Sunday 2 January 2022

Happy New Year! 2022 for the win?

Happy New Year to you all! Hopefully, this year will be a bit kinder and gentler to us. I think we all deserve it, don't you?

I wound down 2021 quietly. The cold that had been lying in wait for a couple of weeks finally showed its face last weekend, so I spent a few days feeling run down and sapped of energy. It was very mild - a bit of a stuffy head and a scratchy throat - and then it was gone, fortunately. A couple of nights of Lemsip helped (not a favourite, but it did the trick). I hate being sick, so am very glad it didn't morph into something bigger and more debilitating. I did take a test just to make sure, and it was negative, so that was good, although it did feel *a bit* different than a regular cold. Anyhoo. All gone now, whatever it was, fortunately.

So Christmas & New Year were very quiet, and I postponed my two walks. One because I was feeling low, and the second because the weather was wet and not much fun for walking in. Both are going to be rescheduled so am looking forward to getting out and about again with my friends. So I've basically spent just over a week in my flat, puttering, sleeping, resting, and relaxing. I must be an old woman now because I keep dozing off on the sofa in the evening (and sometimes not even the evening!). Haha! But I'm going with it because I obviously need the rest. My holiday to-do list is barely touched, but whatever. I got a few things done and that's fine. The rest will have to just move to my regular to-do list, and I'll tackle them another time. Nothing was/is especially urgent, it's just nice to have big chunks of time for them.

My sister, brother & SIL had a video chat on Christmas Day which was good, and I got a tarot card reading from my sister yesterday which was excellent! Back in September/October-ish, I looked up my numerological number for this year - a 3. It means a year of activity, creativity, self-expression - but with a lot of hard work at the emotional/spiritual level now in order for it to actually bloom. The seeds of all this were planted last year, so this year should be the reaping of that. It depends entirely on how willing I am to do all that yucky stuff of 'clearing the (mental/emotional) clutter'. Yikes. But, yay! I'm 55 this year and I'm honestly fed up with just drifting along. That's fine for a while, but not an entire lifetime. I have to get out of my head and out of my own way, which has always been my problem.

So, otherwise, what have I been up to the past few months? Not all that much, honestly. The excitement, if you want to call it that, only started in October, and is all work-related.

My colleague P retired 1 October. A modest affair, she only started clearing out drawers and cupboards that day (?) and we have stumbled across about a million and a half things since that really don't need to be there. Anyway, same with drawers that retired colleague, J, gone since the end of last January, left behind. The problem is, who has time to go through that kind of stuff once they're gone? It's going to have to be a work in progess starting this year.

Once P had gone, T, H & I carried on well enough for, oh, a week or so, and then T went off sick rather suddenly, a couple of days before H was due to go on holiday for a week. So, fine. That rather abruptly left me to do all of the work. P was in the background typing reports (something she was always happy to help with), and I called in our part-time typist, S, so I could at least have someone at the office with me. S is not fast, but she's steady and doesn't do anything but type, so at least that was covered.

Anyhow, long story short, T never did come back. She kept extending her sick leave, and then she found a new job and resigned instead. I had a funny feeling she wasn't going to come back, so wasn't entirely surprised when my boss told me. There were some shenanigans in the background, her new job offer was withdrawn, she threatened to sue (which would have had no legs), essentially got paid off, but burned her proverbial bridge to an absolute crisp. Good riddance we said.

So, it was just H & I for about 6 weeks, me essentially running the office and throwing H into the learning fire for the job bookings. She did fantastic considering it was unplanned and unwelcome. S was in quite regularly helping out and by the time I was at the office on 23 December, our typing folder was empty. Amazing! 

What it meant for me, however, was a nice bonus at Christmas (on top of what we normally get), and a new job title. I will essentially be the Office Manager/Sr Administrator (yet to be confirmed) because I was basically doing it all once T left. To be fair, it's also by attrition, as I'm really the only 'old guard' left, the one with the most experience at the office. It will also mean another raise, so I have that to look forward to at some point as well. We have a new colleague starting, we assume, in January sometime, so I'll be doing some training and have to organise bits & pieces for that as well.

So, phew! I was ABSOLUTELY exhausted, stressed, etc. I was going into the office at 7:30 most mornings and putting in an overfull day, not taking the time I needed to unwind properly once I got home, and then just spending my weekends too tired to do anything of note. I wasn't eating properly, just shoving easy stuff (aka carbs) into my face, and that definitely didn't help when I was already feeling exhausted so obviously I put on weight, too. Ugh.

It all means a bit more of a struggle to get going this year, particularly as I'm so content at my flat. It's warm and cosy and I've arranged my plants just so. I bought three jigsaw puzzles at thrift shops before the holidays, but haven't looked at them since. But they're there if I want to pursue them later. I've been reading and watching movies and shows over the holidays, and I more or less feel ready to go back to the office (I guess? :P).

What have I been watching?
  • Schitt's Creek (brilliant series)
  • Hoarders (thought provoking)
  • Hoarding: Buried Alive (as above)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Cleaners (as above, but the complete opposite end of OCD - the pandemic must be an absolute nightmare for these folks)
  • Thunder Force (silly, verging on ridiculous, but Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are excellent)
  • Expedition X (suprisingly good; all my other paranormal shows have no new episodes yet)
  • Red Notice (fun. I love The Rock, and Ryan Reynolds, although his character has a few too many one-liners)
  • RIPD (Ryan Reynolds, fun)
  • Kingsmen: The Golden Circle (not as good as the first, but entertaining and have waited a long time to see it on TV)
So, plenty of mindless stuff, entertaining and fun. Just what I need. As for reading, I managed to find a few more NetGalley reads but have managed to slow that down a bit and actually read some of the ones I own now (you can see my list over there ---->). I think one thing I need to do this year is broaden my reading horizons. As much as cosy mysteries are fun, there's a lot more out there for me to discover. I at least seem to be getting my reading mojo back, ticking 81 books off for last year.

Anyway. I don't have any particular new year resolutions - perhaps to be kinder to myself, get out of some bad habits (to that end I deleted Candy Crush from my iPad yesterday!), and spend more time in nature. I don't really have an excuse, a bird-watching paradise literally across the road. But a daily walk at lunch (or as often as possible) definitely won't hurt my head or my waistline!

Wishing you all a healthy, happy, safe and fun 2022!

Friday 24 December 2021

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wishing you all a happy, safe, and restful holiday, whatever you're doing, and with whoever you're doing it with.

Stay well, stay safe, and best wishes for a safe and happy new year.

Here's hoping that 2022 has fewer (unwelcome) surprises for us all!

All is well here, I'm just tired. I've already been on holiday for a week and am not back at work until 4 January. It's been pretty hectic since October - a blog post will (hopefully) be forthcoming at some point over the holidays - and I'm taking advantage of the time to unwind, rest and relax.

So far, that has been a writing group get together (all of us taking lateral flow tests prior), getting my booster, visiting and catching up with my cousin, a long Skype call with a friend quarantining in Hong Kong, 'collecting' six more plants for the flat (think I've honestly hit my limit now!), a more or less full day at the office to tidy away some things before we closed, and marathoning 'Hoarders'. The Christmas lunch I usually have with my friends is postponed until January - Ex-Roomie E is stressed, exhausted, and not feeling particularly festive at the moment, so we're having a post-Christmas Christmas lunch sometime in January. This is absolutely fine with me.

I've also arranged a six-mile walk with a friend, a pub lunch at the end of it, on the 28th, and another walk on the 30th (with another friend, the first friend's sister). This, of course, is weather-dependent, as the rain has started in earnest now and is forecast pretty much for the rest of the month. So we'll see; I'd be happy to walk, and equally happy not to.

I have a list of reasonable tasks to complete over the next ten days and am not going to stress or worry if not everything gets done. I need to go back to work clear-headed and ready to focus because things are changing again, and I need to organise my thoughts and procedures. I've stocked up on everything I think I need, so don't have to leave the flat unless I absolutely have to from today. I've made a minestrone soup and am planning some roasted veg & sausages later on, as I wanted to utilise my time a bit more to cook properly.

So, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Frohe Weihnachten, and Seasons Greetings to you in all your corners of the world!

Saturday 26 June 2021

How are we already halfway through this year?!

It must be all the changes that have gone on since January; that's the only explanation I can think of to how fast the last six months have gone! Phew!

But here we are, summertime at last (well, England's version of it at least - warm and rainy). Restrictions are still in place to 19 July - 'restrictions' being mask-wearing and social distancing when inside, so mild at best. People still fuss. Anyhoo. We're getting there, and I think are just going to have to get used to living with variants. Mother Nature will always be several steps ahead of us, no matter how smart we think we are. We've unbalanced everything so shouldn't be surprised when nature fights back.

Otherwise, all is still well. I've had zero side effects from my second jab (to the point where I've actually forgotten I've had it until reminded!), which is great. There's some noise about a potential booster for the autumn, but I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens with that.

I'm down to 'fumes' in my account again, despite trying to work hard to not be. Payday is Tuesday, so I've had to 'borrow from Peter' again (not a CC this time!) to see me through, food-wise. That's okay, as I'm expecting a (modestly) hefty cheque then, so plan to replenish + some extra. I started using cash for groceries a couple of weeks ago, which worked reasonably well, but I still fell short. I *think* this may be because I scoop my change out and save it, rather than continuing to use all of it as designated funds. It means that my change bowl is looking much healthier than it has in quite a long time, but also means I'm short in my food budget...which means I'm borrowing from where I shouldn't.

Perhaps if I only kept my silver, rather than my £1 & £2 coins? Hm. On the other hand, I DO redeposit my coins once I've got enough to do so, so it's not all bad, just means I'm not really paying attention as closely as I need to be. Anyway, something to bear in mind going forward.

Work is fine. H has been coming in three days a week and mostly is just helping with the typing (which is fab!), but has also been taking the time to learn about what T & I do in our jobs. It's a lot to take on board and she's struggling a bit at the moment, but it's very early days yet and there's lots of time to get everything straight in her head. Plus, the more she does it, the better and easier it will get. She and I had a rather long chat a couple of weeks ago and I was relieved that all my concerns about T are actually spot on, and not just something in my head. Saying that, T does know her job well and is busy showing H all about it. 

I actually said 'no' to something the other day that she tried to get rid of. It's just little things like I've said before. She & I share taking the post to the post box at the end of the day. It's not an onerous job - not even a daily one anymore - and means we get to leave a few minutes early to make the collection time of 5:30. T joked that I'd have to do it all now because the car park where she now parks is the wrong way from the post office and she couldn't be bothered. I was tempted to say 'yes', because who doesn't like to leave the office a few minutes early, right? But, on the principle of it, I said that when I was driving I always parked where she now parks, and it was (usually) always me who ended up taking the post anyway. So, a roundabout 'no', but a 'no' nonetheless. It sounds SO petty when I write it out, but honestly. Just, no.

Otherwise, H and I are on the same page about how things can work going forward. It's too early to put any nails in the proverbial coffin about things, but H's job description has a lot of stuff on it that's not necessarily onerous, regular or difficult (photocopying, for example, and typing reports, etc.). It's the few things that only P knows which will be probably the most difficult for her, but it's also a matter of finding her own way of doing it. P has a tendency to overcomplicate stuff and is a great fan of spreadsheets that don't make sense to anyone but her. Ha ha!

Anyhoo. Work = people and all their quirks that you wouldn't necessarily see if you were 'only' friends, right? I've never won any 'employee of the month' awards and have done some Very Dumb Things, and it's not like I'm always easy to get on with. I certainly have my own way of doing things/expectations of how things should be done (after many years of not being a great employee). I just want things to be fair, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. 

My first volunteer shift at the cafe is 24 July and once a month through to September. I'll need a proper refresher, as I'm not sure how much I'll remember and things will have changed since last year, too, with all the precautions and changes to service. Still, it'll get me out of the house for a few hours and will be nice to see the manager again. Plus, it's a lovely village, and the pet food shop there sells fantastic bird feeders. I'm in the market for a couple more, so will try to stop in and have a look to see what they've got. There's also a great little charity shop, where I've found several fantastic things, and I've got a box of bits & pieces to get rid of (like everyone else, I'm sure).

Next week I'm going to get some petrol for the car at long last. What remains of last October's petrol is old and needs a refresh. I might also take the car for a spin up the dual carriageway if it's quiet as it's been a few weeks since she's had a good run. She'll have a good, solid 2.5 hour run in mid-July, though, when I go to see my sister in Devon. Long overdue.

One thing I'm bringing back from Devon is my bike, which will make my travel to/from the office about half of what it is now. :) I've got somewhere to keep it safe and dry at the farm, so will have to check where I can put it at the office, as there's no designated bike lockup. Anyhow, one thing at a time.

On the reading front, I am finally at the end of my NetGalley review books (apart from a few that I've not, for some reason, yet read and which are at least a couple of years old in some instances). And, now I'm at a bit of a loss of what to read! I can read literally anything in my Kindle library or from my (limited) RL shelf, and I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO READ. This has never happened to me before. Ha ha! Guess that's the problem with having 900+ books to choose from: do I want to read about writing? Some non-fiction? Something light? Or something a bit darker and police procedural-ish? It's like having satellite TV...too much choice. Yeesh.

First world problems, eh?

I did write a fun thing for writing group last week. One of the members sent a photo as a prompt and while I sort of followed it as a prompt, it was actually the email it arrived in that was the actual prompt. Because she hadn't written anything along with the photo, my email read 'no body'. THAT turned into a few hundred words of a murder mystery that the rest of the group is using as a prompt for next week's meeting - how does the story end? I honestly don't know where it came from or how I'm going to resolve it, but it will be fun to try. I had a lot of fun writing it and had great feedback on it, so want to see if I can pick away at it a little bit and make it into something a bit meatier.

Anyway, that's it from my corner of the world. I hope you're all well and safe and have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday 13 June 2021

All jabbed up!

Hooray! I'm finally all done and feeling quite relieved about it. I took the bus to Salisbury yesterday for my second jab, and was in and out of the vaccine centre in about 10 mins or so; I was even early and as there was no lineup, there was no issue about going straight in. Plenty of people to help direct you where you needed to go, and it was super efficient. The only difference from last time (so far) is that there was actually quite a pinch when the needle went in. Otherwise, last night I slept 10 solid hours (!), which is unheard of.

That, I think, is a combination of the heat (it was about 23C), the jab, and 'all the activity' I had in a day, which mainly meant being amongst more people than I've been around for more than a year. Exhausting! I've not been to Salisbury before, so did spend about an hour or so poking around afterward, but the longer I was there, the more I just wanted to go home. I have decided that it's going to be a 'destination visit' for me when I'm on holiday next month, as it's a beautiful city and there's so much to see. I was reconnoitering shoe shops, charity shops, etc., and I will aim to loosen the purse strings a bit next month and update a few bits & pieces.

It sounds silly, but I fussed about what to wear. I ended up in jeans & a t-shirt, which is pretty standard for me, but part of my worry was that on Friday I was wearing shorts and found a tick on my upper thigh (somewhere you'd only discover during a trip to the bathroom, which is how I found it)!! EEEEEYYYEEEEWWWW!!!! It was a very tiny one, and I got it all out, but that's why I was worried. The walk to the bus stop is through, in some places, knee-high grass and I just didn't want to risk another tick. So, instead, I was just too hot...

Anyway, it's all done and I know for next time. I'll probably wear a skirt, particularly as cities do tend to get hotter and risk the stupid ticks... cannot for the life of me figure out the purpose of ticks, despite knowing that everything has a place in nature. Gross.

Anyhow. Today I woke up at 7, after going to bed and falling asleep before 9 last night. I am otherwise feeling fine and trying to decide what I want to do today. I'm content to stay inside, if I'm honest, and read, as it's much cooler in here. I've got all the windows open and am trying to decide what I want for lunch now. :) 

The bonus I got at my review will actually be on my paycheque at the end of the month (along with a 5-day 'bonus' of my new wage which took effect from the date of review), so nothing changes this month. So far, though, I've been doing well, and have everything covered to the end of the month. I'm being really strict with my food budget, but it somehow feels easier to do that in hot weather, because you don't want to eat heavy, meat-centred meals all the time.

For the past couple of weeks, I've basically been eating a big salad (I'm boring and eat the same kind every time), plus some sort of protein and an apple mid-afternoon. I'm trying to keep everything reasonably simple. I don't like cooking anyway, so this is a pretty straightforward, tasty and healthy way to go about things. Plus, in the summer you just lean towards salads anyway, so it's not too big of a stretch. I'm still wasting an awful lot of food, though, despite my best intentions, so that's something I need to change.

Otherwise, nothing too exciting this update. A lot of folks waiting to hear the G7 news re: travel, I imagine, but I don't think much is going to change. Not with our numbers increasing again with yet another variant. My new colleague, H, is desperate to get to the US to see her son & granddaughter this summer, but I'm not sure Biden is going to allow travel, not with having made so much progress in the right direction now. Plus, she'll have to spend 10 days in quarantine when she gets back, which she'll have to account for in her time away. She's not particularly hopeful about today (when Biden and Johnson have their confab) but will accept the result whatever happens. Obviously, if travel is given a green (even amber) light, then she'll go as soon as she can get everything organised. I'm resigned to visiting Canada next year, as I don't think I can this year anyway (think they're closed to outside travel?). Part of my plan for my RSP money next year is to get myself organised for that, as I need to get a new Canadian passport anyway, and I can't imagine flights are going to be cheap, etc.

But that is not for now. Today I'm going to rest and read and just pay attention to how I'm feeling. I literally have zero to stress about, so am just going to enjoy my time. The bird feeder is full, the windows are open, the breeze is delightful and I've got 900+ books on my Kindle to choose from.

Hope you are are well and safe and having a wonderful weekend.

Sunday 30 May 2021

A few budgeting thoughts...

Something I didn't mention in my last post is that one of the reasons I'm *so* pleased with my bonus is that I've been rolling around the very slight possibility of having to ask my friend/ex-Roomie E to move back in with her. Things are tight and I've been struggling a bit to the point that I had to take a £100 cash advance from a CC to make to the end of May (I can hear the horrified gasps from here). Trust me, I know. I haven't done that since the '80s and was an even bigger idiot with money. While I'm glad I had the resource to hand, it's not ideal by any stretch.

Saying that, however, I had a gander at my food budget last month and saw that I'd DOUBLED it (my monthly grocery budget, FYI, is £130). No wonder I'm feeling so squeezed! Geez.

I don't want to move back in with anyone. I'm not kidding when I say that this place was meant to be (I legitimately said 'no' to it, and I still got it), so to give up because I can't, for some reason, stick to my own budget is admitting defeat to my lifetime of bad habits. I'm better than this, I just know it.

Also, next year I turn 55. I can access my locked-in RSP in Canada, for better or worse. I had a plan to dip into my LOC (again - I'm still paying this off) and use the funds from that to cover/clear some payments, bolster a savings account or two, etc. Then, once I could access the RSP funds, I'd clear everything. Again. And start over. Again.

But having had a chance to faff endlessly the past couple of days with my budget, now that I have an extra £800 (I took a couple of hundred for taxes, etc. for now) to work with, I now have a loose plan that does not involve dipping into my LOC.


Basically, I'm not going to use it to throw at any one debt, but to help me to carry myself from month to month.

This is my new June budget. This incorporates my current salary + overtime + bonus (selling surveys, not my review one). 

The Visa and Barclaycard payments are sort of 'one-offs', as I want to round down the balances.

Any leftover each month will roll over to the following month.

The numbers for July (new salary TBC, but I don't think I'm too far off with my current guess) are below because the flat deposit, Visa, Barclaycard and car categories will differ. I want the initial numbers to give me a good reboot on my savings. Obviously, some of the items are flexible.

I recently also got a limit increase on my Barclaycard. This is the card that allows me to balance transfer for 0% interest.

So. My plan, which if I'm very, very careful with and which will see me comfortably through to next year without touching my LOC (ideal), is as follows. It's a bit 'borrowing from Peter to pay Paul'-like, but gives me breathing room, plus increases a couple of payments a bit.

  • Transfer my outstanding Visa balance to the Barclaycard. There is currently an offer that'll allow me to have 0% to 1 June 2023. I want to take advantage of this for that debt, and this is why the Visa line is blank in the July budget.
  • You'll notice I've increased my food budget a bit as well. I will try to move to cash only for this, and stay out of Waitrose...!
  • The Canadian debt amount will go up £30 and the Barclaycard £30 as I continue to pay over the minimum for those. The Lendable payments are fixed (I can pay more if I choose, however) and I'm happy leaving that alone for now. I've got two more years on that.
  • Saying that, I can claw back overpayments a bit if I need to adjust elsewhere and eliminate the flat deposit option altogether.
  • Currently, I pay £30 a month towards charity: cats, cancer and the RSPCA. The Post Code Lottery I joined on a bit of a whim, so not as invested in that as the others. But this is something I am able to continue to do for these charities, so all is staying as is.

Those are more or less the changes I want to make at the moment. Then, everything that's left over at my birthday next year will get wiped clear when I cash out my RSP.

While I'm able, I want to take advantage of not paying bills over and above my rent (which are all included). I won't be as lucky at the next place. Having debt in addition to paying all of that simply wouldn't be possible for me. Not that I have any plans to move (!!), it's just a reality that I need to bear in mind, and this seems like the best, most comfortable scenario for me.

I resent having to pay so much for the car when I'm not really using it, but getting rid of it isn't an option, unfortunately. I simply can't get to all the places I want to go on the bus or train, and having a car is an expensive convenience. At least I'm not still paying £85 a month for petrol! I'm not quite at the of the tank I had when I moved in here in October - 8 months is a pretty decent run for a tank, eh? I'll have to fill up next month, however, as I'll likely be going to visit my sister in Devon.

So just wanted to put this down 'on paper' while I thought about it, and so I have somewhere to be kept accountable. It seems a reasonable plan too, so fingers crossed!