Tuesday 28 February 2023

Last Day Of February Financial Round-up

Income this month was the usual State pension and the Spouses pension from the Council. Plus the £200 Government help with heating costs for those without gas AND the £67 help for electric...... both have been credited to my electricity account, so there was nothing to pay for electric this month and I'll be in credit now for a while longer. Although prices go up again in April so who knows. It doesn't seem long ago that £267 would have have covered a whole years electricity easily!

One ginormous expense was heating oil ....... 750 litres cost £650. Last year I got 500 litres in February and didn't need more until November so hopefully it should last. The heating wasn't on much in the middle of the month as it was a bit milder but looks like there is "increasing probability of much colder weather in the middle of March" .  I've still got plenty of wood so will use the wood-burner if it does get extra cold.

The other big expense was paying for having new trellis and posts. It's the same as what was there before, but now properly fixed onto full height posts that have been concreted in, rather than just pushed into the ground.  Hides the oil tank and a provides bit more privacy

I might paint it grey like the plant stand or leave it how it is. The pots can go back on the stand now and it can be tied back to the post so it doesn't get blown over.
Brother-in Law carted the old rotten posts and trellis away a couple of weeks ago and will get some use from them as kindling and small logs.

I also checked out sons hand-held-battery-powered-mini-compressor-air-inflator machine thing and it looked easy enough for even an idiot like me and the reviews were good too so I've bought one and hopefully next time the car tyre warning light comes on it will be easy for me to check and put air in wherever I am.

Other expenditure was the usual food, diesel for the car, phones, broadband and charity direct debits. I bought multi purpose compost and bone-meal fertiliser and some wild bird food.
Bills came for half year from both Anglian Water Company for sewer and Essex and Suffolk Water Co. for water. These are my first proper bills since having the water meter fitted last August. The savings are going to be HUGE. In March last year - before meter- when it was based on Council Tax band  I paid a grand total of £635 for the year - and it's paid in advance. I got big refunds after the meter was fitted. Now I've just paid a total of £131 for what's been used in 6 and a bit months. 

My personal spending was for swimming, second hand books, some new socks, WI Knit and Stitch group  and a bunch of tulips.

The letter came from the DWP about the state pension increase from April - a bigger % than last years rise due to it being based on the rate of inflation last September - or something like that. It was immediately followed by notification from the Tax office with next years Tax Code. 2 pensions make an income of just over the tax free limit so they like to take a chunk off the Council Spouses pension just to make sure I never get too wealthy! 

No Council Tax Direct Debit this month (and next) - I expect we will soon hear how much it's going up  ready for when payments start again in April. I'm band D currently paying £145 for each of  10 months (single person discount) if it goes up 5% that's an extra £7 a month - roughly.(Wiping out part of the Pension increase!) Very glad I moved from Clay Cottage as that was band F  and had been creeping toward £2,000 a year.  

Thrifty notes : - Small ways of saving on the mundane and boring to be able to have enough for the necessary and the interesting instead.

  • Making sure to shut curtains as soon as it gets dark
  • Mixing milk half and half with water
  • Home made bread
  • Still using the home grown onions and frozen peppers
  • Picking right days to do the washing so it can go out on the whirly 
  • Only used tumble dryer for the new towels to get rid of more of the fluff
  • Using minimum of laundry liquid and more washing soda instead.
  • Making sure to buy eggs when passing the roadside stall on way to swimming. £1 for ½ dozen
  • Not buying alcohol, soft drinks etc
  • Not buying make up and 'products'
  • Using only 2nd Class post
  • No magazines or newspapers except the Radio Times.
  • Free library books
  • Using lots of batch made meals from freezer
Out of the house in February (for losing it in Lent!) went ........The Countdown game, 8 books and a bag of craft bits.

Looking ahead to March where the main expense will be the car service and MOT.

Back Tomorrow

Monday 27 February 2023


 I bought some dried mealworms for the birds and that brought in Starlings. Always appearing several at a time and thankfully, for all the other smaller less gregarious birds, not very often here.

Once more I looked in that book

And this is Carrie Ackroyds illustration

Several years ago, when we were at the smallholding, we stood and watched a gathering of Starlings, a Murmuration, doing their impressive display over the field behind the house. How wonderful, we thought, as they normally congregated over the marshes near Aldeburgh.
What wasn't so wonderful was when a while later they all flew into roost in the Leylandii trees at the front of the house and started their noisy chattering - several 100 of them probably. Oh well, we thought, they'll settle down quietly when it gets dark. But they didn't! They carried on their mad chittering ALL NIGHT - just a few feet from the bedroom window. I got almost no sleep and you should have seen the state of the trees and car by morning!

The next night, when the same thing happened, I'm afraid we went out and banged a tin tray and rattled a feed bag until they flew off - probably back to the marshes - no one to keep awake there.

This is a You Tube film of a even bigger gathering from 'SomeDudeCalledMatt'

According to the book -  in 1890 a pharmaceutical millionaire decided he would introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare into the USA. Sixty starlings released in New York are now a nationwide, 2 billion strong, pest.
Starlings were the second most common bird seen in several RSPB great Garden Birdwatches although numbers have declined since the 1990s.

Back Soon

Saturday 25 February 2023

Last Saturday in February

First of all  thank you for all the comments yesterday and apologies to all the people who took  me far too seriously - Suffolk sense of humour is odd I admit, but I'm not becoming a total recluse - only dropping one WI meeting! Also apologies for not replying and thank you to everyone for reading - I'll keep writing while everyone keeps reading!

Swimming this week was lovely and quiet - despite it being an ordinary public session as opposed to a dedicated lane swimming session there were just 3 other people going up and down - all faster than me! But I did my half hour and felt better for it.

I thought having a water meter would cut my water and sewer charges and it certainly has but it now means that I have to read the meter after the estimated bills arrive (Monday - both at once), get through on the phone - twice. Give both companies the reading - because it was much lower than the estimate - and wait for new bill to arrive for water usage although I was able to pay for the sewer over the phone. 

The electric was off for a planned outage on Wednesday. I decided it would be a good time to do next months shopping - which sounds very odd but I have a cunning plan to see how easy/cheaper/doable it would be to live for a few weeks on just the Essential/ Basic/Value ranges which have appeared in all the supermarkets (I used Aldi, Asda and Morrisons and bought store-cupboard stuff and frozen for now). Youngest Daughter said she shops online using all the value range from one shop and if they don't have it in stock sometimes it gets upgraded without paying more. Although she said " DON'T try the sausages!"
I had lunch out for a treat and got home, sorted all the shopping, made notes for the future and as the house was beginning to feel chilly I lit the wood-burner and just as it was getting going the electric came back and the boiler clicked on - if I'd have known it was going to do that I needn't have lit the fire!
(BTW Aldi and Morrisons both had tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and cucumbers - no shortages here despite the dire life or death warnings! I didn't notice what Asda had). 

This week I've been grateful for
  • A nice quiet swim
  • An interesting morning of slow shopping
  • My peaceful Suffolk life
  • Plenty of reading
Recently read.......The Very Good Classic, the Long Lost Old Crime and the Bordering onto Rubbish!
It's a pity the Whitstable Pearl books have got sillier as I thought the first few were OK - now they've started to be televised perhaps she is writing with a view to what will become good TV. If they ever get on free TV I doubt I'll be watching.

Whatever you are doing this weekend - hope it's a good one. Last Saturday there were several things happening around here - too many to get to. This weekend there is nothing in the diary. Although Six Nations Rugby is back on TV to enjoy.

I shall be back Monday.

Friday 24 February 2023

Long Stitch is Growing Slowly

 My long stitch picture is growing slowly. It's been taken to two WI Knit, Stitch and Yarn mornings and a little done at home.

It's easy stitching but no hurry to get it finished.......perhaps by Autumn to add it to my Autumn Shelf.

Although I'm not sure I'll be going to many more Knit & Stitch Group mornings as I'm in two minds about re-joining my nearest WI in April. After looking at the programme there are several things I wouldn't go to and perhaps 1 WI +  swimming +  exercise group + shopping +Charity Shop Hunting+ Car boot sales is enough going out. 
In fact the more I hear/read about the way the world is going (Cro's blog, Ilonas blog, news on the radio and I don't even read any newspapers and rarely watch TV news) the more I feel like staying at home and not being part of it all!!

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 23 February 2023

The Church of St Mary and St Peter Stowmarket

 I've taken photos in this church before when it's been full of Christmas Trees but here are a few of the church itself.

Stowmarket is the main town of Mid Suffolk and the 6th largest urban area in the County and a town I've known for all my life. The church is right in the centre of the town and traffic passes just a few feet from the other side of the church. The spire is the third it's had and this one dates from 1994.

The Sundial over the South door has almost worn away and the niche which would have once held the carving of a Saint is empty

None of the stained glass in the windows here is older than 1871 because a huge explosion in town shattered all the previous glass. I wrote about it HERE.

All the wood in the church is quite dark and heavily carved

Gilded War Memorial in the side aisle 

Very Old Memorials

In the last year or so there has been a very interesting change inside the church (traditionalists might hate it but I think it's a really good use of space). The Osier café which once operated in the town's East Anglian Rural Life Museum raising money for their funds was deemed not good enough when the museum went posh and got funding to become The Museum of Food!
But The Osier got a brand new home in the church. The rear pews of the church were removed and a small kitchen area (which had been added several years ago) was extended. Tables and chairs on one side of the doorway and comfortable sofas and small play area on the other. Now the church is open  and used every day of the week except Mondays, with the café open Tuesday to Saturday.

Looking back from the chancel towards the Café and kitchen.

They have the best ever cheese scones! Home made of course and very delicious. And they do a loyalty card. 10 'stamps' and you get a free drink next time. 

The entrance porch has glass doors into the church so it looks very welcoming

In the porch is an information board about the church bell restoration. The 8 bells were all removed in 2020 and much fundraising before and after means they have been restored , plus  a new steel frame and 2 brand new bells.. They are due to be re-hung in the church in the next few months. With 10 bells the ringers will be able to ring a bigger peal.

They have shelves full of donated items (like toiletries) which people can take if they need them and donate if they are able. I got two greetings cards - for Granddaughter and Daughter for 50p each .They also have a pew full of books for sale -didn't find anything this time.

Back Soon

Wednesday 22 February 2023


 Many, many years ago I watched the Channel 4 quiz Countdown on a small black and white TV in the kitchen. It was on at 4.30 as I was getting tea ready for the children. 

When the time changed to a bit earlier it coincided with afternoon cuppa time and after Col retired we always watched it together. They went through some pretty average presenters after Richard Whitely died and I abandoned it altogether when the awful Anne Robinson was in charge for a year but what a pleasure to watch again now with Colin Murray as host - he is so enthusiastic, plays along and really seems to enjoy the whole programme, as am I again - although I would never win a game.

Tucked away in the cupboard is a game that's moved house many, many times. I actually won it in a competition at the children's Primary school in the late 80's. The idea was to invent a game for children to involve adding up.

We had some templates for drawing round of a train and coaches and I cut out several and put numbers on them from one to six. The game was to roll a dice and start with a engine with that number then roll again to add coaches and add up the numbers on your train when all the coaches had been used up to see who had won.
I might have been the only entry - no idea - but I won the Countdown game. Colin and I had a go at it but the problem was that without a Susie Dent and a Rachel Riley (or Carol Vorderman back in the day) there was no way of knowing if we had got the longest word or if there WAS a way to do the numbers when we couldn't, so it wasn't so much fun.

 It's about time it went off to a charity shop. 

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of Shrovetide and can fall anytime between 3rd February and 9th March. The Monday before was called Collop Monday which was the day for eating up collops of bacon and meat (collops means slices) and Tuesday the last day for rich foods and  the day to eat up all the eggs and butter before Lent fasting starting the next day - Ash Wednesday - and it really was fasting back then - no eggs, no fats, no meat.

Looking in my book The English Year by Steve-Roud I discovered that Shrovetide was the most popular time of the year for Cock Fighting and a weird vicious 'game' called Cock Throwing. This involved maiming or killing cocks by throwing sticks at them or using a flail. Onlookers to the game would be charged for throwing pieces of wood at the Cock bird. In the 1730's public opinion about cruelty began to change, people wrote to the newspapers complaining and the last place it was known to have happened was in 1844 in Buckinghamshire.

Shrove Tuesday throwing at cocks(William Hone, The Every-Day Book, 1827)

There were many other traditions taking place in various parts of the country over Shrovetide but probably a good thing that the only one we generally take part in is eating pancakes.

Mix a pancake, stir a pancake, pop it in the pan,
Fry the pancake, toss the pancake -
Catch it if you can.

Anyway, I'm ready

Back Tomorrow

Monday 20 February 2023

First Charity Book Sale of 2023

 The info on line said opening at 9am and I got halfway there and the signs said "Road Closed" - Grrrr! The signed 'Alternative Route' was back the way I'd come but thank goodness I knew the small back roads  heading roughly in the right direction and arrived only a few minutes late and found just a couple of dealers there - luckily they were only buying lots of hardback fiction.

 There were a few interesting looking non-fiction country books and I nabbed these 3 very quickly . 


Got home and checked my book of books read and hadn't read any but I had a feeling that 'A Book of Silence' might have been borrowed from the library before, and after a bit of searching on here found that it had been borrowed in 2018 and gone back unread because I'd found it "a bit long-winded and dry!" Oh well, it can be tried again now I've got a copy. 
Then I discovered that 'Diary of a Pint-sized Farmer' had been published before under a different title 'A Farmers Diary' which I'd not borrowed as it didn't sound very interesting.  
Thankfully, although  Phyllida Barstow had an earlier book called My Animals and Other Family which I'd read way back in 2009, the library didn't have a copy of this more recent book so I couldn't have borrowed it already.

1 out of 3 then!

Back Tomorrow

Saturday 18 February 2023

Heading Through February at a Rush

 All sorts of random stuff in this weeks round up..............

But first........... thanks to everyone for Sparrow comments yesterday

 I've mostly been reading and then some more reading. With 15 library books and my Crime Classics book subscription  to get through it seemed best to get on with it. I don't need much persuasion to swap housework for reading!

Although the car got a much needed wash and inside tidy - a puzzle book and map in a side pocket had gone mouldy from damp which is a mystery. Hope there isn't a leak round the door.

Then I went shopping and everything had gone up in price yet again, 20p and 30p at a time. I don't always look at the middle aisle of Aldi where they have their food specials but noticed this and I love beetroot, fresh preferably, but not at all when it's vacuum packed and squidgy or pickled in really strong vinegar. This new pickled beetroot is a 'Winterberry' flavour and wasn't too strong at all. I wonder if it's something they'll stock or perhaps never to be seen again - you can't really tell with Aldi. But I noticed they had bread flour back for the first time since Ukraine was invaded.

When I moved in here there were several Hebes, a shrub I dislike as it makes me feel odd looking at it - the Hebe Geebies! one was in the back border and died the first year, one is out the front and is doing OK and two were under the back living room window but they were both  'got' by the hard frosts we had in December so this week I removed them without any guilt.
The previous owners spent a lot of money on plants just to get it looking good ready for selling, but many things they planted, especially the smaller plants aren't doing well. The back garden is surrounded by 6 foot  fences but instead of making it sheltered it seems to be a frost pocket and doesn't get a lot of sun in winter. I want to get a couple more big evergreen shrubs for the border, to hide the neighbouring houses and probably loose some of the small stuff that isn't flourishing or spreading.

Looking forward to a second hand book sale this weekend. There's a craft sale and coffee morning too but how to do 3 things at the same time in 3 different villages?!

I'll be back Monday



Friday 17 February 2023

House Sparrows

There was a time when sparrows, mainly House Sparrows, were everywhere in their hundreds. When I was young they were the bird we saw most often in the garden.

There were a couple on the feeder one day last week.

Something happened during the 70's and early 80s and Sparrows almost disappeared. We heard a story once about a farm which had had a store of dressed wheat reading for sowing  in a big shed and one day someone opened the doors and found the floor completely covered with dead sparrows. Something in the seed dressing (that's what seeds are coated in to protect them from pests) had killed them all. This might be a strange story with no truth in it.....who knows.

Of course I had a look in the book to see what the illustration was for Sparrows....... (this book is getting used a lot in blog posts!)

...and this is it

The book says

No bird divides the experience of old from young as dramatically as the House Sparrow. There was a bounty of halfpenny a bird in the Second Word War, so damaging to food supplies were it's numbers considered.

Now, especially in town, House Sparrow numbers have plummeted .

But since around 2010 numbers have been slowly recovering and they were the bird most seen in  recent RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

We saw almost none at the smallholding between 1992 and 2015 but moving to Clay Cottage in 2017 there were dozens - many roosting under the old tiles of our neighbours house.

There's one place in the village where the hedge always seems full of sparrows but they are not often seen in my garden.

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 16 February 2023

Aging Well?

The funding for the exercise group from the Community Interest Charity has almost finished so for the last couple of weeks we've spent sometime after the exercises discussing how we can carry on after the end of February. We decided we will carry on and will  pay a little each for an hour and half  hall hire. We were trying to come up with a name for the group. The CIC funding it now have advertised it as "Aging Well" and we're not keen on that! Who wants to be told they are aging!

Easy Exercise for the Over 60s?       Exercise and Wellbeing Over 60? 

We decided on a simple "Keep Moving" and the poster will say it's open to anyone from any village .....although we hope we don't get too many people under 60 as they will show us up! We will start off paying £2.50 a week each and then if lots more people join it can go down to £2.

Here we are.............. up and getting going!

We've sorted out who will take the money and pass it on and we'll take in turns to bring coffee, two people have volunteered to lead the exercise, others will have the app for the mindfulness on their phones and several people will have some music on phones to keep us moving.  We learned a strange thing........... if you put a phone that's playing music in a saucepan it works just like an amplifier! Who knew?!

I picked up this book, no idea what it's about yet,  from the shelves in the village hall where the exercise group is held, they have books that people have donated for others to borrow and return later or to keep- for a donation. Nothing like that in my village because, as I've mentioned before,  we no longer have a proper Village Hall, and not even an old phone box to use as a mini book library. I spotted the author as I'd read The Four Winds by her last year.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 15 February 2023

All Saints Church, Wickham Market

 Another church visit and although it isn't, I really think this one should have been in the 100 treasures in 100 churches book as it the only church in Suffolk with an octagonal tower.

I visited on my way home from the Bygones sale and found it a very welcoming church. It sits in the centre of the small town of Wickham Market which is just off the A12.

It was especially welcoming as when I went in I found they were having a regular coffee morning and I was able to have a cuppa and chat to a lady about the church. She said that up until a few years ago the way in had been through the tower door but when they were having all the pews removed and the building painted someone decided the bottom of the tower would make a perfect kitchen and would open up the church to be used more often.

Comfortable chairs have replaced the pews and just to the right of where I was standing there were tables and chairs for the coffee morning. I didn't take a photo of the tables, kitchen etc as there were so many people enjoying a cuppa.

Colourful East window with the beautiful gilded reredos behind the altar.

The organ has this lovely plaque remembering the people who helped raise money for it in the late C19

Unusual painted ceiling in the chancel

The quote above the chancel arch comes from the book of Genesis

The South Aisle is in the process of repair. It was built in Tudor times as a chantry chapel to Sir Walter Fulbourne.

Simon Knott's visit to the church, with more photos and description is HERE in the Suffolk Churches Index

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Surprise from the British Library

 The second book of my 6 month subscription to the British Library Crime Classics arrived last week and with it came another book - Free!

The author is John Ferguson new to BLCC except for a short story in The Edinburgh Mystery and Other Tales of Scottish Crime. Hope he is readable but as it's set among bookshops it should be OK.

The books came with a bookmark too. In January it was a postcard and bookmark.

 I'm enjoying this subscription!

Back Tomorrow

Monday 13 February 2023

Fog Over The Lake

 One morning last week I waited for the ice to go from the car windscreen and the sun to come through the fog and went out to get wild bird feed, compost and fresh fruit and to have a walk round the lake at Needham Market for a few photos.

But when I got there it was still foggy and freezing cold. The lake was hidden in the fog so I took a few photos and retreated to the new-ish café, The Duck and Teapot, for a coffee. 

The River Gipping flows from near it's namesake village down through Stowmarket, Needham Market, Claydon to Ipswich where it becomes the Orwell to flow out to the sea.

When the last ice age retreated it left deposits of sand and gravel all along the valley and over the years they have been quarried leaving pits that have become public open spaces as here or private fishing lakes at Claydon

River Gipping and weir in the fog at Needham Market

Swans coming to see if I had anything for them

Willow Catkins

Reeds covered in foggy frost

This site adjoins the Car Boot Sale field so sometime when the weather is better and  boot sales get started I'll go and get some non-foggy photos. 

Back Tomorrow