Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The 2014 52 Week Cash Challenge

This is something that I am going to attempt to do, although I have altered it slightly.

I first came across the 52 Week Cash Challenge via a friend who is on benefits, the reason I mention this will become obvious later in this post.

The idea is that you find an empty jar or pot, and at the start, or end, of week 1, you add £1 to this jar; week 2 you add £2; week 3, £3 and so on until week 52.

Unfortunately, this means that over the last 4 weeks of the challenge you would have to put away £202 (£49 + £50 + £51 + £52), now I work full time and can't afford to put this much money away in just one month, so the fact that someone on benefits can means there is something wrong somewhere.

So, my little tweaks are - I am using a bank account instead of a jar, this is so that I can get a little bit of interest; and my amounts will be - week 1 £1, week 2 £52, week 3 £2, week 4 £51 and so on.  I know I could just put £26.50 per week away, but this makes saving more fun and will make me more likely to carry on with it.

Is anyone else thinking of having a go?

Friday, 27 December 2013

Well it wasn't the day out that we planned!

I had booked today off work, I really couldn't face the journey which is an hour+ each way on the bus, so we (me, Mum, Dad and the dog) decided to go to Batsford Arboretum for the day.  Bess likes it at Batsford as she always gets lots of fuss from the staff as she walks through the garden centre.

We packed a bag with some sandwiches, turkey naturally, and filled a couple of flasks and off we went.  I had checked the website and twitter feed and there was no mention of the arboretum being closed, in fact the twitter feed was encouraging people to visit to walk off the Christmas calories.

We arrived shortly after 10am (it takes about an hour to get there from here) and just as we arrived the heavens opened! The rain was so heavy we couldn't even see out of the car windows so we had a cuppa whilst we waited for it to clear.

Eventually the skies cleared and we were able to get out of the car.  You have to enter the Arboretum through the garden centre and cafe (surprise), we walked through the building to find a notice advising that the Arboretum was closed due to the weather (bearing in mind that at 10am, the centre had tweeted that they were open and to come down).  

So back we went to the car.

We then headed off to Broadway Tower, and boy, was it windy there!  We had a little walk round, it was really too windy to be out too long.  

We had an early lunch and then set off again, this time to Evesham Country Park.

I may have bought myself a pair of boots costing £75 there.  I also bought some Irish Coffee glasses.

We headed back home via Hilltop Garden Centre.  As we were leaving, the skies had gone really dark and there was a terrific rumble of thunder.  I hurried back to the car in case Bess was scared to find her totally oblivious and snoring her head off.

By the time Dad got back to the car, it had started hailing, REALLY hailing, within minutes it was laying on the ground almost an inch thick.

The hail soon turned to sleet and then just to rain, by the time we eventually got home it had stopped.

So despite the day not panning out as we had planned, it was quite an exciting day!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Pros and Cons of being Single at Christmas.

I'm feeling a bit (more) fed up (than usual) at the minute, so to cheer myself up I started to list the pros of being single at this family oriented time of the year, then added the cons to make sure I was still ahead.

So here goes

  • I don't have to worry about the cost of Christmas
  • I don't have to think about what to buy people
  • I don't have the last minute 'did I get the right thing/enough stuff' panic
  • I don't have to decide whose house to go to for dinner
  • I don't have to put a tree up because there is no-one to see it
  • I don't have to share the chocolates with anyone
  • I don't have anyone's face to watch when they open their gifts
  • I don't have anyone to cuddle up with after a hard day's preparation
  • I don't have a smiling face to wake up to
  • I don't have anyone to share the chocolates with
  • I don't have anyone to go for a cheeky drink with whilst doing the shopping
I am hoping next year that I won't have to worry about being single for Christmas, but then again I said that last year.  

So, everyone out there who does have someone to spend Christmas with, enjoy yourselves and make sure they know how much you appreciate them.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Songs

Much as I don't particularly enjoy Christmas, I do like some of the music that is associated with it.

Here is a selection.

The Muppet Christmas Carol - Ebeneezer Scrooge: I love this, in fact it is my ring tone

Nativity! - Sparkle and Shine: It was ages before I actually watched this film, yes it was filmed in my city (Coventry), my former school (Coventry School - Bablake, used in the film as Oakmoor School) and a former workplace (I had a brief stint at the Cathedral), but it was about kids.  I eventually watched it and was hooked, tears were streaming down my face.  And who couldn't love Bob!

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York:  I can't find anything wrong with this track, I like the Pogues and I thought Kirtsy MacColl was great and yet another talent taken before their time.

The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping: I know it is officially the countdown to Christmas when I hear this.

David Essex - A Winter's Tale

Slade - Merry Christmas Everybody: Will get everyone up and dancing, every time!

Queen - Thank God It's Christmas: I couldn't not put this in!

and finally, something a bit more serious

Greg Lake - I Believe in Father Christmas.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sunday Night Mash Up

Monday saw my final exam of this sitting, you may have seen my post from Tuesday about this.  Now I have the long wait for my results on the 8th of February.

Tuesday was our department Christmas lunch, it was also Secret Santa day.  Or should that be 'Secret Santa for now but we will work out who bought what by the end of lunch day'.  I received a book of horror stories, bookmarks and a handmade necklace (black heart, black cord, silver fittings), I was very pleased.

Friday night was our office Christmas Party.  We held it at the Village Hotel, it was a Willy Wonka themed event, we entered the room by crossing a bridge over a chocolate river, the compere was dressed as Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version, not Johnny Depp) and some of the servers were dressed as Oompa Loompas.

There was a quiz to take part in, on the screens (which were showing Charlie and The Chocolate Factory on continuous loop) a question was flashed up at regular intervals, mostly about identifying different sweets and biscuits.  And we won!  The prize was a bottle of perry, so a round of brandies later and we were all drinking, for intents and purposes, brandy and babycham.

After the meal we moved back out into the bar area where the disco was set up, I have no idea what time we left!

I had treated myself to an Upper Deck room and paid for a snack pack.  The bed was so comfortable I wasnted to bring it home with me.

I discovered once I had got back to my room that I had lost my phone.  I contacted reception the next morning and it had been handed in, so thank you to whoever did that.

Saturday morning I was a little worse for wear to say the least, but the Full English Breakfast and jug of coffee helped!

I am not looking forward to weigh in on Tuesday.

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Morning in Norwich.

I spent a few hours (and a few pounds) in Norwich a couple of weekends ago, it is very much a city of opposites.  Designer stores rub shoulders with Primark, jewellery shops with security guards on the doors sit between charity shops, stockbrokers are surrounded by market stalls.

There also seems to be a lot of Gentleman's Clubs on the walk from the train station to the city centre, great expanses of black glass and chrome.  I saw some of the 'artistes' leave as I was walking past at 9.30 in the morning.

I didn't realise that there was a castle in Norwich so I was surprised to see signs to one so I decided to check it out.

The first impression is somewhat spoiled by the huge glass lift.

This is a view from, and of, the balcony running around the inside of the walls.

You can access the garderobes from the balcony, I did, and I have the bump on the head to prove it!  There are signs up telling you that the ceiling is low, what they don't tell you is that it gets lower.

In the lower level of the keep, there is a display retelling the stories of the people who were held there when it was a prison.  It wasn't gory enough for me, I was looking forward to reading stories of torture.  But there were dressing up outfits for children.

Further into the castle there are several permanent displays - there is an Egyptian room, natural history (including bones and teeth from mammoths) and several others.  There is also a cafe and, of course, a gift shop.

After the castle, I had a wander around the shops, and there are hundreds of them!  I really wasn't expecting anything much and was pleasantly surprised.  I will go back again for another visit, but I would definitely allow myself more time.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Exam Week 2

So this week has seen the second sitting of my ACCA journey, and my feelings about the exams are the same as previously.

Three hours is far too long.

If you know your stuff, then the answers will flow and you can be easily finished in under two hours.

If you don't know your stuff you answer what you can and then stare at the walls, the floor, the person in front of you until the end of the exam.

You should be allowed to leave when you have done what you can.

If the ACCA insist that the exams remain at three hours, then you should be able to leave when you feel you have completed the script to the best of your ability.

It can't be any more distracting to other candidates for someone to leave than it is to see them apparently asleep at their desk.

Constant trips to the toilet.

Most of the candidates sitting the exams are early twenties, in some cases late teens, and yet they seem to find it impossible to sit through the exam without going to the toilet at least once.

This is a photo I took after the exam, you can see the corner of my desk at the bottom of the picture, the door you can see is the door out to the toilets.  And yes, it was annoying when people were constantly passing me.

Tiny Desks

The desks really are small, the question paper and answer paper are both A4 size and there isn't room on the desk to open both out fully, they have to be folded back on themselves.

Still, they are over now, thank goodness, results are due out on the 8th February.

Friday, 6 December 2013

A Not So Grand Day Out or How A Full Day Can Still Be Boring. Pt 2

When Dad returned with Bess we had our lunch but I think that Dad was beginning to realise how fed up Mum and I were so we packed up the car and headed off into Mablethorpe.

I loved Mablethorpe and have spent many a happy day there when I was younger, on the beach or wandering around the 'sell everything' stores so typical of the English seaside town, or in the little arcades trying to win something on the penny-falls machines.

But as we walked into the town I could have cried.  The Mablethorpe of my youth was no more.  The little town was now a mass of huge arcades and factory outlet shops.  Even the people walking round were different and seem to have changed to suit the new facilities, I will leave it to your imagination to work out what I mean.

We walked up onto the Prom and along the sea front.  Bess decided to have a wee right in the middle of the pavement, but frankly, it did not seem out of place.

There had been some attempts to brighten up the front, several brightly coloured changing huts had been erected.

We made it to the Queen's Park end of the Prom and had a coffee at the cafe there.  It felt much nicer at that end of the town.

We then set off home, stopping on the way to have another sandwich and a drink.  It was a very long day, and one that I will not be repeating!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Lose a Stone for Christmas/Pounds for Pounds

I didn't post last week as I wasn't very well.  I don't know if it was something I ate that disagreed with me, or I picked a 24 hour thing, either way I got in from work and went straight to bed.

This week saw the start of my exams, so chocolate has been a staple part of my diet, somehow I only managed to put 1/4lb back on.  Maybe stress is a weightloss accelerator.

I have two more exams before my next weigh in, so fingers crossed for both my remaining exams and my weigh in.

Goal: 14lbs
Lost last week: 0.75lbs
Total lost: 8.25lbs
Still to lose: 5.75lbs

Goal: 14lbs
Lost this week: 0.25lbs GAIN
Total lost: 8.00lbs
Still to lose: 6.00lbs

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Sunday Night Mash Up

Tomorrow sees the first of my three exams for this sitting and the closer it gets, the less confident I feel!  I will be getting into town nice and early (in case there are any bus issues) and treating myself to a coffee before I check in to the exam hall.

Not much to report this week really.  I have had a few laughs, I have had a few strops.  I have got annoyed at some blog posts I have read, but I daresay people get annoyed at some of mine so no harm done, and I certainly wouldn't criticise anyone for getting their views out there, we are all entitled to an opinion.

There was a horrible accident in Glasgow this week.  A helicopter crashed into the roof of a popular pub and unfortunately eight people were killed and many more injured.  It was just an awful thing.

On a happier note, the busy period for us compers has started.  Yes, Advents.  Hundreds and hundreds of competitions to be entered on a daily basis until the big day.  I am selective and don't enter them all as many are not relevant to me, but I think it takes as long to sort through them as it would to just enter them all.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the advents.

And good luck to everyone sitting or resitting the ACCA F5 Performance Management exam tomorrow.

A final note for tonight, I bought some fish from Iceland called Basa, I had never heard of it but thought I would give it a try and it was lovely.  I am just having the second piece out of the box of two and whilst eating decided to google it to find out more about the fish.  I discovered it is a catfish, or at least of the catfish family, and I have gone right off it and left most of the piece I had cooked.  I don't know why catfish is such an issue, I love shark and swordfish.

I blame Jeremy Wade.