplements. My anaemia is rearing its head again! 

Outside of that, the temperatures are on the cool side here (snow in the north!) but haven't been too bad. The walks have been pleasant and refreshing (I don't go out in the rain), and I'm feeling good doing them. Half an hour seems to be a nice balance in the middle of the day, as that still allows me lots of time to eat afterwards.

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend!

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Update time! A few random bits & pieces...

I'm back again, feeling like I need to update a little. I imposed a three-month social media ban on myself from Jan 1, but don't really consider this social media (as such) so want to continue my as-and-when postings. 

The holidays were okay. Not as relaxing as I would have liked (partly my own fault for taking on a little bit of work, partly not), but it was a nice long break at least.


Did I say that I love my new car? If not, I do. I really, really do! I'm still getting used to it, but what a difference it's making to my driving confidence. It's wider and more solid than the Clio - to the point I had to get out of the passenger side when I'd got it squeezed into the garage last week - ha ha ha! I've since figured out the secret to giving myself an extra inch, so I haven't repeated that, but it is tight. Hadn't occurred to me it would be a problem, but there we are. She fits - snugly - and I can now get in & out with relative ease.

The engine is fabulous - so much bigger than the Clio's! I'm less nervous about pulling into traffic, but at the same time, I can't get over-confident about it. I'm being quite precious about her at the moment - parking in the widest parking spaces I can find so she doesn't get dinged, and once even in a row all by herself at the far end of the lot. My friend laughed but didn't complain about the 'long walk' to the restaurant.

Still haven't settled on a name, though...


I mentioned I purchased her by cashing out an RSP. The after-tax funds totalled just over $8,000. I left $2,000 in my Canadian bank account, which is going towards paying down my LOC. My LOC was down to around $7,000, but sometime in December, I happened to notice that they had increased my limit around Christmas (I'm not clear why). So, after a bit of a think, I used some of that to clear my last Canadian CC. Not actually getting myself further ahead, but condensing everything into one (slightly lower) payment. That, of course, brought me back up over $10,000. While I'm okay for about six or seven months at the moment, I'm checking regularly to make sure nothing drastically changes. I set aside £50 a month to go towards this. My goal is to eventually only have this debt (and then, obviously, none).

I've put away my MC and am no longer using it. The interest rate is stupid and there's no reason for me to use it. Right now, it's eating up £50 a month that could go towards other things. I'm determined to get this one paid off this year, somehow. I'm going to let it sit and have the payments accumulate for about six months (bringing the balance down to about £1000). Depending on how things look in May - the month before our flat lease is up - my plan (at the moment, at least) is to borrow again from the LOC and clear the remaining balance. The £50 can then be redistributed accordingly. This is currently the solution that feels best to me, but things can and do change.

So, the remainder of the RSP was converted (at an utterly DIRE exchange rate) and I received just over £3600. £2300 went to the car (which, as I think I said, was the top of my budget), £360 to my travel account, and I put £800 into my flat account. I'm happy with the distribution. I now have a deposit + first month's rent on a (very cheap!) flat as/when I need to move. Roomie E and I will obviously each get deposits back for this place when we leave it, but that can take up to six weeks and I genuinely don't have enough resources to finance a move otherwise. I'm really pleased - and so much less stressed! - with this in place.

The £360 towards travel is ostensibly for a trip to Bruges in May with a friend. We've made a little bit of noise about it, but haven't moved forward much beyond provisionally reserving some hotels. We don't even really have confirmed dates yet. But we're both keen and it would be a nice break, so I'm keeping that in place. IF something should happen before May and I need to take funds from somewhere, then it's available to me.

Part of me is anxious that the travel money goes towards a CC payment instead. But along with paying off the debt, I also need to have something to look forward to and Bruges is it!

I've bought and returned some Amazon items (books), and once a final credit is applied to my card will remove the details from the site. The last item I bought was a book that I thought might be useful, but I'm not a Millenial so made the 'executive decision' to just return it. I have MORE than enough books to read already.


Is okay. I've actually lost almost a stone since last summer (14 lbs) and am now hovering around 11st. I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but although I'm feeling pretty good overall, I still need to work on a couple of things.

I'm on a new prescription for my stupid menopause issues. But there we are. The results from the last procedure were the same as from the procedure(s) before, so the doctor suggested this particular pill might resolve the issue at last. I'm not sure, but we'll see. Anyway, it's this or a coil and...eeyew! I've said I don't want anything in me on a permanent basis, but it may come down to no longer not being an option. I appreciate they're just doing due diligence, but surely I get some say as to when it's all over? Maybe not.

I've signed up for a food delivery service to see if that will help me with my cooking & eating. My first delivery is tomorrow and it's mostly vegetarian/vegan. I'm going to try to eat less meat and see how that makes me feel. Certainly, more veggies in my diet are never going to be a bad thing, so at the moment I've got one delivery (three meals) a week coming for three weeks. I can suspend at any time and it's currently £30 per week. I'm going to see how I'm feeling at the end of the month and if I want to continue or perhaps amend the deliveries to twice monthly, etc. It's all pre-portioned and planned out for you and everything is either returnable to the company, recyclable or reusable; they buy produce and meat from small farmers around the UK; and, they also donate one meal for schools for every box you order. So their food & business ethics are definitely something I can get behind. I'm just not sure if it's good value for money for just one person.

I will report back.

I've made a dentist appointment for the end of the month. I'm long overdue for a checkup and this particular clinic is at the local grocery superstore (!), just five minutes down the road (three in the new car). I know my bite has changed - I clench my jaw so I'm sure that's the reason why. I discovered this in December, so it's only been fairly recently. I also have a sneaking suspicion I may need some fillings replaced (bye bye travel funds??). The problem is that I'm now a nervous patient, not helped by not having anyone to get referrals from. I'm taking a stab in the dark and trusting that I'm picking a good practice!

I've also started taking a walk during my lunch hour. Even a half hour helps. I'm keeping in mind the phrase, 'start as you mean to finish' and apart from our half-hour lunch breaks on Friday, I'm doing well so far. Once the evenings get lighter later, I'll be taking myself down to the beach and the water after dinner. I'm aiming for an hour total a day, to start.


Overall, the flat is lovely. On the cold side, but lovely (but it is winter in England, after all). I'm still keen to be closer to work, but I feel committed to seeing out at least our year-long lease, which I think is fair. Things always have a way of changing, though, as Roomie E has the opportunity of a fabulous job at a 2-Michelin star hotel and would have to move counties if she got it. She's off to Italy tomorrow for a few days (to rest and have some health concerns investigated), but I think will be visiting the hotel the following week for a trial shift. No guarantees but I think if she's offered the position, she needs to take it. She's beyond miserable where she currently is and I'm sure that's part of the reason she's unwell at the moment.

There is also some (fairly serious) mould in her room. I'm not sure how far back this issue goes, but it pre-dates us and is supposed to have been resolved. The issue is also in the kitchen. Our property manager will, I'm certain, be contacting us early next week once she has spoken with the owner, after discussing it with the building managers. We can't really do/say anything until we know what exactly is going on and how it's going to be resolved. 

There was some fairly minor mould in several places which was, apparently, the result of not enough ventilation in the flat, but I'm not entirely sold on that explanation based on where it was along the top of baseboards. Regardless, I removed it this morning and it hopefully won't come back.

I suggested that perhaps the mould is part of the cause of Roomie E's health concerns, but I'm not sure it's got that established or bad yet. Regardless, it definitely could become an issue if not taken care of.

I feel quite bad for the owner. This not only causes a problem for us as her current tenants but also potential problems in respect of the sale or further rental if not resolved. At any rate, as I say, nothing we can do until we know what has been discussed.


We started back slowly this year, which is great. Got a few outstanding little bits & pieces cleared up at the office last week as none of the surveyors was at work until this week. They more or less hit the ground running, but the work hasn't trickled in fully yet.

The boss is back on Monday and I will be asking at some point if our annual reviews are going to happen at the end of the month. I'm still bored, but have decided that I need to focus on work at work and make sure that I'm spending my free time doing more stuff that I enjoy, regardless of what it is: reading, writing, driving my new car (have I said how much I love it?), etc.

Outside of Brexit (tick, tock), I can't really see anything affecting my job so that's a bit of a comfort. And also a big motivator regarding getting out of debt faster.


My sister, brother and I have started a discussion about our mother and her long-term health and care. We're all non-residents of Canada now, he in South Africa, and my sister and I here, so the distance makes things more difficult. My sister and I are wondering why my brother didn't start this conversation two years ago when he visited her and noticed that she's not as strong as she was...

Anyhoo. The convo is now started and we're tossing around potential ideas and thoughts for discussion before broaching the subject with Mum. What is the best solution for someone who wants one of her daughters (specifically my sister) to return to Canada to care for her, neither of whom wants to? This is the least happy and healthy solution for all concerned. Plan 'A' - in my mind - is that Mum puts herself on a wait list for semi-independent living at a residence where a number of her friends already are. Staying in the same town, with her friends, familiar places to go, etc., would be the best. And the wait list is unlikely to move quickly. In the meantime, we think of a Plan 'B' (a perm move to SA for brother and SIL to care for her? An enormous, expensive and difficult undertaking at the best of health. For an 86-year old...? But they have both said they'd be happy to care for her permanently. But she has to ask. Which won't happen in a million years.). Care in the UK is expensive, varies in quality and with the utterly dire (current) exchange rate, any money made from the sale of the house, etc., would be quickly eaten up and then what? Neither my sister nor I have the means to care for her.

There is a lot to talk about, not least that if someone does return to Canada, even temporarily, we'd be unable to work legally (as non-residents) and would have no way to earn any kind of income to support the needs and care of self and Mum. She has small pensions which go some small way of paying for the basics, but anything over and above that is going to need more substantial income.

Anyway, the discussion has started and all we can do at the moment is to continue and try to figure out a reasonable solution that we can at least start a conversation with (although I suppose the next discussion is who's going to start THAT conversation...).

US & UK politics continue to be complete shitshows. Brexit vote in Parliament on Tuesday. Will we leave with or without an agreement in place? WHO KNOWS? Certainly no one in Parliament. Everyone keeps saying that the PMs plan is awful, but no one seems to be able to suggest anything better, soooo...? Shut up, boys. You BAILED. B.A.I.L.E.D. Your opinions are no longer relevant in this farce. I'm no conservative, but I'm feeling resentful on Mrs May's behalf because of all the shit she's getting for taking this on when no-one could be bothered.

Anyhoo. Roll on 29/05/2019. Let's just get it over with.

And on that note, have a good weekend everyone! xx

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Soooooo, I bought a new car today...

To clarify: a new TO ME car.

This is the colour, make, model, etc., etc., although not the car itself. It's a Peugeot 308 1.6 Sport 5 door. Poor petite Renee (my Renault Clio) has finally reached the end of her motoring life and it was time. I put over £700 into her for various reasons since October and I simply can't afford to do that anymore. That's a deposit on a new(er) car.

So, sadly, I started perusing Autotraders and have basically been viewing and reviewing the (same) cars for a couple of weeks. I kept coming back to this one, although it was at the tip-top of my budget (£2500).

Now, I hear you putting on your thinking caps and wondering, how, exactly, did I do this? Well, it's a little bit of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, but not really. I cashed out an RSP I had sitting in my Canadian bank. The exchange rate is pretty dire right now, but it was of more use to me here than there, so I bit the bullet and brought it over.

What I wanted and what I needed were two different things, of course, but this particular car ticked the most boxes: Newer? Check (10 years - it's an '07). Decent mileage? Check (60k on the clock). Well-maintained? Check. Last service at 59,991 miles. MPG? Reasonable for the engine size. Some comparatively modern bits & pieces on the dash? Check (MP3 player!). Pretty? Right?! That colour... And so solid, drives like a dream once you get yourself positioned properly - there's a bit of fussing about to get the seat up, straight, forward...

I was a bit worried that it might be so sporty as to have bucket seats, but that's not the case and I was really pleased to find that it was so easily adjustable. The engine sounds lovely, and having a bit more room for me felt better too. Currently, the top of my head just grazes the roof of Renee, and I have some proper headroom in the new one.

However - insurance has gone up (almost double!), not least because there's apparently a claim on it which will stick around for five years (three more to go). This I found a bit surprising, as I had notified the insurance about an accident two years ago, but had no idea there had been an actual claim around it, as it certainly wasn't me who claimed anything. The fellow I spoke with was very helpful, but couldn't actually clarify anything around that (basically it shows as a claim, although might not be...?). Anyhoo. There it sits and there it raises my premiums for the foreseeable future, as does the much larger engine.

So, it is what it is. Road tax also goes up, but only by £40 a year, so not substantially (that's based on your vehicle's CO2 emissions). Overall, I feel better for having spent my budget for a decent, solid, reliable vehicle.

I put a deposit of £299 on it, and the garage will have it washed, fully valeted and the brake discs replaced before I pick it up on Thursday. The fellow gritted his teeth and gave me a £200 part exchange on Renee (I do realise that's a fantastic amount, considering her age and state of repair. He even said they'll lose money on that, so I am hugely appreciative of even that amount).

The Renault was struggling along (to be fair, I'm not the best car owner out there), but I had to replace the immobiliser (twice), the antenna, the seals around the sunroof were beginning to leak quite substantially (hence the need to replace the immobiliser - the whole system is all packed in the same place), lost my interior lights weeks ago, and despite a £400 MOT bill, the rear reg lights have gone again. That's all since October.

It was time. Although I'm quite sad to lose the Renault, I have to admit. She's been a very good little car and I believe that with the right owner, she would have lasted another 21 years. 

I'm hoping that with the new car, I'll feel more comfortable and confident on the road, too, and get myself out more. I don't feel confident enough in the Renault to go exceptionally long distances too often anymore.

It feels nice to start off the new year with a fresh, new vehicle, and one that makes me feel like I'm spoiling myself a little bit. I'm not good at treating myself very well, so while a decent car at a lower price was tempting, I felt that having another old one would just leave me in the same position I'm currently in, throwing money at it just to keep it going a little bit longer. So, my sums are okay. I'm happy with my purchase price of £2299 (including 9 months left of its annual MOT!). There's a three-month warranty on the car, which I believe is standard for second-hand cars here, and the guys I bought from have been in business since 1979 and are local to where I work.

It feels a bit impulsive and I was feeling a bit sick earlier on, but I know it's the best thing I could do. I genuinely don't know how much longer I'd have Renee, and the last thing I want is to break down somewhere en route to or from work, and feel completely stuck.

Now I have to think of a name.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Image result for merry christmas

I'm still around, just write at the moment. 
I'm off work now until 2 January, so who knows - I may yet get to an update post between now and the new year. 2019 is just around the corner - already! Can you believe it?

But I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Image result for christmas baubles

Best wishes and lots of love,

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Finally, rain!

We have had WEEKS of hot weather - not just pleasant, warm days that hover around the low 20s. No, up in the high 20s & up into the 30s (Friday reached 37C in some areas!). I think we're at five weeks now. That's a long time.

I'm not a heat fan, not with consistent temperatures like that. I'd love a few weeks with temperatures hovering around 21/22C and some evening rains to make the gardens and creatures who rely on the water happy, but I hibernate or seek shade if it gets hotter than that. Living as close to the ocean as we do, however, the temperatures have been much more pleasant, particularly in the evening. I open the windows and patio door and the breeze flows through and freshens the flat beautifully. I love that.

Grass is brown and dry as tinder all over. Trees are losing their leaves (it looks like autumn around here!), plants and animals are struggling in the relentless heat. Farmers are concerned about crops. On the flip side, bees and butterflies are prolific - they love the heat and numbers are good. But rats are becoming a problem - I didn't know they could reproduce monthly - and even I've seen about half a dozen, which is unusual.

Yesterday, after a middle of the night thunderstorm (which I slept through) and a little rain, it was terrifically windy ALL day. Always the sign of a storm coming in. Clouds blew overhead on and off all day and it was noticeably cooler. I awoke this morning to the same wind and rain on my windows! It's going to be a wet, miserable, windy day all day today. 

Fantastic! And so, so, SO desperately needed, even temporarily. We're forecast to get back to a stretch of sunshine tomorrow but with temperatures not quite as high, so that's a relief.

What else has been going on?

I've been feeling less confused about things since my last posting (a good thing) and am just letting things lie for the moment. 

Roomie E got home from a visit to Italy on Friday and we bought a table that evening. We had one temporarily from our old landlady but she took it back. She backed out of the house sale in June - after all that chaos over the past few months - and has opened a B&B of sorts. Uncertain that the legalities of it have been formalised (or even considered), but that was annoying to hear. Anyway. Not my problem.

The table arrived yesterday morning and I spent a couple of hours putting it together. It's even more cheaply made than I thought it would be. I have no idea what kind of wood it is, but it serves its purpose and that's the main thing. So much nicer to sit at a table to eat! I sat at it most of the day yesterday doing one thing and another.

There was a rather terrifying police incident in the building foyer last Sunday (very early morning). I can't/won't go into detail about it, but suffice it to say that when I was doing laundry yesterday and the drum started to bang against the machine, I jumped about three feet. It's brought a lot of old PTSD issues to the fore. I can say that I hope the fellow involved is okay. He was experiencing extraordinary mental distress and had had some kind of breakdown (not helped by a large amount of alcohol). The police were great and I sent them a note to say 'thank you' as it was a rather difficult arrest for them. The person involved was also staying in the building - his parents live upstairs. I dropped them a note as well (they slid one through all the building residents' doors to explain what happened).

The week following was mercifully back to normal but I was completely drained on Monday. I hadn't managed to go back to sleep on Sunday and was up until 10:00 that night. Ugh.

Anyway. I've also managed to save £100 on my car insurance this year by removing an item from the policy, so I'm pleased about that.

I did have to add £10 to my monthly fuel expense, however. It's costing me more than I thought, but have learned early, fortunately and can adjust the budget accordingly.

I am, however, still spending too much otherwise. I've bought a couple of impulsive purchases on Amazon (one of which is definitely going back) and found some great deals at the thrift shops and a mid-season sale sweater. My trouble is getting rid of things now - I need a much more effective rollover process by now.

I've also been stuffing my face with carbs which hasn't helped my weight issues and I'm 'fitting well' into my Size 14 everything. I didn't realise carbs converted into so much sugar, so they're definitely on the '(much) less of' list. To that end, I thought I'd give Huel a shot. It's a vegan meal replacement (funded by Sir Andy Murray - yes, that one) and it cost me £45 for 28 meals. That's one meal a day for almost a whole month and even considering the cost of that initial payment (it's cheaper if you get a subscription), it still fits perfectly into my monthly grocery budget (works out to £10 per week and £1.61 per meal). I'm going to see how I feel at the end of the month before I decide whether or not I want to continue. It arrives on Tuesday.

Yesterday I was feeling at a bit of a loose end so sat down to work on my bullet journal. This is a new(ish) fad that combines a diary/agenda/to-do list/etc. in one journal. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you like. Some of the pictures on Pinterest are gorgeous, but I don't have the time or inclination to create works of art. I want it to be fun, easy, and simple so that I don't begrudge the time I spend on it, or lose interest in it. I've already torn out and restarted a few pages and have barely made a dent. Good thing I have a list of what I want to lay out (sort of!).

Anyway, August is just around the corner and another month to start fresh with. I will continue to plot and plan and adapt my budget as I go.

Hope you're all having a great weekend and summer!