The beginning of the end

IMG_5504 After 4 days of hosting, feasting and festivities we have just had 2 days of lazing about and self indulgence.  I can chill for days, I am very good at relaxing, but the self indulgence bit quickly wears thin. We’re bored of the festive food now, we’re finishing up everything food that is remotely festive and what we don’t fancy goes out for the birds. I can’t face the stilton so that may well end up in a soup with some broccoli as I can’t bear waste. Even these fab gingerbread guys which Teen made may end up outside… we’re just done with it all now – I’m currently feeling like the one at the bottom – slightly crushed with al the extra weight ! A simple chicken salad was had for dinner last night and it was lovely! Before I do my final post of the year and make declarations for next year, I just wanted to share a couple of other wonderful things which happened in December.  Firstly – and this was just amazing – we saw Kasabian at the Brixton Academy.  I’ve been a fan since first track I heard (LSF) about 10 years ago, so to see them at Hard Rock Calling back in the summer of 2013 was wonderful.  To get tickets to see just them at a much more intimate venue was fantastic.  Due to Teen’s phone contract, w e and several other people got inside early, meaning a fab place at the front – although we later moved back a bit as it was just a bit hectic for not very tall people!  The Maccabees were on first and they were great then the build up to Kasabian coming on really got the tension building.  A screen with the half hour counting down IMG_5409 It was a great gig, fab performance, brilliant atmosphere and where you start at the beginning of such an event is often a long way from where you end up – the tide of people swishes you about and everyone is so hyped up and yet friendly.  There’s no aggro or judgement at a gig. No one cares what you do or how you dress, you’re just all there for the same reason and I LOVE that. IMG_5411  The humour was in evidence too as always ! The things that stood out for me were that everyone in the audience ended up sitting at one point, the sheer joy and energy of dancing and jumping in unions  and as we all slowly flooded out on to the roads after, the singing continued all along Brixton High Street, down on to the tube and even little pockets could be heard back at mainline stations – FAB! Really looking forward to the 2 gigs I’ve already booked for next year 😀 The other great thing was that I received my poppy from the Bloodswept Lands installation at the Tower of London.  It arrived in a beautiful box, with a commemorative booklet and (which excited me the most) the actual stem it was on, complete with instructions as to how to fix it to stand up again.

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I feel very privileged to have this little piece of history to remember what happened, to keep for now and one day pass on, at some point we’ll choose a name and dedicate it to that fallen hero.

I’d love to have install it in the garden, or by the front door so we can see it each time we pass in or out, but I confess that I’m too scared that someone may damage or steal it so for now it lives safely in its box in the living room.  So safely in fact, that I completely forgot to show it when we had people over at Christmas!

A far less emotive and yet equally important event has been the discovery of a new way to live, financially speaking that is.  I know I’ve frittered so much over the years and whilst I have spent the last 2 or 3 years gathering essential goods and replacing those which are worn out, with a view to not having to spend for a while, I’ve not really kept track of all my spending. What I now realise is that for every time I’ve overspent from my normal income budget, I’ve simply transferred money from my savings to cover this.

The salient point in that paragraph is “…every time I’ve overspent…”  Yep, overspending. That thing which means spending more than is necessary, or  more worryingly, available.  Just because I can cover the credit card payments, and not pay any interest doesn’t make it ok that I do so.  Yes, I bought gig tickets on the card, and yes I do get rewards when I use it – £28 of vouchers to spend in the local co op which I plan to get us through the lean times of January – but sometimes, knowing that I have that credit facility means I’m not quite as thrifty ( still refuse to use the ugly ‘f’ word) as I could be.

Case in point being the £12 salad spinner I bought just before Christmas.  I had a £10 off voucher for when I spent £50 in my favourite supermarket. And not content with having bought yet more bottles of Bucks Fizz to make sure  I became very anxious about getting to the till and not having spent the requisite £50.  Of course I had. I didn’t need the salad spinner to either reach the target or …( here comes the shameful bit)… at home.  I already had a salad spinner!

Anyway, eldest was very pleased to get a free salad spinner and youngest got to waggle her eyebrows at me in that superior way and I was chastened. I dont intend to spend much at all next year. I begged for socks and gloves as christmas gifts and was blessed with them, I dont need any other clothing items.

And, for the last few weeks I’ve been logging every single penny I spend in my spending tracker.  This brilliant little app has revealed things that previously just floated right past my consciousness and there is nowhere to hide.

My November total spends looked a bit like this :

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Now that is a very telling little picture.  It shows that I spent almost as much on my daughters riding lessons as I did on rent.  Of course, it doesn’t show that I’d actually been saving up towards these lessons and that for the next 2 months there will be no spend on the lessons at all. Nor do I usually spend more on gig tickets than I do on food, but the one category which really struck me ?  The one which shows that I spent more on clothes than I did on Council Tax !  Again, this isn’t normal as I’ve been gathering a wardrobe to last a year, but still. You can view it as a bar chart too, which means each category is clearly visible.  I’m as yet undecided as to whether this is a good thing or not!

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Every single imaginable category is there, I now know exactly how much money went on fuel, on sweets (£14.73 in November, £9.87 in December) and how much – to my great annoyance – was spent on parking in December – £11.40.  I know that I had a budget of £300 for Christmas gifts and that what I spent was £293.70. Which is good, right?  Although, I confess that I did decide that getting my car cleaned for £10 was actually a gift – both to the car and me ahem – and I also counted the £12.72 I spent on stamps and the £6.40 on postage, in the gift category so actual gift spending was probably closer to £250, still within budget and still ok !

I decided that first 2 months of using this app would be mainly for experimentation purposes, just to actually see where the money goes.  Now I know ( and no, you really don’t need to know what the figure in the takeaway column was …) I am going to be super thrifty in 2015.

I admit that my overspending means I’ve obliterated my ’emergency everyday living expenses fund’ from a comfortable £1,000 to a ridiculous – won’t even cover the rent- £300.

That’s my first target, right there. £700 back in the savings pot as quickly as possible.

The clock starts on January 2nd. Tick tock!

I’m away to do a bit more tidying – those gingerbread men won’t eat themselves you know.

x Lula x

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And the great 100 year anniversary

However many documentaries, exhibitions or films I see, the horrors of the first World War never fail to chill and appall me. I’m bewildered and uncomprehending as to how so many brave men, women and animals gave their lives, in such dreadful conditions.

When I was a child that War seemed so long ago … and although now it is of course some 30 odd years further back in time, it seems not quite so long ago.  That I suppose, is what ageing does to a person, the realisation that human years are so very short when compared to the history of the world itself. History and time itself appear quite fluid depending on where you are on your own timeline.

My Teen is quite a sensitive and imaginative soul and I’m keen for her to experience moments in history when I can, so on Remembrance Sunday we, along with about a million other people, headed to The Tower of London to pay our respects to the fallen, to gaze upon all those poppies and feel so very lucky to be alive and free in the glorious sunshine.

And it was a truly glorious autumn day; bright sunshine, clear blue sky and a bracing walk along the South bank towards the Tower on the other side of the river.

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I love Tower Bridge, it’s such an imposing and elegant structure, instantly recognisable however it’s depicted.

IMG_5262  I’d love to live in one of those towers  IMG_5264

As we slowly inched across the bridge it became apparent just how many people were also visiting, we moved forwards one shuffling step at a time. Finally as we approached  the end of the bridge we were able to pause to view the scene from above the moat, at that height it was like a river of blood.

We were able to stop for a while, to pause in our own lives and to think of all those who gave theirs.  To see all those poppies, knowing that each one of them represented a lost life was overwhelming and the most humbling experience. It was impossible to even begin to count them; I simply tried to think of all the people and those they’d left behind,  fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters… just too many people.

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People who can never be replaced, never be repaid, and who never returned to their loved ones.

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Some months ago I bought one of those poppies and when it arrives I shall admire it, cherish it and one day pass it on so that each year someone in my family can touch it gently and think of those who fell; for our freedom.

We shall remember them

eta :

I started this post within an hour of returning home from our day in London but was interrupted by a phone call where I learned the sad news of the death of a relative. In spite of the significance of Remembrance Day I felt it inappropriate to post this at that time, out of respect for her and the rest of the family.