Wednesday 31 January 2018

So Just How Low-Spend was January?..........

..............Not very is the answer.

I'm glad January is over as we hadn't planned on Col being in hospital for 2½ weeks and of course buying diesel, parking the car for visiting and extra phone top-up plays havoc with any sort of budgeting.
Also hadn't planned to buy anything from Approved Food or having to have a new tyre when the car got a puncture that couldn't be repaired.
Add on the last few days of the month spending from Saturday 27th to 31st

£37 Very Large sack of bird feed peanuts which will last most of the year
Computer Virus protection £5
Diesel for blue car £34.20
Shopping at Morrisons and Aldi £21

£   28.30
£ 100.70
£ 102.00
£ 196.25
£   97.00
£ 524.25

Spending was lots less than income so that's good but I suppose I'd better do Frugal February!

February will be starting in a good place...............Both cars have enough diesel for a week or two. The cupboards are full. We have enough bird feed for the rest of the year. I think we are due a quarterly  water bill and house insurance and I must get the LPG cylinder.
Although however much we have to spend out in February it won't be as much as February 2017 as that was when we bought a house!

 Thanks for all the comments about the NHS, hope the question from a reader about our National Health Service has been answered.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 30 January 2018

The NHS and Hospitals in Our Bit of the World

Someone from across the pond asked me to explain how hospitals etc work in this country.

That's a jolly good question.

I can only answer very simply. SIMPLIFIED OK? and only what I think. I might be writing complete rubbish!

Well for a start we don't pay anything at the point of use for being in an NHS (National Health Service) hospital or seeing a NHS doctor. This is because in theory we've all paid National Insurance Contributions and Taxes through our working life which covers costs. This worked fine when the proportion of elderly people NOT working and not paying NIC was less than the amount of people working and when there were no expensive treatments available to treat things like cancer.
Now it doesn't work so well, there isn't enough money going into the NHS, no political party dare raise NI. Although each government always says that THEY'VE put more money into the NHS than any other previous government of the OTHER party - Funny That.

Prescriptions and medications are also free for over 60's and many other people - cancer patients included. Otherwise people pay a set amount (£8.60 at the mo)for each thing prescribed. Maybe it covers costs - maybe not. It's possible to get 3 or 12 month pre-payment cards which work out lots cheaper.

 People are living longer with more complex health problems and hospitals are always busy. Accident and Emergency departments are often overstretched not helped by it becoming increasingly difficult to see a local doctor at short notice. Also not helped by the amount of people who turn up at A & E with minor rather than life threatening issues.
Another huge problem is "Bed Blocking" this is when someone is well enough to go home but needs a care package put in place for them to be looked after at home by District Nurses, Carers etc. Because of funding cuts it takes longer for Social Services to organise this. Someone we spoke to at Addenbrookes said there are usually 60 - 80 people who could go home each day but have to stay in hospital until things are organised for them.Why funding cuts to Social Services? - which I think are paid for out of a local authority money - because they've been given less? Get less from local taxes? Heavens knows.

There is Private Health Insurance that some people have, so they can go to private hospitals. I have no idea about the Whys and Wherefores or how much specialised treatment people can get privately, so can't comment more. A lot of people think this government would like everyone to pay private insurance and that all NHS services would be phased out. I have no idea, I suppose they are right they might be wrong, who knows.
No doubt comments will say..................

Hospitals are run by Trusts, they have so many government targets to reach that people say that too much time is spent on chasing targets. there are too many 'pen pushers' and not enough people on the wards.  I don't know how hospital Trusts work but someone will say in comments I'm sure. I do know that, as in many other areas, a lot of work is contracted out to private companies not always an improvement but supposedly a cheaper way of doing things. ( It certainly wasn't cheaper or better for the people who do the work in what was  Suffolk County Council Highways Dept. which is the area we do know about)

What I DO know is that our doctors, where we are registered is 4 miles away, it seems to work OK. Haven't used it much in the year we've been here because all Col's care is from hospital and "touch wood" I've been well all year. We can ask for repeat prescriptions online and there has only been a problem once when I've gone a few days later to pick them up. It's the same practice we used when we lived in Mid Suffolk in the 1980's (although the doctors are different obviously!)
If we need referral to hospital for anything our hospital for East and Mid Suffolk is Ipswich and then Addenbrookes when things get even more serious. Ipswich hospital works closely with Colchester hospital mainly because Colchester was classed as a failing hospital a few years ago and the Top Bod of Ipswich is now Top Bod of Colchester too. There was lots of talk about having to centralise some services to Colchester from Ipswich but I don't know if that is/will be happening.

I really don't know if that's the information folk wanted to know but I do know that from our point of view the NHS is wonderful - I have nothing but praise for the nurses and doctors who all work so hard in increasingly difficult circumstances.

I await comments! But won't reply to any!

Back Tomorrow

Monday 29 January 2018

Antique Fair Miniature!

Sometime in December I picked up a free local advertising magazine and cut out a voucher for £1 off the entry to a rare event for Suffolk............An Antiques fair (there are a few regular small indoor posh events but no biggish outside ones).
It was at The Suffolk Showground yesterday.

A trip to Aldi was needed anyway so I thought I'd combine the two things.
What a disappointment, there were less than a dozen stands outside and not many more inside. I looked round but didn't see anything interesting except a T.G Green Ceramic Measuring jug, but as the man wanted £25 it was left on the stall. Had to smile at how much someone wanted for some small Kilner jars, same size as the ones I paid 99p each for at a boot sale, on sale Sunday for £3.99 each. Wonder if they had to take them home again?

These two photos are the sum total of the outside stands!

A waste of £2.50 entry charge, except I did see my cousin but he didn't have anything interesting on his stall either. I came home through the town and wished I hadn't as there were roadworks and roads closed all over.
Altogether a frustrating morning out....... I shall now stay at home for the rest of the month!

Thanks for comments on Saturday

Back Tomorrow

Saturday 27 January 2018

Saturday 20th - Friday 26th - Week 4: Pennies Pinched and Expenses.

The long day................
Col's Friday clinic appointment took Hours. I've never seen Addenbrookes so busy. We had to be there for 9.45 for blood tests and to have his Hickman line dressed and see the pharmacist before the (in theory) 10.45 appointment with one of the post-transplant team. By noon, after sitting on waiting room chairs Col was starting to flag, luckily they were able to let him lay down in the adjoining Cancer Assessment Unit and after more hours of waiting, he saw the doctor and  we finally escaped at 2.45.....not a moment too soon.

Saturday 20th to Friday 26th

Little Penny Pinchers................

 Printed out Asda price match voucher 73p (This is the first time I've actually qualified for one since I started doing this after Sue in Wales said about it on her blog, which must mean that Asda is often cheaper than other places at least for the things I buy.)
Brother in law came for Sunday lunch and to help clear the fallen tree from next door and brought beetroot.
Filled the oven with baking while cooking dinner.
Got washing completely dry on the line on Monday and Thursday.
Picked up twiggy bits from the meadow to dry for kindling wood
Ran water into jug while waiting for hot water to appear when washing up.
Took flask and food when we went to hospital for Col's clinic appointment.
Used leeks from garden

The Spending..............

Xmas  Cards 74p (Cancer Research Shop reduced to ¼ price. Fulfilling all criteria - never full price and always charity, rounded up to 75p for accounts)
Grey Car Diesel £29 + New Tyre and fitting £76.50
Phone Top up £10
Asda Shopping - milk, fruit, bread, veg, juice etc and things Col fancied £15.00
Eggs from local stall £1.40
Direct Debits..... for Charity and BT £49
Chemist 75p (this is how much it blinkin' well costs to buy a pee sample pot  for Col to take a sample to hospital!)
Car Parking at Hospital £3.60
20kg  Bird Feed seed mix £10.25

Total £196.25 (worst week of the month!)

That's 4 weeks gone

Back Monday

Friday 26 January 2018

Library Books, A Query Solved and Tennis

Colin hasn't felt like reading anything for weeks, too poorly to concentrate, he has 19 library books here that I've been able to renew.
I've read fewer than usual due to traveling about and too much time blogging!
But I've managed to get busy reading since Col got home.

Collected from the library van on Thursday of last week
Lots of good looking reading matter and many are books I've seen mentioned on other blogs. Thank you to all book recommend-ers everywhere.

First read was the one by Alys Clare - The Rufus Spy. The 8th in the Aelf Fen series, a little bit of magic, some crime and history - way back to the 11th century and set in the mysterious Fenlands.

From last month and the month before, three that I hadn't read  had to go back as they were requested elsewhere, I've made a note to re-order sometime. I also sent some back unread as just hadn't got on with them and three are still here waiting.
These were the books picked up in December, most were read
The books I've read recently are on the Books Read 2018 page and the end of 2017 page.

And How Good is this......................................
A comment on the 2017 page asked about the title of a book, I had no idea BUT Kate message to
Kate has replied saying the book you were thinking of is Gaining Ground by Joan Barfoot. The joy of blogging! Actually it sounds quite an intriguing story.

Thank you for lots of comments yesterday and welcome to more new followers.

Huge Well Done to Kyle Edmund for getting to the semi-finals of the Australian Open tennis. The semis are much further than any one except Andy Murray has reached for years. I sat in the sun(through the window) and listened to him being knocked out on 5live sports extra yesterday morning - disappointing, but he's got many years ahead of him. It was much better than housework!

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 25 January 2018

Cooking on Gas

When we had the LPG  range fitted here a year ago and all the pipework done we had 19kg cylinders rather than the 47Kg. Mainly because we knew Col was going to be out of action and there is no way I can shift a 47Kg cylinder and get a new one in place. Whereas an empty 19Kg is easy to lift into the car and I can lift a full one out too. BUT they do seem to run out quite quickly ..........well they would .....being a third the size of what we are used to!

The cylinders are linked through a switch over valve, which automatically starts using the other cylinder when one is empty and has a dial that goes red so you know when to change the empty one. Much better than our first years at the smallholding when the one cylinder would often run out in the middle of cooking without me knowing. Now switch over valves are compulsory as is having the tanks chained to the wall.

Anyway, the other day when I swapped the empty cylinder for a full one (we have three - two fixed up and a spare to swap in) I came in to look at the accounts book to see when we last bought one. It didn't seem very long ago. I found we had the original 2 in the middle of April for which we paid the fitter £60- he did them cheaper. Then we were given one about ¾ full from my sister when they moved house and bought one in November for £37. And at the moment we have 2 full ( well apart from one weeks use)Can that be right? Maybe I missed writing one down, though I can only remember buying one.

So we've actually not spent much on gas at all but always possible to cut spending ..................

How can I cut down on use of gas? Perhaps by using hints from the past, from the WWII leaflet called "Save Fuel; Fuel's more precious than jewels" which is one of many period leaflets that make up this little book.
 The book says   Cooking for Victory means Cooking with Economy

The handy hints are.............................

Did you know it takes 15% less gas to bring food to the boil in a covered saucepan?
So use a lid ✔ Yes I do that

Plan meals so that you fill your oven
I Try, it doesn't always work ❌  Must try harder

A gas grill uses a lot more gas than frying
So fry on low heat with very little fat  before raising temperature ✔ Yes rarely use grill.

Don't drown your vegetables, always cut veg into small pieces and use less water to cover.
Cut carrots into slices, shred cabbage, cook in minimal water with tight lid to steam cook ✔ Yes

Most gas used is on the large ring so use a smaller saucepan and smaller ring
Move large saucepans onto smaller rings once they have come to the boil ✔ I try to remember to do this    

And Finally
Most Important.........If just one home gave up toast for a year it would mean 2,000 extra bullets for the war effort !!

They knew how to make you feel guilty back then!

Oh and BTW that pie on yesterdays post needs  20 minutes on Gas 6 and 30 mins on Gas 4. Although the original recipe is for something much bigger using 500g of sausage meat, lots more bacon and 4 eggs . So I think I adjusted the cooking time down a bit - but not much.

And for everyone trying to see book titles on my little shelf...........voila!
Some very old books here and not a celebrity in sight!
Plus the only other recipe books I possess after clearing out lots when we moved twice.

Some of these could go too but Ziffit doesn't want them.

Most of the recipes I actually use are in poly-pockets in a very fat ring binder file thing. I tend to photo copy from borrowed recipe books or tear them out of the supermarkets free magazines.

Thank you for all yesterdays comments

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Stretching Sausages

8 sausages.

6 were twisted in half and cut  to make 12 halves which look much  more than 6 whole!
They were used in a Toad in the Hole and fed three people when served up with roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots and cabbage and plenty of gravy.
The remaining 2 had skins removed and were squished flat and put in the bottom of a pie with half a chopped onion that had been softened in the microwave, a couple of rashers of bacon chopped into small bits and two beaten eggs poured over the top and a thin pastry lid.
 This is enough for two meals for us, once with veg and again with chips and tomatoes and as Colin isn't eating much there was even some left for me for two days lunch .

Terribly fattening but very tasty and filling.
And one way to make 8 sausages =  9 meals.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Home Town

Stowmarket, a market town almost in the centre of Suffolk, population around 20,000.

I was born there, when I was small I went there every week on the bus to visit my Grandma, then went to Grammar school and Youth Club there between 1966 and 1971  and lived there between 1975 and 1980 and for 6 months in 1991/2, also worked there between 1978 and 1980. It's always felt like MY town. I know my way around it, back streets, short cuts- and have even got used to the new roads that have appeared while we lived at the smallholding over by the coast.. Now we are back in Mid Suffolk it's my town again.

Here's a narrow alley, a path from the church to the High Street. When my Mum was small and lived in town there were houses up both sides. I can remember when there were houses on the right and an Eastern Electricity depot on the left. Now the town library is on the left and most of the buildings on the right have been demolished or rebuilt as part of the shops on the main street.

This triangle of grass just off the main street is know to everyone my age and older as "The Camping Land"
Nowadays you can't imagine anyone pitching a tent here but just to the left of my photo is the Stowmarket Guide Hut, it's been there since the 1920s and my late mum said she used to camp here when she was in the guides during the 1930s. When I was small there were many more trees and shrubs and benches for sitting. The only public toilets in town were beside the Guide Hut and every Thursday when we went shopping mum would have to take me to the loo before we went back into town to catch the bus home!

These cottages are just behind me as I took the Camping Land photo. They've been here since the 1700's but nobody noticed them much until 2012. 
 That's when The Museum Of East Anglian Rural Life restored them

Must go on one of the guided tours sometime to see inside.

I'll probably show you around more of my Home Town over the next year.

Thanks for comments yesterday

Back Soon

Monday 22 January 2018

A Book about Books.....and Another Book

 The book about books and reading is the latest from author Susan Hill

 Jacob's Room is Full of Books; A Year of Reading

  This is Susan Hill's second book about books and I didn't think it was as good as her first book on this subject ( Howard's End is on the Landing).

The library blurb says........

When we spend so much of our time immersed in books, who's to say where reading ends and living begins? The two are impossibly and gloriously wedded, as Hill shows in 'Jacob's Room Has Too Many Books'. Considering everything from Edith Wharton's novels through to Alan Bennett's diaries, Virginia Woolf and the writings of twelfth century monk Aelred of Rievaulx, Susan Hill charts a year of her life through the books she has read, reread or returned to the shelf.

She does rather a lot of name dropping in this book, all the famous writers she's met and stayed with but then as a long established writer she's bound to know many others.

There is a rather good list in the back of every book or poem mentioned, I was pleased to find I had read a few but there were many others I won't be reading ...........ever.

An interesting read but not riveting.


It's been many years since I read a book by this author. He's been extremely prolific including the Sharpe series and The Last Kingdom series which have both been turned into TV films.
This latest is a stand alone novel.
Set in London in 1593 it tells the story of playwright William Shakespeare, his plays and players told through the eyes of his younger brother Richard who ran away from home to join his brother a few years earlier.
 This is what the library website says

A dramatic new departure for international bestselling author Bernard Cornwell, FOOLS AND MORTALS takes us into the heart of the Elizabethan era, long one of his favourite periods of British history.In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. Increasingly estranged from his brother as William's star rises, Richard's onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangles in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the role of a lifetime .Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force with all Bernard Cornwell's hallmark storytelling and a remarkable cast of characters: you walk the streets, explore the palaces, experience the scandals, rivalries and fierce ambitions, and stand side-by-side with the men and women of Elizabethan London.
As soon as I started reading it felt very familiar despite knowing that it had not been read my me before. Then it dawned on me that it's almost a mash up of a series of books by Edward Marston and Rory Clements.

Edward Marston wrote 16 books about 16th century player Nicholas Bracewell, who acted with a similar group to the Shakespeare players and solved crimes at the same time.
book cover of The Queen\'s Head

I've read about half of the 16 so far and have the rest here to read sometime. I've seen these dismissed as rubbish by some critics, but don't think they are That bad!

Rory Clements has written 7 books about John Shakespeare another brother of William.
This one Martyr is the first and here's the library info again.........
England is close to war. Within days the axe could fall on the neck of Mary Queen of Scots, & Spain is already gathering a battle fleet to avenge her. Tensions in Elizabeth I's government are at breaking point. At the eye of the storm is John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham.
book cover of Martyr

All three authors take the reader into Elizabethan London where Catholics are persecuted and violence is everywhere.

The Rory Clements books are the most complicated, Edward Marston the lightest read and the new Bernard Cornwell sits somewhere in the middle.

Thank you to everyone for the lovely "welcome home" comments for Col. His two weeks 'inside' turned out to be two weeks getting worse rather than better. The headaches which were the reason for him going in faded away with paracetamol and codeine after a few days. The odd liver function results righted themselves without treatment so the biopsy and internal bleeding caused by it could have been avoided and the low blood pressure came, went, came back again and went again for no reason. Of course no one knew all this at the beginning and they have to be doubly careful.

Very warm welcome to two new followers. Hi and Hi.

 Back Tomorrow

Saturday 20 January 2018

13th - 19th January........ Low Spend January? Ha !

Saturday 13th to Friday 19th

The Pennies Pinched..........................
Remembered to use £1 parking ticket voucher in Asda so free parking
Made batch  of pizza bases to pop in freezer
Mixed up a box full of crumble topping for freezer
Took flask and snacks when going to hospital
Tap water run into jug while waiting for hot water - used to flush loo.
Knitted 2 dishcloths
Repaired a bird peanut feeder
Cut my own hair

The Spending..........................
Hospital Car park and Park and Ride for the week £11.50
Cat Food £12
Diesel £26
Batteries from Original Factory Shop £4* 
Asda and Lidl Shopping..... Things that were gone from or getting low in the freezer - gammon joint, butter,baking fat,frozen peas,bread + cheese, fruit,salad,milk  etc. £25
Clothes £3 ( shorts to fit my big bum from charity shop - rare find!especially in mid winter)
Xmas £2 ( two small gifts for friend from charity shop)
Phone Top Up and D/D for Cols phone £17.50
Borrowing DVD from library £1

Total for week £102

The excuse..........I wasn't expecting the DVD to arrive with the January mobile library!

The Fail...............Used the oven on two days to cook just one thing - tut,tut

The Bravery!............ I went home from hospital visiting via friends just over the Essex border. This is the first time I've driven there and back on my own.  Very Exciting!

The Good News...........Colin is home from hospital. They decided that provided his blood pressure was OK on Thursday morning he could go home and I finally got a call from him late afternoon to say he was just waiting for tablets so just as it got dark and started to rain I set out to pick him up. He was so glad to get out as a really obnoxious, noisy and nasty old man had been causing hell for his family, nurses and fellow patients for the last 48 hours.
 We eventually got home just after 8pm and he went straight to bed. Now we start the slow road to recovery again. He is incredibly tired and energy is non-existent, he's lost a lot of weight again and as for muscles - gone! Now need to keep him well so he doesn't have to go back again.

* On the subject of batteries - that is small AA ones for clocks and TV remote etc - has anyone bought a battery charger lately? We had one for years and it used to work really well, then it seemed to not be charging so we got some new re-chargeable batteries to see if they were the problem. But no, it's the charger not working. I want to get a new one but not sure what sort is best nowadays. In the meantime I have bought a pack of 8  Duracell AA for £4 which seems the cheapest decent ones around.
At least nowadays batteries can be recycled but I'd still prefer to use re-chargables if I can.

Back Monday

Friday 19 January 2018

Oh Dear, I Went in a Charity Shop..............

.....................and spent money, even though it was supposedly  Low-Spend-January.

There's a thing about shopping as I do.............. almost everything second-hand.......... you have to buy it when you see it because it won't be there next time and you may never see it again.

Top photo is a very pretty storage box and a little kit to make a chicken from felt, these will both be Christmas presents for a friend. I think she will like them. £1.50 and 50p.Hope she doesn't suddenly decide to read the blog.

And a pair of cotton shorts for me for £3. A surprise.....  as I don't often look at clothes nowadays. Even more of a surprise to find shorts in winter. But something like this is a good rare find in big-bum size!

A good start to 2018............ rescuing things from landfill and helping charities too. (See the Halo!)

Back Soon

Thank you for lots of comments yesterday and ideas for the pinhead oats.

Thursday 18 January 2018

The Mystery Box + Yesterdays Happenings

It's almost a year since I last ordered from Approved Food, I look but rarely see anything that's a good bargain and they do sell an awful lot of food that belongs in the JUNK section of the accounts. Then last week they had cheap flour, plain and self-raising plus brown sugar and kitchen roll which we use for tissues. I happened to pop in a Mars selection box for 50p too - took me right back to childhood Christmases - there was always a selection box of chocolate from someone.
Also splashed out £2 of one of their Mystery Boxes. Last time I got one - many years ago - it was full of weird things that I wouldn't use and I ended up giving most of them to youngest daughter.This time £2 bought these.
10 things so 20p each and all use-able, some slightly junk, not things I would usually buy - except the tomato sauce and the pasta (although I buy Basics brand rather than posh Napolina) but edible and ringing the changes occasionally is good.
I did make one mistake costing 59p - got this, didn't realise pinhead oatmeal was so different to porridge oats. I rarely eat porridge, for some reason it never seems very filling to me and hadn't had any in the cupboard for a while, but thought it was time to try it again.
Anyway I have this now so will give it a go, it just needs soaking over night in water. I'm not planning to follow one recipe I found for pinhead oatmeal porridge which involved adding double cream!

Counting everything in the whole order individually there were 78 different things. Delivery is £5.99, that means *brain whirring* 7 and a bit pence to add to each thing. Did I save money - yes a little. Never as much as it looks at first glance, and not as much as the £46.55p quoted on the receipt, but at least I don't have to buy any flour, brown sugar or kitchen roll for the rest of the year.

Just remembered a post I did all about Approved Foods Waaaaaay back in 2013 when my first blog was a baby which is HERE if you are curious.

Thank you for all the comments on Wassailing and Hello and welcome to a new follower.

I went over to visit small grand-daughter yesterday, in 12 days she has gone from one or two steps to walking really well. Got over to Leiston by a roundabout route after finding a big yellow sign......."Framlingham Town Centre Roads Closed". When a B road is closed the signed Alternative Route has to be by roads not smaller than a B road so I should have gone miles out of the way to get round, luckily I nipped through some small back roads so didn't have to go so far. There are many road repairs going on in Suffolk at the moment  that it's getting really common to suddenly find a road closed. Very glad to have lived here long enough to know my way round without a map (or a sat nav) Must be awful for newcomers.

Wassailing was done...........As dusk fell I went outside and draped bread soaked in apple juice on the apple trees and poured a bit on the roots, chanted the rhyme and patted the trees to give them some encouragement. Didn't bother with the air rifle or banging pots and pans! Might have frightened the neighbours.

What a chilly day it was yesterday and forecasting even stronger winds but thankfully no snow this far south and east. The squirrel proof feeder did NOT arrive .....  Col's fault!  for ordering cheap stuff off ebay .....left it to him to sort out on the lap top in hospital.

TODAY ...Editing in to say.....................Oh my goodness, how windy is this weather! I got up at 6am when the electric kept going on and off. Can  I can hear tiles sliding around? I hope not. Power still on at the moment  think  I'll wait a while to hear if any roads are blocked by trees or overturned trucks before going anywhere. This is when Local Radio really comes into it's own as people ring in with information.

Hope you are all safe

Back Soon

Wednesday 17 January 2018

17th January Old Twelfth Night.....................

.......................... and wassailing the apple trees  

Old Apple Tree, we Wassail thee
and hope that thou will bear
Hats full, caps full ,three-bushel bags full 
and a little heap under the stair.
 Hip Hip Hooray 

A few  centuries ago apples were a very important crop, they made cider and at a time when water wasn't safe to drink cider and beer were the drinks of the masses. Farm workers would be paid partly in cider or beer and some varieties could be kept stored for months. A poor harvest was a disaster.
Wassailing ( Wassail comes from the Anglo Saxon waes haeil  = Good Health)  was an ancient custom in cider producing areas although villages in many parts of the country had their own versions of the ceremony. Pieces of cider-soaked toast were hung on the oldest or largest trees in the orchard, wassail songs were sung, cider was poured onto the roots of the trees. Finally shots would be fired through the branches and pots and pans banged together to ward off the evil spirits.

We went out and wassailed the trees at the smallholding especially after the only year when the big old Bramley Apple failed to set a single fruit.Think it worked as it never failed again.

I haven't got any cider but do have a small carton of apple juice in the cupboard - hope that will suffice to appease those spirits.

Why Old Twelfth Night? This is all to do with the change from Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1752  when 11  days were lost. The 2nd of September was followed immediately by the 14th. A lot of people refused to use this new calendar, especially country people.

Last year was a fair year for apples but a bad year for storing them. Hopefully 2018 will be better.

Stand fast,bear well top,
Pray God send us a howling crop.
Every twig, apples big,
Every bough, apples enow,
Hatsfull, capsfull, quarter sacks full! 

Two more books from my shelves. On the left a little gem of a book - Christmas present from my wish list and on the right a book that I've had for ages - full of useful information.

Weather forecast for today is windy and cold, maybe even snowy....... think of me out there tonight............ dancing round the apple trees!

Back soon

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Vanishing Bloggers and Blogging + I Needed a Hair Cut

John Gray's post  about bloggers disappearing brought lots of comments - although John gets lots of comments even if he only writes one word!
Over the 5 years I've been blogging many bloggers have come and gone. Sometimes with notice, others suddenly and more just fading slowly away. Sometimes it's sad and you feel you want to know why and hope they are OK, with others it doesn't seem to matter.  Some bloggers know each other in real life too and perhaps they will be the only ones who know the truth, if only they were able to share the truth.....but of course they can't which makes people wonder............and speculate.......and perhaps come to the wrong conclusion.

Am I odd in that I don't take blogging too seriously? ( Apart from the obsession with the stats!) I don't always believe everything I read on blogs................. I read some and think.......... well I won't tell you what I think but I wouldn't put my thoughts into words in a point being rude.

Because I don't take blog world seriously I'm not particularly bothered what people think about me. They can believe it or not. I try not to mention politics or religion - two subjects sure to upset someone. My blog is just a shared diary and it's lovely that people read and enjoy and comment, if there were very nasty comments I would just remove without commenting myself, sometimes I reply with a ? because I don't understand the comment or it makes no sense. Occasionally people comment on something that I've NOT actually said - in which case I usually point out they should read more carefully. I know I can be too sarcastic and not everyone appreciates the Suffolk sense of humour either.

I really enjoy writing  and find blogging really easy and the wonderful thing about bloggers is they/we are all different or in some cases....... odd!

And here is something that possibly makes me very odd......................

My hair is very thick and when it gets more than about an inch long it feels horrible. For the last umpteen years Col and I have been cutting each others hair with clippers. It's a darn site cheaper than the hairdressers and I don't have to make daft conversation about where I've been (or in our case Not been) on holiday and they never used to believe me when I told them how short I wanted it.

Now what to do? Colin is tucked up in obviously I'm going to cut it myself.
And I did and it looks fine ........a 5 all over.

I can't imagine anyone else wanting to try this but here are my tips for cutting your own hair with clippers .........wear nothing much! (hair goes everywhere and the usual cape thing falls off if you are doing your own hair) have a mirror in front and slightly off centre behind ( Screwed a screw into bedroom door and hung an extra mirror) and leap in shower ASAP afterwards!

Look at the grey............
 Blimey, it's difficult to take a photo in a mirror without blocking the whole picture with the camera. I need Selfie Tuition!

Thanks to everyone for comments yesterday. Colin will be in hospital all this week.

As regards  the pests.............Tried putting the cat on the windowsill and encouraging her to go out and chase squirrel away - no good at all

They just looked at each other!

 Not long after these photos I noticed the small nut feeder had been demolished. Squirrel proof one arrives today, but I mended the big feeder by heating a tent peg on the gas burner and using it to go through a flower arranging saucer to fix it over the bottom, covering the old base and wires they'd bitten through last week.
I love seeing the birds on the feeders and squirrels are just as watchable - luckily Polly is a wimp so as well as not chasing squirrels she ignores birds too.

Back Soon

Monday 15 January 2018

The Weekend + Critters

Hello and BIG welcome to some more new followers

Weekend in Addenbrookes
Col had a liver biopsy on Friday morning, then had to be rushed off later to have a bleed from the liver stopped. On Saturday night they moved him from  a room on his own to a bay of 5 beds because there is That Flu in the hospital and someone  needed isolation. Luckily the ward is quiet-ish. Visited Sunday morning and found he'd had high temperatures overnight, but wasn't on antibiotics as yet, later he texted to say he was now on anti-biotics and had also had an chest X ray - because they thought he was coughing too much. Still waiting for various results
Thought he might be home early this week, now I'm not so sure.😟

And the planned post for today.......................The Critters

Last week...............On Sunday morning I looked out of the bedroom window and saw two Hares on our meadow near the workshop........ I thought  "lovely".
When I went out to the car later I noticed a Muntjac on the field just beyond the ditch... I thought "keep away from our new trees you!"
On Wednesday when I was ironing I looked out of the window and saw 2 squirrels, one hanging upside down on the big peanut feeder, biting through the wires on the base and I watched as all the peanuts fell out -it's a home made feeder, not particularly sturdy. I opened the window and shouted "Go away- you pests". ............They went as far as the trees on the other side of the lane and then came back for the peanuts.

Ho Hum. Squirrel proof feeder needed I think.
Look at that beedy eye watching me indoors. He's moved to the seed tray now - dinner on a plate!

This is him/her on the small peanut feeder which has a jar lid fixed on the bottom with a nail through, wonder how long they'll take to get that one to pieces. He's trying............................

A squirrel-proof feeder has been ordered!

When I go and fetch wood from the shed I always look to see if there are any more owl pellets and for weeks there was a new one everyday. That means the Barn Owl was roosting in there every night. But none this week, hope I haven't frightened it away by moving all the kindling sticks around, perhaps he'll be back if the weather turns colder.

Back Soon

Saturday 13 January 2018

Pennies Pinched This Week 6th - 12th + Expenses

Saturday 6th  to Friday 12th

The Pennies Pinched......................
 Many of these are done all the time so might get mentioned every week if I think of it or might get forgotten because they are just normal.

 Ran water into jug while waiting for hot water at kitchen sink- use for flushing loo
Waited until good weather forecast to do washing.
One load done on 30°, 30 minute fast wash
Finished drying clothes in front of fire.
Took flask and snack each time when visiting hospital
Filled oven when baking
Didn't go shopping in any supermarkets so avoiding temptation.
Washed and rinsed freezer bags............ never meat ones
Used broom, brush and dustpan on downstairs hard floors rather than hoovering
Washed floors with hot water, washing soda and vinegar.
Picked up lots of fallen twigs and took into shed to dry out ready for lighting fires.

The Bonus..............................
Checked through books-in-boxes-under-the-stairs again and found £16 worth to send off to Ziffit (ones they didn't want last time I checked, plus a couple from the bookshelves)

The Spending..........................
Please feel free to fall about laughing/tutting/rolling eyes  over my low spend January idea...............

 Phone top up £10
Diesel £32
Concentrated Screen wash £2.75
Grandchildren £2
Fruit from Greengrocers £1.75
Eggs from roadside stall  £1
Chemist £5 + 70p
 Car Parking/Park and Ride for hospital visiting through the week £14.50
Approved Food Order £31 (Didn't plan to spend with them, but they had all sorts of flour, sugar and kitchen roll cheap, I'll do a post about AF next week)
Total £100.70p

The Fail..........Last week after Col went into hospital I popped the un-opened 4pt bottle of milk into the freezer, what I forgot was the ¾ loaf of bread that was out. Before I (on my own) got to the end of it, I found it had gone mouldy and had to be chucked. Should have turned part into breadcrumbs - or even sliced it and put some back in the freezer. ( bread is OK to refreeze). 25p wasted. I'm not baking bread at the moment, I went off it after having some dud loaves last year. Debating a bread maker or just carry on with varying between Aldi Multigrain 79p/ Asda Farmhouse un-sliced £1.10/ Asda un-sliced Malted tin loaf £1.10. Making bread takes quite a lot of gas too.................. Still deciding ............."weighing it up!"

The Weather............We actually had a bit of sunshine yesterday, first bit of blue sky for a week after some really grey and misty days. Heard a weather forecast  which said we are in for much colder weather from Monday night onwards - snow and gales - Oh Jolly Good!

Back Monday

Friday 12 January 2018

Accounts Explained

Lily asked me to explain how my accounts book worked. I have to say first of all that it's a bit labour intensive so not for everyone but it lets me see where the money goes each month/ year and gives me plans for cutting down. Not sure it actually helps me save but...........

Each month is a two page spread. On the right hand side are the subjects I've spent on. There are 25 (plus food) subjects but of course not all are used each month so they fit in the top half of a page.
The subjects are
  • House stuff
  • Cat
  • Charity
  • Blue car
  • Grey car
  • Garden
  • Wild birds
  • Grandchildren
  • Health
  • Laundry
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • All Christmas
  • Other gifts
  • Phone/computer
  • Heating oil,electric and LPG
  • Sewer/water
  • Insurances - (not car) and Council Tax
  • Sue
  • Colin
  • Beach hut
  • TV/DVD
  • Clothes/shoes
  • Postage
  • Misc other things .
Bottom half of page is Food Columns

Date  Fresh    Fresh      Fridge          Store          Takeaway or     Fresh Fish/       Milk          Junk!
          Veg       Fruit       /Freezer    Cupboard        Eating out          Meat

The left hand page is money in and notes about spending.

When I write things down I round up or down to 50p/£1 which helps makes adding easier.

An example of how the pages look......... a part of May 2017...........

Heating Oil - £412
Xmas - Basket £3 + £2+ Candles £2+ £3 = £10
Clothes - Col Belt £5+Col Trousers £15= £20
Health 50p+50p = £1
Cat - £10 + £7 = £17
Grey Car - Diesel £25+£15+Tax £30+ £17+Cam belt, service and MOT £463 =£550 (Ouch- if Col was well, he would have done most of the service himself and it would have been a lot less.)
 Water - £34 (That was before the meter was fitted)

After 12 months all the totals for each subject are added together on the next 2 pages. So I know that postage cost me £46 last year (including Christmas, sending ebay parcels and bubble wrap but a note tells me  I have lots of stamps left). Things that go in the bathroom/toilet like loo roll, toothpaste, shampoo, non slip bath mat etc etc cost us £94 which seems too much but I still have a couple of dozen loo rolls . As for how much I spent on second-hand books..........that's a secret between me and the accounts book! But as most of the books came from charity shops or charity book sales I could fiddle the accounts and move that spending to the charity column..........

As I said at the beginning this probably doesn't help me save any money but at least I know where it's gone.

Thank you for all the kind comments last time and Sooze asked if it helped me to talk about hospital stuff on here - it certainly does because if I put Col updates on the blog then I don't have to talk about it, because friends and family can read the blog and then they don't have to ring me up!!

Back Soon

Thursday 11 January 2018

Running Away

There was a programme on TV last week that I found sort-of fascinating. While Col's not here I get to see it.....( He just moans through this time of programme!)
 It is called Hunted and was on Channel 4 on Thursday. A load of people - 9 in this 3rd series- are dropped off  somewhere - Manchester city centre this time, and have to evade being found for 25 days to win a share of £100,000. Each person or pair have a covert camera man with them.
The people tracking the "fugitives" have access to CCTV, ATM records, phone taps and computer accounts and a  helicopter and now drones too. They have people in cars ready to follow and experienced ex- police officers or experts in psychology and tracking in an office watching everything.
As the man said "every electronic device leaves a trail" - frightening really and this country has more CCTV cameras than many others so it's almost impossible to disappear. No-one stays free for long.

I've often felt like running away and disappearing, I can remember being about 13 and trying to work out how to climb out of my bedroom window, probably after an argument with Dad.
During some of the early days at the smallholding, severe winter depression made me feel like running away from the cold and wet.
And now I sometimes feel like running away from hospitals and illness!
But of course I haven't and won't  run from anything, after all where would I go?

I've no idea how I would fare in that Hunted programme. A lady of 60+ only stayed free for about 6 hours because she got on a National Express coach and travelled to London. Once you are on a coach you are stuck really. A father and son set out for the countryside - no CCTV there but then phoned home and told their wife/mother exactly where they were - phones were tapped-  they realised what they had done and moved on quickly.
I might watch tonight, there again I might not - it's all rubbish really as they must know from the camera men where everyone is all the time anyway!

Meanwhile, news from hospital is worrying. Col keeps passing out when going to the loo in the night. (The doctor gave this a name but can't remember what he said) He's found himself on the floor 4 times now. His blood pressure is too low. Headaches aren't so bad and he's had the bone marrow sample taken that was due so we are waiting to find out what's going on. He's still not on the proper ward and doctors don't get round to seeing him until late each day and feeling a bit down in the dumps with so few visitors to take his mind off things. I can see the benefit of hospitals specializing in various illnesses but it does make it difficult for family and friends when the hospital is 60 miles away.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Be Prepared

I read on Mr Home Maker's blog that he had taken a lot of flak on social media for suggesting that we should all be getting ourselves prepared for inevitable future world events.
I agree, but for more ordinary reasons rather than a 3rd World War.

The storm here last week wasn't a tornado or even a hurricane, just very windy but it put the electric off for 9 hours and in some places roads were blocked by fallen trees. In the Big Storm of 1987 our electric was off for a week and we also had a week without power at the smallholding with live wires down across the gateway so we couldn't get in or out for a while. Weather extremes are more common, hottest ever weather in Australia, more snow than normal in parts of the USA,  even in Switzerland - where they know about snow and more storms here..........

For 20+ years I was a Cub Scout Leader and the Scout Motto of Be Prepared came in very handy when coping with a Scout hut full of thirty 8 - 10 year olds. In fact I still dream (nightmares!) occasionally that I've forgotten all the games that the boys enjoyed so much. My experiences have left me with a liking for being prepared and self reliant.

So how we plan for the small events which might help in big events too.........

* Heating - A wood burner is one of the ✔ that was ✔ when we looked at this house. We had one for all the years at the smallholding, so it was a definite requirement. Our oil boiler wouldn't be my preferred choice but as age creeps up, a wood or solid fuel Rayburn to heat radiators would be more work than we could manage and as finances creep down there is no way we can justify the solar/wind with battery storage route. It takes about 10-15 years to get payback on outlay.
*Cooking - Although it's second choice (after wood fired Rayburn - see above) an LPG cooker with a spare cylinders always on hand is easy. We have 19kg rather than 47kg which we had previously but these are easier to move. There are two cylinders with a switch-over thingy plus one always kept as a spare. Unfortunately nowadays you can't use the oven without electric .........once upon a time gas ovens could be lit with a match - no longer sadly. But the hob sees us through a power cut. A small kettle or saucepan could also be heated on the woodburner............slowly!
*Lighting - I would like the answer to this one as candles are useless for many things. Torches need batteries. I have a huge stock of candles and a couple of candlesticks. Once we had a Freeplay wind-up torch which worked well for a year or two but then wouldn't hold any charge. We also once owned a solar-power small battery charger - it charged batteries only if left in full sunlight for 12 hours - Ha! I've looked at wind-up camping lanterns - they don't get good reviews. Freeplay don't seem to make wind-up lights now. A lantern run by a camping-gaz cylinder will give good light for a few hours. The cylinders aren't cheap. In our early camping days we owned a lantern that ran off a car battery - that was excellent, maybe they are still made?
A stock of matches for candles and fires is also kept in a draw - never did get the hang of rubbing two sticks together!
Old packs of candles have been in the cupboard for years, the Freeplay wind-up radio has been around a while too  but the small torch is nearly new. I got it to use for seeing to unlock the car in village hall car parks when I go to WI, it's small enough to fit in my bag. It's also come in handy at home when I realise that I've forgotten to lock up the garage after dark. Only uses 3 small batteries and has LEDs so good and bright.
 * Water - since we found out that the pipework from the road all the way up the lane isn't owned by the water company and knowing how low the pressure is, I've had a 15lt container filled with water out in the garage just in case. The water in  butts that collect off garage and house would do for some things like flushing the loo.
* Keeping in touch. Our cord-less phone won't work in a power cut and mobiles need charging, I try to keep them charged. Somewhere on route between the smallholding and here our old ordinary plug in phone got left behind/vanished. I may splash out £5.99 for an Argos cheapy simple plug in - might be handy if electric is off but phone-lines still OK.
What we do have and have had for years is a wind-up radio - it also has a built in solar panel and I find it will charge up quite well when left on a sunny windowsill. I would give it just 5 out of 10 for sound quality but if you need to know what's happening it works well.

None of the above would be much use for  long term or major disruption and don't come close to the serious preppers on online prepping sites but they are more than most people have.

Thank you all for comments yesterday, I will keep everyone up to date with the hospital stuff. Visited him yesterday, still no coming home date,  the awful headaches have abated somewhat but he's still incredibly tired all the time.
Apologies for getting peoples hopes up with the surprise pension pay out - not state pension I'm afraid, neither of us are old enough. It's Suffolk County Council and something to do with the lump sum payment and I think we should have had it months ago anyway.
The owners of Colmans mustard say they will carry on making the iconic brand, but not in Norwich. There are many farmers growing for them in East Anglia. As for Aspalls  the cider and vinegar producers near Debenham. The new owners have also assured everyone they will carry on in the same place, but as its a small factory in the middle of the countryside, who knows.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 9 January 2018

A PS at the beginning +DVDs + Financial Surprise + Sold out

Why do a P.S. (A.S.?) at the beginning........ because I'm just born awkward..........................Hello and welcome to 3 new followers, blimey going up in leaps and bounds........hope you enjoy reading.
Thank you to everyone for the positive thoughts for Col. I really don't know if I should mention how he is in blog posts or not, as I don't like people who go on and on about illness. But if I didn't say anything everyone would be wondering how he was.

The one on the right we've had for several years

on the left is the DVD I got for Col for Christmas. Both were originally filmed for  Anglia TV back in the early 2000's.
Paul Heiney is a quiet presenter, he doesn't talk too much, lets others speak. The dialect and accent of the old Norfolk and Suffolk farmers filmed talking about their memories is wonderful. And something rarely heard now although Col's brother who has worked on the same Suffolk farm all his life and still talks 'Suffolk' comes out with an old word sometimes. He's got a cough and said he kept tissicking!
 They try out some original recipes in the wartime programmes - Mock Duck which is sausage meat and Mock Apricot Flan - made from carrots are two I remember. Some tasted better than others!

We often watch DVDs on a winter afternoon, not films, but things like those above. We've got some of the Ruth Goodman et al programmes - Victorian farm, Edwardian Farm  and the best - Tales from the Green Valley plus the whole series of The Good Life and The Coal House  and Hannah Hauxwell. Col's got some Fred Dibnah DVDs too - I'm not so keen. We've  also got a few of the East Anglian Film Archive DVDs  -  The Home Front, East Anglia at War; Suffolk Past and Old Railways.
Maybe I should look out for more of the same at car boot sales but probably a bit like looking for a needle in one of the Victorian Farm haystacks!

Had a nice letter in the post from Suffolk County Council. Not sure why/how but during last year there was an increase in pensions based on the lump sum and we are due a handy £500 bonus at the end of the month. That will cover some costs for the year............... I'm very glad he did his 30 years with the council.

Aspall, the company that produce Cider/Apple Juice/ Cider vinegar,- just a few miles away from us has been sold to a US  beer company - Molson Coors- after nearly 300 years in the same family and on the same site. They say they'll carry on producing local apple products but................
Last week the news was Colman's Mustard closing their Norwich site after 200 years, but they had already sold out to Unilever many years ago. I bought a 1lb tin of their mustard powder  3½ years ago and still have about quarter left but I may stock up with another big tin or two just in case.

Back Tomorrow

Monday 8 January 2018

January 8th - Plough Monday + Weekend Visiting

January 8th is Plough Monday  and was traditionally the day when farmers would start to plough their fields ready for spring sowing. Often the ploughs would have been blessed at church the day before.

Plough deep while sluggards sleep:
and you shall have corn to sell and keep.

Turn out for Plough Monday
Up, fellows now
Buckle the horses 
And Follow the plough. 

Suffolk Punch pictures | Animal Photography Stock Photos ...
This photo above comes off the internet and as there are dozens of people watching it must be a ploughing match.
The men who walked 10 miles a day in all weathers back in the day would have smiled to  see people nowadays doing it for fun or to keep the memory alive. Most of them welcomed the arrival of tractors.

On Saturday I visited small grandaughter - now walking lots of steps- but tired, grumpy, teething and a sore bum!
On Sunday visited Colin in hospital, not walking anywhere except to the loo, feeling very rough still, not eating much and waiting for more tests.
Oh dear.

Back Tomorrow

Saturday 6 January 2018

Pennies Pinched this week(Sat 30th - Fri 5th), expenses + Flowers+ Ed Sheeran

First  the PS............ must say thank you for all the crossed fingers for Colin in hospital. We are hoping that the tests don't show that his body is rejecting the donor stem cells. That would be rather drastic - to put it mildly.
Welcome to new followers - two people I think - Hello and Hello

 And the main topic for today..............pennies pinched.

Dried washing outside (not on the day of Storm Eleanor 😁 obviously) and finished off in front of fire rather than tumble dryer.
Cooked more than one thing at a time in oven.
Took pack up food and had free drinks and water in Cancer Assessment Unit while waiting at hospital.
9 hour power-cut must have saved some electricity!
Put spare 4pt milk from fridge into freezer before it went out of date after Col went into hospital
Eating from fridge - especially after Col went back into hospital leaving me to eat everything!
Remembered to use car park voucher in Stowmarket Asda.... so free parking
Looked round charity shops in Stowmarket - bought nothing, not even half price Christmas cards.
Printed out voucher for free can of fruit
Took pack up lunch when visiting Colin

Spending Saturday 30th Dec - Friday 5th Jan

£3.60.... Hospital car park
£1....Eggs from local roadside stall
£19.10..... Things that I was getting short of in the cupboards. Asda - including Pharmacy, bath sponges, fruit, coffee, cat food, pasta, nuts and  Prune Juice and Jelly Babes for Col! plus cornflour or as it says on the till receipt cornFLOWER!
£3.50 Park and Ride for hospital visiting
TOTAL £28.30

And a real flower......... look what has appeared in the lane opposite the house.
 First of the season and very early I think

The ditch was completely empty a couple of weeks ago, we've had a lot of rain in the last fortnight.

Just love Ed Sheeran's new song "Perfect", it gives me shivers. Actually love all Ed Sheeran music. Maybe I'll queue up next time they sell his clothes at the Framlingham charity shop, it's not far away!......Hang on, I'm 62 so maybe not.

Enjoy your weekend - I'm seeing small granddaughter - the first time for over a month.

Back on Monday

Friday 5 January 2018

WI This Year

The small WI at which I'm a full member are watching a DVD of a film at a members house in January. It's not something I want to see, so won't be going and the big WI at which I'm a dual member don't have a meeting in January so I'm WI-less this month. Unless I head a few miles up the road in a different direction to visit another WI!

This is the programme for the  big WI

haven't had one for small WI yet although it is on the website and we will be listening to speakers on subjects ranging from Suffolk Dialect through Herbal Medicines to The Great Exhibition of 1851.
I'm looking forward to getting to as many meetings as possible.

Had news from the hospital yesterday afternoon - he won't be home today or at the weekend, they want to do more tests - all a bit worrying. I'm crossing everything.

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 4 January 2018

Shopping for Christmas 2018 + Stormy Weather + Paperwork

You know what they say about "shopping early for Christmas?"
What about shopping for Christmas 2018 before we'd even had Christmas '17?

I did, when  I spotted these on the half price clearance table in a charity shop, the same shop where I found that Portmeirion Holly and Ivy bowl. There's a part pack of 7 British Heart Foundation Christmas tree cards for 25p and 5 unopened Cancer Research cards for 50p.

Now in the drawer ready for this year, only 350 something days left!

What a monster storm Eleanor was as it swept through overnight Tuesday/Wednesday. This is a windy spot on a normal day but blimey it was rough and then hail, thunder  and  lightening. The electric went off sometime in the night and came back just before noon. Very grateful again for my LPG hob as I was able to have a hot cuppa and take a flask to the neighbours before I went out to round up everything from the recycling bin which had spread itself round our garden, next door's garden and halfway down the lane. Mobile phone was charged so I was able to notify Power Networks UK that we were off and my wind-up radio kept me in touch with the world.

I spent the morning sorting out the old Christmas cards into shopping list card, gift tags and  recycling. Then started the 2017 paperwork sort-out. We put all receipts, paid bills, bank statements etc into a drawer in the dresser. Then in early January I take the whole lot out and go through them and find quite a lot can go straight out to recycling or burning. The rest are filed away in their relevant files - electric, water, banking and so on. We've found this works well for us.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Spending 2017 and Budget 2018

Carrying on from yesterday..........

I've sorted the the 2017 double entry accounts (no idea what that means - but things are written twice and it sounds efficient!) written things in columns and added them up. It's quite frightening. Don't move house I think is the main advice I can give for saving money.
For right or wrong we moved twice in a year, in hindsight we should have rented in Ipswich while we found out how poorly Colin was, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and we'd planned to travel and rent out the bungalow if he'd been well enough.
Anyway we are here and will hang on as long as possible. The value of a 4 bedroom home with an acre of land in a quiet location is unlikely to go down so we still have the chance of downsizing again but please, not yet!
The Black Book of Doom and Gloom!
 Where can I save after looking at last years frightening totals?
  • The Garden - the moment apart from multi-purpose compost and seed potatoes I can't think of anything else we need. No trees needing cutting down next year either, that was a big expense although we now have all the wood of course.
  • The Grandchildren - after we moved here, with space to store things  I got a bit carried away at car boot sales, I kept seeing bargain toys and games  that would be useful for them in years to come and of course still have things for 3 and 4 year olds waiting  in the cupboard. Also some items only need buying once - like a cot, high chair, stair gates and fireguard...... But on the other hand there is a new grandchild due in April so...................
  • Cars - Surely, surely there won't be so many repairs needed this year? Having decided it would be difficult to be here with only one car with all the hospital stuff going on, we swapped the big Hyundai for another Fiesta that won't cost much if it's not used but cheap to run when needed.
  • Water and Sewer - Going down from £34 a month Mrs F was paying, to less than £20 a month after we had the meter fitted and the septic tank won't need emptying next year.
  • Clothes - Got myself new lightweight jacket and shoes for summer last year and Colin had to have extra PJ trousers for hospital and braces when he lost so much weight. Won't need that spend again, I think my baggy shorts will survive another summer, they're only about 12+ years old after all! What I do need are t-shirts for summer but luckily they are one of the easiest things to find at charity shops.
  • Books - obviously. As my dear succinct brother-in-law said "if you didn't buy another book you still wouldn't have time to read all you've got before you peg out!" - He's wrong of course.
  • House stuff - simple - don't buy anything for the house. Well, it ought to be simple until something breaks down or wears out.
  • Electric, oil and LPG gas - As mentioned yesterday we are careful with what we use and have plenty of wood for the wood burner. I have no intention of feeling cold, eating raw food or getting rid of the TV. 
  •  Phone/broadband. A lifeline for us that is due to increase when our contract runs out in March. We shall have to look for something cheaper. Col's mobile is £7.50 a month and mine is pay as you go.
  • The Beach hut -  Bought to aid Colin's recovery and to help us adjust to town living. Now we are back in the country. I'm going to pay ground rent this year and see how much we use it. If not often then it will have to be sold.
  • Food Shopping - When we were first married this was an area that I could save in, when we had 3 children and a low income I still saved here and when we budgeted to pay off the mortgage so many years earlier than the original date I saved here again. I'm not sure I want to cut back on food spending yet again, but......
As I said yesterday, should be doable. We'll see.

Spoke too soon saying we only had one trip to Addenbrookes hospital this week. Col had  headaches and high temperatures so they said "better come in". After a whole day of tests and scans they decide to keep him in so I came back alone. Good thing we had taken  his hospital bag and meds just in case.
Ho Hum............. the joys of serious illness but thank heavens for the NHS.

Back Tomorrow


Tuesday 2 January 2018

The Wolf Moon + Living within our means.......

The Folklore bit...........
Last night or rather very early this morning there was a full moon.The first after Christmas - known as the Wolf Moon. This was the first of two full moons in January  and there will also be two full moons in March, twice in a year is something that happens only about 4 times a century. The second Full Moon in one month was known as a Blue Moon, thought to come from the old English word for betray because two full moons in one month caused confusion over the timing of Easter.
That's where the saying "once in a blue moon" originates
( Information from my Country Wisdom and Folklore Diary)

 And The Main Bit................

Living within our means is something we have done for all of our married life until last year. The budget went pear-shaped due to illness and moving.....twice, and for the last year the savings have been disappearing at a great rate. We have no debts and still have savings- just less than we had before we moved here!

 A New Year and a new start.

 Take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, is what they say.
Re-reading these books will keep me on the straight and narrow

Our income will remain the same through the year, made up from Col's County Council pension, whatever they decide to let us have from Employment Support Allowance and a bit of interest on savings, the total is around £1000 a month, we may still need those savings I think, but £1000 a month is still more than many people have so it ought to be doable, it will be a good challenge.

Starting now..............
January is always a good month to spend less, as the freezer and cupboards are well stocked. Our Eldest and family will visit from Surrey sometime this month so I need to plan for a family get together meal. I shall  also have to buy cat food, diesel for all the Addenbrookes trips of course, milk and fresh produce and replace anything used from the cupboards. Standing Orders for Charity, phone and broadband as usual.

No utility bills due in January and we won't need to top up the oil tank  either as it seems to be lasting well. We've not had oil central heating before so had no idea of how it would last. Through the summer it was on hot water only for two hours twice a day, backed up by the solar thermal panels on the roof, then 2 hours twice a day for heating too as the weather got cooler. Since December the  boiler has been on for 2 hours x 3 times a day and with the wood burner lit before dusk each day we have found we've been warm enough so far. (We always take  hot water bottles to bed in case of feeling cold  during the night when the heating is off).
 Neither car needs insurance, tax or MOT this month and there are no birthdays and no car boot sales.
It should be a low spend month.

 I'll be back tomorrow, with a closer look at the rest of the year of budgeting

PS Jigsaw finished, all present and correct and looked brilliant when done. I shall put a sticker on saying "checked December 2017" and hope I can sell it at a car boot sale for more than the £1  paid for it.