Thursday, 8 September 2011

Heritage Open Days

In England this weekend it's Heritage Open Days where many historical buildings open their doors to the public for free and lots of other events such as walks, exhibitions and talks are organised.  We've been attending these for several years now and found some real hidden gems.  This year we've booked a walk around a local town to discover some of its history, a tour around the Palace Green in Durham and a medieval hospital and we're also planning a visit to an Arts and Crafts church and an Edwardian Quaker House.  If we've time we'll also visit a medieval church in Durham and some old craft workshops.  Hopefully I'll be able to take some photos and put them on here - I'm especially keen to take some of the interior of the Arts and Crafts church, but I'm not sure if it's allowed.

I've also found a couple of free courses run by the WEA, that begin this month and run for 10 weeks. Firstly, I saw a course about the Romans in the North of England and Wales, then looking through the booklet a little further I came across a textile design course.  This is right up my street as it includes rag rug making and silk painting as well as othe textile crafts.  Hope they're not full up!

Off to bed now, as I've had a very busy day and I'm falling asleep at the laptop.  Early start for Durham tomorrow :)

Friday, 2 September 2011

First steps

Well, now I'm free at last :)  Last Friday was such an emotional day and I was by no means the only one who cried for half the afternoon!  I had such a wonderful send-off from all my workmates.  I'll treasure the cards, the touching poem that was written about me and the fantastic presents I got.  The choccies are already well gone though :)  The little ones in the nursery made me a card with a drawing of a caterpiller and butterfly and lovely blue skies - I love that best of all.

I've found it hard to get my head round the fact that I no longer work there.  My brain still thinks I'm just having a few days off and everything will be back to 'normal' soon.  I was meant to be having a rest for a couple of weeks but so far I seem to be very busy.  It's great to have the time to do all those neglected jobs around the house and I'm looking forward to finally using those tins of paint I've had stashed away for what seems like forever!  The day after I finished work I got up and decided to rearrange the living room furniture to try and make a more cosy space.  I'm wanting to make some room for a reading chair.  It was quite a job as some of my furniture is very heavy.  Then the next day I got up and decided I didn't like it so I rearranged it all again!  And the next day, and the day after that......

My head's full of ideas and stuff I want to do and it feels a bit confusing at the minute.  Making the house cosy, clearing the garden, researching self employment opportunities,getting exercise, making stuff in the kitchen, foraging, craftwork, organising, stocking the larder, etc, etc.  Help! I need to spend some time thinking about priorities and introduce things gradually and not feel like I have to do everything at once. Otherwise I'm going to end up in a right muddle.

But my first week has gone fairly well.  Some tense moments when I have to explain to Iain (again) that I 'don't want to spend my money on that anymore'. Sometimes I don't think he really 'gets' it, that it's not about denying my myself, it's about spending the money I have on the things that I get pleasure from. It's life enhancing, not self denial.  'Cutting out the crap' sums it up I suppose!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Only 2 working days to go.  Yippee! I said goodbye to one of my work mates last week as she's was going off on holiday, and we were both a little choked.  I guess Friday will be very emotional as there's so many people to say goodbye to. Tomorrow we are all off to another Children's Centre for a hog roast lunch with gateau to follow.  It's expected that 'lunch' will last for most of the afternoon :-)  Then Friday we are all bringing food in for a buffet lunch at the Children's Centre where I work. 

There are 3 of us leaving at the same time and with all the re-organisation that's going on at the minute it's a very unsettling time for those who're staying on.  All the Admin staff have been given 118 notices and have to apply for new posts, not necessarily where they are working now and not necessarily at the same pay grade.  I'm glad I decided on redundancy as I had picked up bits of information here and there and had already guessed that this was going to happen.  I really feel for those whose futures are so uncertain - not that mine is any different, but at least that was my choice!

There are a few things about the job that I'll miss (apart from the lovely people I work with).  The Children's Centre is in a beautiful location, poised on the top of a cliff and overlooking working docks.  I can look out of the window and watch foreign boats coming in with their cargo and  fishermen on the pier.  On stormy days it's wonderful to watch the waves crashing over the top of the lighthouse and on sunny days I can just walk down a set of steps and I'm on the beach. 

But what I'll miss the most is the joy that the children bring.  Watching them grow from babies into toddlers full of character and then really grown-up pre-schoolers.  From the little boy who's never seen without his hat and has something different that he 'must show me' almost every day, to the toddler who gives me the cutest smile and blows me a kiss, they all make my day and I'll miss their company.

So, although I'm glad I'm moving on to a new stage in my life, it's a time for reflection this week

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mobile phones and haircuts

Several jobs to do this week. 
  • Cancel my rent direct debit as I intend to pay it weekly at the rent office - the walk there and back will do me good. 
  • Send away for a Tesco PAYG sim card (4p texts).
  • End my mobile phone contract and pay for the unlock code.
  • Downgrade my cable to the most basic phone and broadband package.
The mobile contract is only £8.50 a month but I don't use it much so PAYG will still save a little money.  I can't understand people who pay stupid amounts of money for monthly phone contracts.  Judging by the conversations I'm forced to overhear every day they're paying vast amounts of money just to talk absolute bollocks to their mates.  Has anyone else noticed the phenomenum of what appears to be mobile phone addiction in young women these days?  I took particular notice when I was travelling on the metro last weekend and I was hard pushed to find a young female who wasn't frantically texting away.  Whether they were with boyfriends or other female friends there was very little interaction going on as they were all too busy with their phones.  Madness.

I gave myself another haircut yesterday as it was getting very long.  Same method as before, tie in a ponytail at the top of my head and cut across for a layered style.  Then neaten the feathering at the sides and chip into it a little.  I cut a good 4 inches off this time. No photo yet as my camera battery needs charging up. It doesn't look too bad, but I might visit the hairdressers soon as it hasn't had a proffessional cut for about a year.  Apart from the cost, I just hate going to the hairdressers.  I only ever have a dry cut because I can't bear having them washing and styling my hair.  I once went to Toni and Guy and the cut was fabulous, but wouldn't go again because it took them so long to wash, cut and style it.  I was in there for about 2 hours! To me it's not a pampering luxury, it's like a punishment!

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Boleyn Inheritance

This weekend I'll be lost in Tudor times.  I'm 100 pages into this book:

and I'm loving it.  I've been transported back to the court of the tryrannical Henry VIII at the time of his marriages to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Anne, Katherine, and Jane Boleyn (sister-in-law of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn).  Phillipa Gregory is a superb writer with the ability to really bring history alive, and I love the fact that the tale is told from the perspective of the 3 women.  What dangerous times they were.  I can't put this book down so I'm expecting that not much housework will be done this weekend and I'll be spending a fair few hours curled up on the sofa reading :)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

It's not a bargain if you don't need it

Normally when I walk through the shopping centre on my way to the supermarket I don't take any notice of what temptations the shops have placed in their windows to try and part me from my money.  But yesterday lunchtime it was hard to ignore the crowd of women standing around a stall which was piled high with handbags.  Looking closer I saw the signs saying "All handbags £5". 

Now, handbags are a particular weakness of mine.  In my less frugal past I've returned home many a time with what I declare to be "a bargain handbag", only to have Iain say sarcastically  "yeah, cos you REALLY needed another handbag".  For most women it's shoes, but I find it so hard to find a pair that don't make my feet ache that shoe shopping doesn't thrill be at all.  The beauty of handbags is that they don't have to fit you.

I could feel the excitement rising in me as I walked over to the stall.  I was drawn immediately to a wonderful purple and silver zebra printed bag ( yes, I know I have no taste).  Then a lovely dark red one.  At £5 each I could afford both of them!!  Luckily the madness didn't last.  "Do you need a handbag?", I asked myself.  Answer "no".  "And how will owning these two handbags enhance your life?"  Answer, "not one little bit - my life will not be improved in any way".  And I bet most of the women surrounding the stall didn't need another handbag either, but plenty were buying because it was 'such a bargain'.  I've learned the hard way that it's not a bargain if you don't need it - it's just £10 wasted.  It's getting easier to just walk away and save my cash for something I'll really get pleasure from.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The prices see-saw

Has anyone else noticed the volatility of supermarket basic brand prices lately?  They seem to change from week to week.  Cornflakes have doubled in price this week whereas toothpaste is down from 30p to 19p.  Toilet roll has risen to 60p and given the poor quality of it there are definitely better bargains to be had elsewhere. 

I’ve noticed that all the supermarkets seem to follow suit when it comes to price changes of their basic brands.  If one lowers or raises the price of an item then they all tend to. At the minute they all seem to have lowered the price of baby toiletries and bargain prices can be had on baby shampoo, lotion, baby bath and nappy bags.  If you have the time and the inclination you can use this volatility to your advantage of course - stockpile when things are cheap.  Iain seems to think I'm a little deranged because I have 8 bottles of baby shampoo, 8 deodorants, 9 bottles of baby lotion, 6 tubes of toothpaste and 14 toothbrushes stashed away in a box under the bed.  But its all stuff that I'll use and when prices have risen again I'll be sitting smug (and no doubt moving on to the next thing to stockpile!)

Prices have changed again just in the past 2 days since I did the beginning of this post.  Toilet roll is now up to 70p, cornflakes halved again in price, and the baby lotion and shampoo is now at the unbelievable price of 9p!  They'll be paying you to take the stuff away next (if only!).  Incidently, I just love the baby shampoo - my hair has never felt so soft.