The Frugality

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. Hope you have had a good week. I still seem to be having technical issues with the blog. It is telling me in no uncertain terms that I should be updating something or other. However, it strongly advises that I should perform some sort of backup before I update. Fair enough, but when I look up how to do that, it seems I have to use coding. CODING! Are you joking? I only got into this blogging lark because I was specifically promised that using code was now only for boffins and people who liked that sort of thing. I do not like that sort of thing and am now frantically looking around (well, not THAT frantically to be honest – there’s a lot going on) for someone who can help me get this sorted and possibly spruce the old blog up a bit as well. In other expensive news, the oven is on the blink and will need to be replaced. I am usually a great fan of repairing things but there are times when a replacement is necessary and this is one of those times.  Also, the vacuum cleaner which has been struggling for a while now – we have replaced that. Not with a Dyson, I hasten to add. Do you know that there are Dysons that cost a thousand pounds now? A thousand pounds! For that, I expect clean floors, a guest role in darling Buds of May and a six-week training course in floristry (or possibly coding). Anyway, expensive month.

Obviously, when I say expensive, I wouldn’t want to insult those people who are rocking backwards and forwards in the cupboard under the stairs while they try and work out how on earth they are going to make ends meet as fuel goes off the scale, food prices soar (when there is any food to buy) and they a looking at £20 a week less to live on. Apparently, this will all be covered by higher salaries and better jobs. So, if you are a lady working in care and being paid medieval level wages, you can soon look forward to being trained in a highly-skilled,  highly renumerated job – possibly in coding – and taking money home in a wheelbarrow. Hurrah.

These – emergency level people are not who I am thinking about when I say that, on the whole, frugality may well be about to make a comeback – if it ever went away. I have to admit that in my early twenties, I was far too preoccupied with what people thought of me and hated the idea of anyone thinking of me being short of money. Therefore, living beyond my means was not a stranger to me and that needed to be sorted out pretty quickly. Later on, when HOH and I were both out of work at the same time, a quick change of mindset was required.

One of the best websites I ever found was Frugal Queen (now Frugal Queen in France) not just because of the helpful information  – budgeting, recipes etc. but the advice on a change of attitude. She was unapologetic about her past spending and also about how her life was now lived much more simply. From her, I learned that charity shops were fine (although I’ll be honest, I very rarely find clothes in there I like or need. My own feeling is that you have to be particularly stylish to make charity clothes shopping work). I learned to shop around for cheap energy etc. budgeting and meal planning became second nature and I found I rather liked being in control of where the money went and not just giving our hard-earned cash up to any Jonny Come Lately with an Instagram page and an affiliate link to John Lewis. I also really liked using vouchers to get money off – something that I never would have done in the past and I trained my kids to do the same with the jaunty catchphrase “Better off in my pocket than in theirs!”

I still got a weird thrill when I discovered the Libby App which allows me to listen to library books on my phone – for free or when I found out that the NHS provides free chair Pilates workout videos so I don’t have to pay those people who keep pestering you on Instagram stories. (Yes I know, I said CHAIR Pilates. Look. I’m old. I have a lot of trouble getting back up if I lie on the floor). I am aware, of course, that some people make a living teaching Pilates but I feel there are other people for whom paying for exercise classes is just a mere bagatelle. Also, they probably enjoy it. Paying for the gym is mainly a pain for me because I hate the gym.

What also follows, is what I should be better at which is a change in values. A shift towards recognising what life is really about. The pillars of life – service, community, friendship operate just as well without dosh. Sometimes, they operate even better without loads of money. I used to notice how Frugal Queen and others who didn’t have much would still manage to support others. She would run workshops on frugal cooking and bake cakes for the Christmas bake sale at her husband’s work (Obviously using non-branded flour, chocolate spread etc.) You can probably think of hundreds of ways to support people without actually giving money – although, if you can give it, that’s very helpful let’s be frank.

Without sounding all prophet of doom (DOOM I tell you DOOM!) I think we all feel we may be approaching a financial reckoning and we are not sure where help will be coming from. (Certainly not from our government – I think they have made that perfectly clear). Jesus was very specific about our responsibility to the poor.

“The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbours, the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favour, but the favour will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.” Luke 14

You may be better people than me ( I’m quite confident about that) but I look at that and find the idea quite difficult. But, I think it gets easier when you learn to value other parts of life more than money. (I’m not saying you don’t value money – British Gas will not take that as an excuse for you not paying your bills). It is just about tuning in to who we really are and what is really important and what will help us be really alive.


Speaking Up

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. I am a bit low key this week. The weather has been wet – well it is Autumn and Plymouth is going for the old “horizontal rain in the biting wind” approach which could be a Tony Bennett standard but isn’t. Did anyone else wake up last Monday and suddenly it was Autumn. I had been threatening to put all summer dresses away for a couple of weeks now and never got round to it, didn’t listen to any weather (I never bother unless it’s Schffanaker – just a personal thing) so, on Monday I was frantically scrabbling around trying to find something warmer to wear an then trying to iron it on the kitchen worktop without destroying both the jumper and half the kitchen. Did I ever tell you about HOH’s colleague who, in a hurry for work, sort of ironed her nurses uniform while she was wearing it and ended up in A and E with the resulting burns? Equally distressing for HOH was that I told him that I could understand why she had done it and could, in fact, see myself doing it. You are in a hurry, you put the uniform on, it’s creased, you think a little low heat ironing can’t do any harm. Apparently, it can. He still bangs on about that time I set fire to the jumper I was wearing because I was talking and cooking at the same time. It was quite dramatic, like one of those 1970s fire safety videos. Who knew it would go up like that? Anyway, I’ve never done it since so there’s no need to keep going on about it.

He is in the front room at the moment watching one of those Sunday night drama things – something about fascists. I took my leave when the announcer at the beginning took what seemed like fifteen minutes to read out all the warnings about how upsetting it would be. Nope.

We went to the Bond. It seems unpatriotic not to go. It’s fine. I suppose. It’s not for me. There seemed to be lots of people, dying horrible deaths but shouting a lot about it before they went. I prefer Daniel Craig in Knives Out. Been reading a bit as well. I saw a really snobby review of Richard Osman’s latest Murder Club book. “He’s not a writer” and all that. well, he clearly IS a writer because he has written a couple of books that lots of people have enjoyed reading. It’s not Proust (whatever that is) but I really liked it. I’m not sure I would be that struck on Proust I’ll be honest with you. I’ve not got the wherewithal for it at the moment. I have also put a photo up of my next book to read – mainly because I wanted to say ” How ADORABLE was Ed Balls as a child”? I like Ed Balls. they say he has a fine mind but, equally important, he seems a good husband and dad. A good man.

Which brings me to the polar opposite which has troubled us all this week. the murderer of Sarah Everard. Where to begin. Maybe, with one of the most important things, the heartbreaking thought that her mother hugs her dressing gown because she can still smell her on it. I know we were all fighting back tears when we heard that – because we somehow felt it too. That visceral grief. The horrible photo of a compliant Sarah allowing her killer to handcuff her because she thought he was on legitimate duty. First thoughts and prayers are with her family and also the family of the murderer who, through no fault of their own have lost everything. Those children, losing school, friends, lives as they will have been moved on. I’m not naming him. I’m sick of his face.

I don’t know about you but I have heard many conversations this week with sentences including “Well Bless Her – she was a bit naive” No, no she wasn’t. And even if she was. – wrong emphasis. Also “Not all police are like that.” Well obviously, but how do we get to “not any police like that.” Your call. As a tiny thing to change. Maybe we could stop allowing police with misconduct charges to stop leaving with full pensions. All they do is retire early. If you know that is waiting for you – what’s the incentive to do the right thing?

But obviously, it’s bigger than that. Don’t tell women to effectively resist arrest by running away, insist on using the police radio or “flagging down a bus”. (People of colour will be watching this with interest). Work to change the narrative. Make misogynist Whatsapp groups something to be ashamed of. Listen carefully to what women are saying and act as if their voices have merit. You don’t have to believe everything you are told. Just treat it as if it might be true.

Karen Ingala Smith’s website which includes “Counting Dead Women.” says that over 110 women have been killed by men this year – not including those who have taken their own lives after domestic violence. Are we aware of that? If you have a minute go over and have a look at their stories. Their stories could be our stories but also, we need to work towards supporting those who mourn now. Making room for those who need help and, at the very least speaking up to challenge the idea that our safety on the streets or in our own homes depends on our level of street smarts or our ability to be a bit less naive. I’m not very good at confrontation and sometimes, in my conversations, I can feel that an opinion forcefully expressed is, therefore, a right opinion but that’s not good enough. We need to speak up on behalf of the voiceless. In our everyday conversations, challenge the norms that say sometimes women’s behaviour brings this on. If things are to change, despite it probably being unforgivably slow, it’s time to say stuff.

“Speak up for the people who have no voice… Speak out for justice!”





How Did We Do?

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. First of all, an apology. I forgot I was going on holiday last week and would be unable to blog. Sorry. I mean, it’s not as if we went very far. East Devon – Sidmouth, Seaton and Beer – that sort of thing. It was very nice – thanks for asking. Absolutely no Internet or phone signal though so if the Four Horsemen had come riding over the hill to signal the Apocalypse, the only warning we would have had was the whinnying. I am not saying this was a bad thing. We did four days with no phone calls and then, as we drove into Sidmouth, my mobile burst into life. Guess who?

“I’m just ringing to say ‘Have a lovely time and I’ve got no money.”

“Mum, we brought your money before we went. How have you spent it all?”

“No idea. I’ve played a lot of Bingo. A LOT. And I’ve won you lots of Maltesers.”

Before you get the idea that my Mum is the Doc Halliday of Maltester based gambling games, we went up this weekend and found that the money has gone because she has been hitting the charity table hard. (It’s not a price – it’s a donation!) A particularly striking lime green lace blouse which was three sizes too big has appeared. I’ve been told not to worry though because she intends to wear it as a nightie. That will be nice for the male carers – I said it was too big overall. I didn’t say it was very long.

Anyway – digressing. We stayed in an Airbnb. It was our first time. The place itself – a converted barn – was absolutely beautiful. It was beautifully appointed as they say, spotless and with better tableware etc. than we have at home. A bit heavy on the mosquitoes and other wildlife for my personal taste but nothing making HOH patrol with a flailing tea-towel couldn’t sort. It is the countryside I suppose and a few frankly terrifying members of God’s creation are to be expected. Could be worse. It could be Australia. HOH’s uncle emigrated to Australia on the £10 packages. Obviously, they have been there many years now and it is their home. I, however, struggle with the fact that, once a month, they have to get a specialist gardener in to spray the garden to keep the insects from coming into the house. This is because they are (a) very large and (b) sometimes LETHAL and therefore HOH lunging at them with a tea towel is not going to cut it. How lovely.

As I was saying, the Airbnb was a treat although I do find the process a bit high pressured. After the event, we had to do a review on the cottage and they had to do a review on us and how tidy we had left it and we weren’t allowed to see their review until we had done our review. Exhausting. Everyone seems to need a review these days. You order one thing and you get all these emails saying -“How was it?” “How did we do?” Sometimes it is quite difficult to wax lyrical when all you have bought online is that little plastic screen that you stick on the front of your mobile phone. I had to just leave the comment “It was fine” which is a bit underwhelming I know. I think they should comfort themselves with the thought that if I wasn’t happy, I would soon let them know.

Today in church was Harvest Festival time, which was great. I have been in churches where the Harvest Festival was considered a bit Roman or something so it would just get a mention as a sort of cough behind the Pastor’s hand before we moved onto something less idolatrous. So it was nice to be in a meeting that gave God a bit of credit for abundance (and there is abundance – we just can’t get it to the shops). However, we did not sing “We Plough the Fields and Scatter” which I think makes the whole Harvest service null and void. That is a disgrace. Top song. Did I ever tell you, I went to a wedding once for some workmates from the bank. They were not Christians but wanted a church wedding and were a bit thrown when the vicar informed them that songs from Carousel were not going to cut it. (The song was If I Loved You – which is very beautiful and I wouldn’t mind it at a wedding) Anyway- digressing. The only hymn they knew was We Plough the Fields and Scatter so we had that and it went down a storm.

Harvest Festivals have come on a bit since I was little. There’s none of this wrapping a cardboard box in foil while your mum searches through the cupboards for food to put in it and you keep finding her with her glasses on staring uncertainly at the date on the bottom of a tin of cling peaches. “Run down to Mrs Walker’s shop and get some big fruit to fill the box. I don’t know! BIG FRUIT!” Nowadays, it’s not going to pensioners who smile benignly and then chuck it all in the bin. It’s going to the Food Bank so it’s a serious business, unfortunately. Cash donations are accepted. Just to say again – we do have the abundance. We just don’t seem to be able to get it to the shelves in the kitchen cupboards of the poor. I think one of this government’s many problems is that they seem unable to zoom in on the individual life of the poor. So, all they see when they look at clawing back Universal Credit’s £20 uplift is the billions it will put back into the Treasury. They simply cannot recognise the difference that £20 makes to a family who is struggling when, to them, it is just the equivalent of a bottle of Merlot. A government has to make big decisions but they need to be able to know exactly what effect those big expansive decisions will have on the individuals. If you can’t do that, you are not governing.

The other thing the Harvest Festival is about these days is Climate Change. If we are going to use this land to feed us, we will need to look after it. I read this week that when World Leaders get together about Climate Change that many of them are making good decisions, then the advisors, the lobby groups and the mandarins start to whisper advice from outside interests and the whole thing falls apart. I guess the only way to take that sort of thing on is to make sure that your representative knows how you feel about this, then maybe they will be sure that you will be in touch again if they don’t listen and certainly making your feelings known through the ballot box. As I said before, everyone is after a review these days. Make sure your elected representatives know that you will be happy to provide one for them.

My heart was in my mouth watching protestors run into the road last week and I am not really sure that playing chicken is going to get people who are trying to get to work to listen to you. Be a nuisance though by all means. I read that people don’t get in touch with their MPs and Councillors enough. Email, write, establish contact.  The way you voted is not enough to tell them what you think about Climate Change. It is everyone’s responsibility. We need to give that nice Greta a week off. She looks to me like she could do with a rest and a couple of pies. Have a good week.

You’re getting to be a habit with me…

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all.

First of all, thank you for all your input (imput?) on mindfulness, prayer etc. I have downloaded an App. Lectio 365 and am going to try that. I have only had it for a couple of days and, I’ll be honest, I nearly deleted it because I’m not that keen on plinky, tinkly music in the background of things like this. I think it reminds me of all those “I’m not going to prolong this appeal” speeches at the end of Sunday night meetings – we all know a few speakers who were determined to keep it going until someone responded. We used to have an old lady who would occasionally put her hand up to recommit her life but Aged Parent ( a lot younger then) told me that she would only do it if the preacher was holding on so long and it looked like she was going to miss All Creatures Great and Small. (Robert Hardy version – not the equally excellent Channel 5 update which is due back any minute).

I was quite tempted by the Soultime App, which was recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I like Justin Welby. I like the way he says “Hello, I’m The Archbishop of Canterbury”. I find it very comforting. I also suspect that he does a very difficult job with a lot of grace. I wouldn’t take his job in exchange for a gold pig. However, you do have to pay for that App and although I am happy to pay if I think I will use it (I am not as tight as a fish’s bottom as my Uncle Ken used to say), I am not sure how I will be with Apps yet so, we shall see.

Speaking of habits, HOH and I are trying, something recommended by Dr Michael Mosely. You probably know him from the telly. He presents programmes where he tries to convince people that their lives would be better without chocolate, wine and crips and also you won’t die as early  – although you might wish you could. At the moment, he has a short programme on Radio 4 called Just. One. Thing. It’s about the tiny things we can do regularly that make a difference – like walking in the park or. making your own kombucha (what?). Both HOH and I are trying his suggestion to stand on one leg while you are brushing your teeth. It isn’t as easy as you think – trying to keep your balance while trying not to crack your head open on the sink. Apparently, it’s good for your central core. I’m getting quite good at it. Probably best done behind closed doors though. Looks a bit weird.

YouTube is packed with films called “Ten Tiny Changes to lose a stone.” or “30 seconds a day to invest for a million.” and, I don’t think these need detain us for very long but I think we are set up to do things regularly and often. Just the tiniest things can seem to get a hold. Back to the teeth brushing. Do you have to remind yourself to do it every morning and evening? With or without standing on one leg? Not really. Because it is woven into your day to day life.

Sometimes we have a picture of Jesus as a bohemian sort of itinerant groovy type who wandered around and just dealt with life as it came along. This is obviously not true. Jesus was always travelling in one direction – towards the crucifixion but also he habitually prayed, fasted, made time for his friends and gave his time away. It was who he was and he re-inforced that by his actions. Maybe, if we are looking at sorting something out or changing something, trying to build habits so that they can make a difference or help us might not be a bad idea.

Aged Parent  – for those who have been concerned – is doing ok. Dementia is still taking its toll but she is still enjoying herself sometimes. We took a call last night

Me.     Hello. Are you ok?

AP.      Yes fine. Guess what? We have had a bit of excitement today. An ambulance came, but we couldn’t find out who for.

Me.      That’s weird

AP.      Yes. I had a chat with them. Showed them my knees. Still having problems with them and can’t get a doctor to come.

At this point, I hear her door knock and the manager comes in.

Man.    Hello, we were just wondering how you were. The Ambulance seems to think you may have called them.

AP.      Really? That’s strange. Just talking to my daughter.

Me.      Ok. Mum. Lovely to speak as always. I’m off now. Bye…

Rings off as quick as humanly possible – will be denying any knowledge.




All in the mind?

Hello All,

I have been having technical issues with the blog. I’ll be honest, I am not here for my technical ability. I would rather just turn up, do the writing and then go home. If anyone knows anyone who likes to do computer type things and would be happy to help, pleased let me know. I would pay. Obviously, it would be better if there was some technical ability involved, not just someone having a pop at it.

Anyway, I don’t know what it’s like near you but here, the weather seems to have checked its watch and decided to bang in a bit of Summer for the first week in September – which is nice – although I am a bit hot, I’ll be honest.

So, I have been doing sensible reading. I mentioned this book at work, having seen it in the Sunday papers, thought it might be interesting and then promptly forgot the title. I had been interested because part of it is about chronic pain and, as I do have a bit of a tendency to migraines, I thought this might be the thing for me. I then thought, nah (especially having spotted the price). The problem was that someone at work, after having listened to my long and boring story about how I can’t remember 50% of any facts I hear or read nowadays, had, very kindly taken it upon himself to search Google for the book and so I felt duty bound to buy it. And, it’s very good.

When I say I get migraines, the last thing I would like to do is insult anyone with genuine migraines – the ones that hospitalise you – by suggesting that we suffer from the same disease. However, when they kick in, most painkillers don’t touch them and I could do without upping the tablets to the point where I am stopping people outside Boots asking if they will go in and buy another packet for me.

Anyway, this Monty person, who has a plethora of letters after his name, has some really good stories to tell. For instance, there are people who have a condition that means that they don’t feel any pain. (It’s called congenital analgesia – you are welcome). You might think it would be great to live a life without pain but, in fact, people who have this condition rarely live to a grand old age. It seems the body needs pain – to alert us to things going wrong inside our body or to let us know that our fingers are on fire and to cut ourselves off from pain is dangerous. (I think there may be sermon in there somewhere).

He also talks about vaccine hesitancy and suggests that some people may find a vaccine more painful or traumatic than others. Dr Monty suggests that by playing this down – “It’s just a sharp scratch” we ignore a real problem which will not only lead to people refusing vaccines (and not because they have seen something on the Internet that says that they are injecting aliens into us) but also refusing blood tests etc. and passing this fear onto their children.  Like I said, interesting.

One of the areas I found interesting was how he dealt with his IBS – a condition he had suffered from since childhood. He had tried everything – diet, medication etc. and nothing had worked – until he tried hypnotism and meditation.

As a youngster in church, we were always warned off meditation. I seem to remember a scripture about demons moving in and using a Dyson on your brain or something. I know it’s vague. You’ll have to look it up.

Then, last week, we were watching McCartney on Disney Star (Highly recommended) and he talked about visiting India and the Maharishi where he learned to meditate. He recounted that the Maharishi had given him his own Mantra to mediate with. Apparently, he had also offered to give Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence – her own “Mantra” on the same trip. And kept offering it often enough to make her lock her chalet door and refuse to come out. (Prompting John to write the song “Dear Prudence”).

So meditation doesn’t have the best reputation where I come from. It was a bit of a surprise therefore to find it recommended as a Biblical practice. As early as in Genesis, Isaac was meditating and it’s a practice that is very common. So I started giving it a go – using Scripture as a base and it is surprising – in a good way. It makes you calmer and helps prayer and takes you down a peg (not in the way my mother meant when she used to say that I could do with taking down a peg) you just feel yourself come away from anxieties and concentrate. I wish I was better at it.

Has anyone else meditated? Does anyone find it helpful? Am I weird? Does it ever challenge you how much more there is to people than we look to have on the surface. And, to find what makes us tick and function properly as we should we need to slow down, stop even and spend the time reminding ourselves on a deeper level about the things that are true.

Have a good week.