No spend year – The ground rules part one

8th January.

What am I doing this for/what do I want to achieve?

I think mainly I want to achieve better health, both mentally and physically, and less waste. I’m being selfish here, I mean less financial waste by me. I need to prioritise what is a need and what is a want. Things I need to live comfortably are not the same as things I would like to enable me to live comfortably.

Ultimately I would like to see my savings increase rather than decrease and the only way to do this is to stop spending money on things that I don’t actually need, no matter how ‘nice’ it would be to have them. It would also be nice to pay off what is left of the mortgage early, this would be possible through overpayment of the monthly term and would secure my future nicely. A bit more thought before I open my purse may go a bit of the way to achieving this. After all, I am a crafty person (in the craft sense, not the way you were thinking) and can turn my hand to a fair few methods of repairing rather than throwing away and buying new. My workshop is also overflowing with fabrics and craft stuff. A true crafter never throws anything away, and yes, I truly fit this mould. It’s not all old stuff either, when dressmaking I have a habit of buying an extra metre of fabric in case I go wrong and need more. I rarely go wrong, I always have fabric left over.

This has to change.

I have to change.

Am I up to the challenge?

You betcha!

rambo thumbs up

My rules for a no spend, make do and mend year:

1) Food.

I need food. And I am fussy about some food, especially my coffee. So, I will still buy food – although by not buying food I guess I could lose that extra stone…tempting idea, but no, I will still buy food. I will also still buy nice coffee,  Own brand smart price doesn’t quite cut it for me where the coffee is concerned. I will make some concessions though. I will bulk cook and freeze down into smaller portions so that I am less likely to buy ready meals or takeaways on my way home from work. After raising three boys, all with hearty appetites I always used to cook large meals and there was rarely anything left. However, as they have grown and flown the nest I so lovingly made for them, I often eat alone in the evenings and can’t be bothered to cook a proper meal just for me. There is probably a bit of Freudian philosophy in there as well, something to do with not feeling myself to be worthy of a proper meal whereas others are, but I won’t go there just now. Suffice it to say that I am worthy, I’m just tired and lazy after a full day at work to warrant going to the effort that cooking a fresh meal from scratch requires.

And have you noticed how it is more expensive to buy for one person than it is to buy for a family? I swear shops are out to penalise the people who live on their own, or in my case, eat at home alone because the son who does live with me works opposite hours so we tend to meet in passing. I can however, buy a large joint of meat intended for a family, slow cook it so it falls apart and then separate it into equal portions and freeze to eat at a later date. Usually with a handy bag of microwave cookable rice…

I am a bugger for buying coffee out. But I don’t need to and it will stop. It’s going to be hard though as I often go out with the people I support at work and we will visit a coffee shop where they can learn essential social skills. It doesn’t feel right sitting there without a coffee myself but the cost of those coffees add up.

Generally, i would have one per day, five days a week.

On average a latte is around £2.50 a cup which would be £12.50 a week. I get 6 weeks holidays a year so times that £12.50 by 46 weeks and you get to £575.00 per year. That’s a lot of coffee, but hold on, I’ve not finished. Next door to my work is a rather nice coffee shop where, if you are a local and bring your own mug in for a takeaway coffee, they will sell you one for just a quid. It’s only a quid right? I have got into a rather nasty habit of nipping in there first thing every morning for a latte to start the working day with. Very tasty. Now, £1.00 times 5 days equals £5.00. Didn’t need to use the calculator for that one. Go me! But, times that fiver by 46 (back on the calculator) and you get to £230.00. Add that £230.00 to the previous £575.00 and you get a grand total of £805.00 per year just on takeaway and sit in coffees! That is a ridiculous amount to spend and now that I have worked that out, I can see where I can save money immediately.

the-scream-edvard-munch

2) Medication and Health needs.

This is where I can’t compromise. Luckily, I enjoy good health and do not need any regular medication. However, if I need it, I will pay for it. I can’t save money on supplements either because I don’t believe you need them as long as you follow a varied, reasonably healthy diet. Do health needs also encompass fitness and exercise? I guess it does really, so I can sort of compromise here. No gym or exercise classes for me (phew, that’s a relief, always feel guilty for not going to the gym). There are many ways of keeping fit for free and I have two dogs. There is no excuse to waste money here.

Talking of health needs, all this thinking gives me a headache…

I shall continue this rule setting dreckly…

Have a happy day

Anita x

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A no spend/make do and mend year

I’ve been keeping this quiet for the last six weeks but i have decided to go public and use my blog as my motivation to stick to my goals. There is so much waste in the world and i am just as guilty as most people of adding to it. I’m not doing it just for altruistic reasons though, i’m doing it for my own peace of mind, my own benefit and to improve my own bank balance. See, not altruistic, totally selfish.

betty its all aboout me  Anyway, here is where the story began back at the end of December. I’ve been keeping the diary ever since but it would be too much to put into one blog post, crikey, even i would get bored of my writing if i had to wade through all of that in one go! So, to catch up, it will be a few days at a time and then as and when i make an entry.

I’m hoping to succeed. I hope that you will join me on my journey.

Have a happy day.

Anita.x

29th December 2017

Today I had an epiphany. I was standing in Next, surveying the sheer weight of the sales rails and I pulled out a rather nice grey checked shirt in brushed cotton. It was just my style. Long sleeved and long bodied, perfect for wearing to work and enabling me to bend over a wheelchair without revealing the dreaded builder’s backside. It’s not a look that I particularly relish others getting a peek of. And, now this is the best bit…the shirt was half price! Absolute bargain, total steal, that really should have been the clincher. I should have grabbed that sucker, elbowed my way past the elderly lady trying to decide between a peephole bra (don’t go there, it’s not a pretty vision) and a more conservative version and gone straight to the till, no, I don’t need a bag thankyou, my car’s outside…

But instead, something rather strange happened instead. As I stood my ground against the rather pushy, blonde haired, stiletto heeled buxom wench that was trying to get in front of MY RAIL, I had a vision of my bedroom. More specifically, the four door wardrobe already groaning with so many clothes that I have to open the door very gingerly to ensure nothing falls out. If it does, I may not be seen again for weeks. I am ashamed to say that there are some impulse buys in there that are still adorned with their price labels and have therefore never yet been worn. There are others that are a size 10 and no longer fit but I’m sure I’ll lose that stone and a half one day and then I will get into them. It’s not totally inconceivable is it? Who am I kidding? I’’d have to starve for at least six months to lose that and I happen to think that life is far too short to deny myself cake.

It’s still a waste though. I have so many clothes that I never wear, and it’s not all because they are too small and I can’t bear to part with them, just in case. I am one of those people who saves things for best. The problem is, I don’t actually know when best is? I rarely go out anywhere special to warrant having any best clothes and I wear jeans for work.

My epiphany? I put that shirt back on the rail, turned and walked out of the shop empty handed.

My buy nothing new, make do and mend year had begun.

 

30th December 2017

Well, that challenge didn’t last long. I went into The Edinburgh Woollen Mill today and they had reduced the price of a Country Rose tunic top that I have had my eye on for a few weeks. Well, I just couldn’t resist it. And, technically, as I was paying for it with my left over Love To Shop vouchers that I didn’t spend in the lead up to Christmas, does it count as spending at all? It probably does, I could have used them in Iceland and restocked the freezer with Slimming World meals for one (with an eye to actually losing that extra one and a half stone and fitting into those size tens again) but it wouldn’t have been half so much fun.

Anyway, as it’s my 50th birthday on the second of January and the boys have collected together to send me to London for I know not what reason yet – I sort of love surprises, but the control freak in me is really going ballistic right now – then to start the challenge now would be just a tad foolhardy. So, I have decided on a period of reflection. I need to work out some groundrules of what I can and cannot buy during this period of deprivation, sorry, read that as restructuralisation of my lifestyle, and the challenge proper will begin on January the fourth 2018 when I return home.

 

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

Musing on getting older

It’s another new year and the beginning of my 50th one on this planet. I don’t feel like 50. Some would say that i don’t look like 50 either, sometimes i think they are just being nice, other times i take their compliments, run with them like the wind and scream ‘Wahey!!’….Well, in my mind i do. I’m far too introverted to actually run and scream out loud…more’s the pity.

Me in London

I’d be lying if i said that hitting this milestone is a breeze, but it’s certainly not as bad as i thought it would be 30 years ago when i hit my 20’s and just couldn’t imagine ever being as old as 50. But i do believe that i am so lucky to be able to stand up and say, ‘Hey, i’m 50. And i don’t actually care who knows it.’

So many of my old school comrades either haven’t made it this far or are in poor health and therefore struggling to make it through every day in this disablist world we now live in. I can call it that. Although i am fit and healthy, i work in the care sector and see every day how people with disabilities are discriminated against behind the guise of political correctness. Just don’t get me started on the idiots who think it is ok to park in front of a dropped kerb…i guess they have never tried getting a wheelchair onto a pavement without one, but ignorance is never a reason, it is just an excuse for bad behaviour.

But i digress. What have i achieved in the last 50 years?

  1. I have survived (yes, that is the correct word, it has been touch and go at times).
  2. I have brought up my three sons just about single handed and i am as proud of the men they have become as any Mother could be – let’s just gloss over the fact that my coping mechanism when they were all tired and teasy and bickering at each other was to just tune out and let them get on with it…
  3. I have educated myself through two undergraduate degrees whilst working and bringing up my boys on my own.
  4. I am currently half way through a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing whilst working full time …can no longer lay claim to the bringing up the boys though, the little blighters are just about self sufficient now.
  5. I work in the care sector, and have done for 18 years. It’s a hard job at times, but, for me, the pros far outweigh the cons.
  6. I have been published as both a poet and a theatre reviewer. I’m still working on the fiction thing. See point number 4.
  7. In the last year i have finally been brave enough to go on holiday on my own. It was a frightening and enlightening experience for someone as initially timid as me.
  8. I have loved and lost. Far too many people.
  9. But ultimately, i have survived, for that i am grateful.

 

So what about the next 50 years? Would be handy if i could have a peek inside a crystal ball, but on the other hand, where would be the fun in that?

Image result for crystal ball

I have no idea what the future holds but i do know that i am not intending to let ‘old age’ and ‘diminishing years’ hold me back from my plans for the future. I intend to write more, make my voice heard. I may be quiet in person but my mind and my fingers are itching to tell you so many stories…once i get the words in the right order that is…

I intend to live more and not rely on just surviving as i have in the past. I am bored with letting the fact that i am single dictate my social life and stop me from doing the things i want to do.

Finally, i intend to be happy. For all those who haven’t made it this far. For all those who have and are struggling to get out of bed unassisted or just make it through until bedtime.

We all deserve to be happy.

Take care,

Anita x

Make today a happy day too!

 

 

Memory should never be forgotten.

I have worked in the care sector for the last seventeen years. In this time i have worked with just about every conceivable disability you could think of ranging from child to centurion; physical to mental to learning disability. For the last nine years i have concentrated on adults with learning disabilities although, sadly, this can also include Alzheimers and Dementia as these diseases tend to affect the learning disability cohort at a much earlier age than in the rest of the population.

What i have found most is that it is nigh on impossible to find resources to help with memory recognition and retention within this particular client group. Believe me, i tried! In my failure to find anything suitable i therefore starting writing memory poems and devising quizzes that were achievable for those with cognitive impairments and also fun for them to do.

The guys that i work with love them. They continually ask for them and they never tire of them. I have now decided to put them together into themed session plans for use in care homes, day care centres and memory cafes as well as for general home use. They can be dipped in and out of, they are suitable for both group and individual work and they even have photocopiable dot to dot pictures to enhance the learning environment.

An example of the memory poems are as follows:

I’m big to see and my boyfriend is scary,
He uses his horns when he sees red.
I eat hay and grass and go to the Dairy,
To give you the butter to spread on your bread.
A. Cow

  As you can see, achievable and simple. Worded simply to encourage the client to get the answer. Failure isn’t an option here. We want them to feel positive and happy. We want them to win.

On the farm cover

 

The book (and its successors as they become available) can be purchased direct from either my ETSY shop – Baby Dreams Stitchery

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/525938594/on-the-farm-memory-sessions-book-for?ref=shop_home_active_1

Or my Facebook page – Anita Hunt Writer

https://www.facebook.com/anitadhunt1/

Take a look, you won’t be disappointed.

And make today a happy day.

Anita x

 

 

The Importance of ‘Stuff’

We are all surrounded by ‘Stuff.’ Stuff we think is important and that we cannot possibly live without. We spend our lives pushing ourselves forward in our acquisition of stuff. Stuff that we discard shortly after as we lust after bigger and better stuff. A bigger house in a better area, a posher car…or two, expensive holidays in the sun.

What do we do to get our stuff? We work…around the clock. We go to our offices/shops/factories. Make polite conversation with people whom, sometimes, we would rather not and stress over issues that are quite often taking far more brain power than they deserve.

With the recent London, Sweden and Syria atrocities I feel this has been brought even more to the fore. In London, a dedicated policeman was doing his job, laughing with tourists and having a selfie taken with them. Minutes later, in the call of duty and astonishing bravery, he was callously stabbed to death. A woman on her way to collect her children was mown down by a speeding car while another was thrown over the side of the bridge into the cold, unforgiving water below. I think that in their last moments, their possessions were the last things on their mind.

I have worked in the care sector for the last seventeen years and within that time I have been tasked with clearing out the rooms of those that have departed. There is little to compare with the sadness of that clearing process. The throwing away of a person’s treasured possessions because they mean nothing to those who are left behind. Clearing out my parents house was even harder. In the top drawer of my mother’s dressing table I found a cross stitched card that I had made her for Mother’s Day many years before. Inside i had written ‘Cheer’s Ma, I don’t know what I would do without you.’ If that didn’t hit me hard enough there was then one solitary, unlit cigarette. Her emergency stash that she kept just incase she needed to have a fag one day. It is testament to her strength that in five years of cancer treatment, she never smoked that cigarette. Finding it broke me.

So what have I taken from all of this? That the acquisition of stuff shouldn’t be the driving force of our life. It is the memories that matter most, the people that we choose to share our lives with and the little things they do that make us feel secure, loved and wanted. The random hug, the handmade gift, the memories they leave that last long after they have gone.

Carlyon Bay-29

I know it is a cliche, but hold onto those people and tell them you love them because, like those brave people on Westminster Bridge, you don’t know when you get up if you are going to get back into your own bed again tonight.

Most of all, make today a Happy Day.

Love, Anita. x

Letting my characters tell their story

I do have a novel in progress. Actually, i have two. Now i know that sounds greedy but they are both nanowrimo starters and they all are trying to tell me their story. It would be churlish of me to deny them their outlets, but i do wish they would not all shout at once sometimes.

Today, i have mostly been procrastinating. Assignment dates are approaching fast and i really should be studying, but a blackberry and pear crumble for tea was begging to be made, and the dishes needed doing…and the washing…well, i’m guessing you know the blurb…

Blackberry and pear crumble

I did however, get a little bit of module work done. The activity was to take one of my characters and write their introduction in the first person. My next assignment i have planned to use Madeleine. She is going to be a secondary protagonist and is a major character in my main novel. I’m not going to give too much away, where would be the fun in that? But i am going to let Maddy tell you what she just told me…

Madeleine

I couldn’t believe it when I first found out. I mean, how could I have been so gullible? He hoodwinked me from the start and now I feel betrayed and broken.

I’m not too bad when I’m at work. The estate agency is run by a brother and sister, Darren and Claire and they keep me busy typing all the sales details and stuff for them. I can forget everything when I’m there and Darren’s corny sense of humour as he jibes at his sister makes me laugh. A bit anyway.

That’s until I come home to the empty flat. There’s no laughter there anymore. I used to come home and start cooking his favourite meals, starting from scratch, only the best for me and my Steve. I would lay the table and put candles out, soft music on in the background. I used to think he was worth it. Not any more. It’s a meal for one from the freezer. I’m not bothering with all that just for me. No, I sit in my armchair, the one that used to be his, and eat in front of the telly now, Emmerdale keeps me company.

I used to have hobbies too. Sewing. That was what I loved to do. I would feel the fabric running through my fingers and the time would just fly. Maybe that is where I went wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t have done so much sewing? I didn’t think so at the time, he built my sewing room after all. We’d nicknamed it ‘Maddy’s made in heaven room’. I thought he loved me being so creative. He used to tell me to go in there because he would have to work late anyway. I haven’t sewn anything since he went. I’ve not gone into the room. I don’t have the energy to lift a needle any more. It must be all my fault. If I hadn’t spent so much time in there, he wouldn’t have spent so much time with his floozy assistant. He wouldn’t be with her now, instead of me.

Bastard.

Making Dreams a Reality

They say that if you want to be a writer then you need a blog to showcase your writing skills. Well, i thought about starting up a new blog, just for that and then i thought, hey! Wait a minute! I already have one, quite a nice one actually with funky flowers and calming colours. Why not resurrect that one from the dying ethers in which it currently lies?

So here we are, a third of the way through my first year of a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing course with the Open University and i have never written so much in so short a time. I have also never received so much critique about my writing ability in so short a time either, but i am happy to report that it has largely been good and, strangely, people seem to like what i write and the way in which i write it. Maybe i am onto a winner here? Ha, only time can really tell on this one, but i’m willing to keep on trying.

I’m not saying that everything i have written is good, some of them are imminently forgettable as the exercises they are planned to be. Just an exercise in writing to a specific prompt or using a specific technique, some of which gel with the writer and some of which are, frankly, just not my cup of tea.

One that has stuck in my memory though is the following exercise where the brief was to write around 500 words using colloquialisms and language of your home town or Country. Now, i am Cornish, and very proud to be so. I absolutely loved coming up with this one, i hope you enjoy it too.

Bleddy Emmets!

‘Tis no good,’ Jess said as she slammed the pastry down onto the floured board, ‘I’m gettin’ sum teasy with these bleddy emmets down ‘ere all the time with their bleddy upcountry ways.’ She pointed towards the bowlful of peeled potatoes that were sat on the table, ‘Pass us them teddy’s over will ‘e maid?’

Amy did as she was bid, ‘here you go Gran. You really shouldn’t let them get to you, you know.’

‘Aye, I naw’s that, but they really get me goat and they ain’t gotta bleddy clue wasson ‘alf the time.’

Jess had finished rolling out the pastry and was deftly turning a large potato in one hand whilst chipping small bitesize chunks off with a knife in the other and placing them in a line in the middle of the pastry.

‘I don’t know how you do that without cutting yourself. ‘Amy said, trying to deflect her Grandmothers temper.

‘Tis easy tis, jus’ like drivin’ down the bleddy lane is. I thought she were gonna start squallin’ when she had to reverse up the ‘ill. Turmits next me ‘ansome.’

‘It’s swede Gran, turnips are white and these are yellow,’ Amy smiled.

‘I’ll give e swede! They’m all turmits to me. Beef and onion from that bowl there next.’

Amy watched as her gran flipped the outside of the pastry over the filling and quickly crimped the edges together in a fingers over thumb movement before placing it onto an opened butter wrapper and putting it into the oven.

‘You know, we do have greaseproof paper these days. You don’t have to save all your butter wrappers anymore,’ Amy chided.

‘I’ll give e bleddy greaseproof paper an all! When you’ve bin makin’ pasty’s longer’un me then you ken tell us about bleddy greaseproof paper! Aye, you’m a booty you are.’ She laughed, shaking her head at her grand daughter.

‘Fancy a cuppa tea Gran?’

‘Aye, me cups over there. Jus’ top’un up. When this pasty comes out, I’ll wrap’un up an e can take un to work for yer crib later.’

‘Thanks Gran, You’re the best. My mates are well jealous of my pasties on my break.’