Friday, 31 January 2014

Friends, do we really need daily contact with them?

A friend is defined as

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.

Is it possible to exist without daily, weekly or even monthly contact with friends?  I think it is.  

I have friends who I made 20 or 30 years ago who I gladly talk to if we meet, generally in Tesco, and we will talk as though we still have daily contact and weekly nights out.  I have work colleagues who have become great friends and with whom I have the occasional nights out and who have helped me through some difficult times.  I still send Christmas Cards to some friends who I met when I started primary school nearly 40 years ago.  I have friends who live a train or plane ride away who I see once or twice a year, but obviously these meetings take a lot of planning, and money, and I really do enjoy these times.

But I don't have any friends with whom I have regular contact and evenings out.  I don't have anyone who I can just call on the phone if I fancy a pint or even just a chat.

And I really don't know how to make friends, it is so much more difficult to do at 43 years of age than it is at 3 years of age, you feel so much more self-conscious.  When you are young if someone doesn't want to be your friend, no biggie, you just move on.  When you are older, and lacking in self-confidence, knock backs are harder to take.

And  I do lack self-confidence in social situations.  At work I charge from meeting to meeting with the feeling of a black cloak flowing behind me and the Imperial March playing in my head. 


In my private life dealings when I know I am in the right, I am the same, but stick me in a room full of people that I don't know, particularly younger people, and I just want to hide under the nearest table!

So, to go back to my original theme, no, we don't need daily contact with all friends, but it would be nice to have at least one friend who can be called on at the last minute for a get together.

And that is what I do not have.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Do people still use fish knives?

This isn't just a post about fish knives, but about cutlery and table manners in general.  Although thinking about it, it has been a few years since I have seen a fish knife.

This is a generalisation I know, but based on my own experiences, a lot of youngsters do not seem to be able to use a knife and fork, and by youngster I mean mid-twenties and below.

I will admit that when I am at home eating by myself, which lets face it is 99.9% of the time, I will just use a fork if I can get away with it but when I am away from home or eating with others I will use both knife and fork.

Over Christmas and New Year I had several meals with other people, and it was then that I noticed the lack of table skills.

I'm not bothered about which hands you hold the knife and fork in, most right handed people will hold the knife in their right, dominant, hand, but then again some left-handed people hold the knife in the their right hand as that is how they have been taught.  But I do like to see people actually knowing how to use cutlery.

This year I have sat next to someone who ate their entire meal with a spoon, now this may be a cultural thing, but having grown up with friends of various cultures it is something I have never encountered before.

I have also sat next to someone who, although right handed, with knife in left hand and fork in right, proceeded to hold the food down with the knife and rip it apart with the fork.  They then disappeared from the table and reappeared with a pint carton of milk from which they swigged for the rest of the meal despite glasses being readily available.

Has anyone else noticed a decline in table skills?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sunday Night Mash Up

This week can be summed up in one word.  


There are things going on at work which are making me feel like banging my head against the nearest wall.  I have got a week's annual leave left which I need to take before the end of March, I think I will be taking that sooner rather than later.

I have been searching online for a car and on Wednesday found one that I liked, could afford and wasn't too heavy on the insurance.  I left work a bit earlier than normal and an hour's bus ride and a 2 mile walk later I arrived at the car dealer.  It was by now, much too dark to have a proper look at the cars.

I couldn't find anyone to speak to so decided to call it a night and head home.  Another 2 mile walk and I was home.  The website of the dealer gave the option of booking a test drive so I did this for Saturday (yesterday) morning.

Friday afternoon, the dealer sold the car.

I was not impressed.

I can understand why they did it.  I was 'interested' in the car, I may not buy it, I may not even turn up as arranged, so they were not going to turn down someone who was there offering them money.

But I still wasn't happy.

So I have another month to find and buy a car as my rip off bus pass auto-renewed yesterday.  I have to pay £85 per month and allow 90 minutes+ each way every day to do what is essentially a 15 minute car journey, so that is why I want a car.

I have also indulged in a little online sale shopping this week and I am looking forward to it arriving.  If it does.  I ordered some items from Florence + Fred online not long after Christmas, I opted to have them delivered to the nearby Tesco so that I could collect them, unfortunately the courier company could not find Tesco and so they were returned to the depot.  This delivery is to a private address but if they can't find Tesco....

Today I collected my new glasses, they are fab, but I just wished they weren't so expensive.

I wonder what this week has in store for me.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Save £1000 in a day!

As always happens around this time of the year newspapers and magazines are full of ways to save money so I thought I would have a go.

1.  Apparently if you have more bedrooms than people in a house, then you can save with a water meter.

My current annual water bill is £320, according to the Water Meter Calculator my annual water usage would cost £221.

£99 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

2.  You can claim a tax rebate if you wear a uniform which you are responsible for washing/laundering yourself.

I do not wear a uniform.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

3.  Check that you are receiving the correct child benefits.

I have no children.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

4.  Earn £125 by switching banks

Due to my credit score (which I am working hard to improve) I am currently unable to change banks.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

5.  Check that you are on the best energy tariff.

I check my tariffs every year and move as necessary.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved

6.  Analyse your budget.  Are you spending more than you earn?

I don't have a credit card, neither do I have an overdraft, therefore, if I haven't got it, I can't spend it!

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

7.  Sign up for free monthly tea and cake at John Lewis, or a free daily coffee at Waitrose.

I have neither John Lewis nor Waitrose locally.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

8.  Haggle down other utilities.

I phoned Virgin last year and said I was cancelling, I had £5 a month knocked off my bill.  Unfortunately this has been wiped out by the annual price increase.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

9.  Reclaim mis-sold PPI.

I have never been mis-sold PPI, I have always fully understood it and refused it if I felt it was not necessary.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

10.  Check around for better mortgage deals.

I do not have a mortgage, the house is fully paid off.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

11.  Check around for a better car insurance deal.

I do not have a car.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

12.  Check around for a better credit card deal.

I do not have a credit card.

£0 saved.
Total: £99 saved.

So whilst £99 is a good start, it is far, far short of the £1000 predicted, and frankly, by the time I have taken a day's annual leave to have the meter fitted, I am not going to be making a saving.

Has anyone else tried to save £1000 in a day?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Weightloss Challenge.

We had out first weigh in today at work. We left it until now as people were still absent last week (or still had chocolate to eat).

I had a few bad days last week because of various things that were going on, so ended up eating whatever I could stuff into my mouth.

I have also started taking the Formoline that I was lucky enough to win courtesy of the lovely Melanie at Me, Bookshelf & I so I think that they helped me get away with my stress/anger eating.

So back to the weigh in.

I had lost 4lbs!

The weight loss ticker on my blog home page is using the weight shown on my home scales, but for the purpose of this weight loss challenge, I will be using the weights as shown by the scales at work.

Start Weight : 17st 7lbs
Weight lost this week : 4lbs
Total weight loss : 4lbs
Target Loss : 12.5lbs
Still to lose : 8.5lbs
Current Weight : 17st 3lbs

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Night Mash Up

This week I discovered that my line manager is pregnant, and I have to admit that the green-eyed monster did make an appearance for a while.  This was quickly replaced by concern over who was going to be managing me whilst she is off!

Friday was a quiet day at work, quiet in that there were 4 people off, it was certainly not quiet in the work load seeing as it appeared to be me picking up most of the slack, but at least the day went fast.

Saturday I was hoping to go and look at a few cars but unfortunately the online banking site I use was down so I couldn't transfer the money from my savings account.  I was hoping to do a cash and drive away deal so that will be next weekend now as it is still too dark to look at cars after work.

I also had my eyes tested this weekend, and once again my prescription stayed the same, there was a slight change in my requirements for reading but thankfully not enough to warrant bifocals.  I do have to take my glasses off to read very small print but the optician says that this is an age thing and whilst I am happy to do so then there is no need for reading glasses.

Apparently I have a weakness in my right eye muscle which has never been pointed out before which has always been my weaker eye vision-wise.  When I look up and to the right both eyes move together, but looking up and to the left after a certain point my right eye goes off on its own and starts looking to the right!

Because I have had these glasses for several years now I had promised myself new ones even if my prescription hadn't changed so £310 later I have ordered two pairs, one Morgan, the other Fendi,
both with ultra thin lenses, they should be ready in a week or so.

It is the first weighin on Tuesday for our weightloss group at work, after the last few days I have had I will be pleased if I haven't gained!

Friday, 17 January 2014

My Journey out of Debt

I got into debt years ago and for many years that followed I ignored it in the hope it would go away.  This is the period of my life when I started using Payday Loan companies, not to pay the debts, but to buy food as my wages were just being eaten up by my overdraft.

After a few years of ignoring letters and dodging debt collectors I changed jobs.  The money wasn't much more than I was earning previously but I was happy, and it did make a difference.  I was no longer wasting money on material things to try and make myself happy, I was already happy.

I made myself sit down and open all the letters and work out how much I owed.  Obviously the original debt and years of interest did not make for good reading, it came to nearly £25k.

I listed the bills that I needed to pay every month - electricity, water, council tax, etc - and gave myself a realistic budget for food and other essential shopping to work out how much money would be left over from my wages.

I contacted all my creditors with a comprehensive list of incomings and outgoings with a suggested monthly repayment.  Some of the companies were really helpful, others not so but eventually we all came to an acceptable repayment plan.  Actually contacting the companies froze the interest at the time of the initial contact.

I was making good progress, but then got made redundant (again).  I contacted all the companies to explain the situation and only one of them was helpful allowing me to reduce my payments until such time as I was employed again, the others demanded that I retain the agreed repayment.

I was using my redundancy payment to cover the repayments and my bills as my weekly job seekers allowance of £64 did not go far, at least I didn't have to worry about paying my Council Tax as this is covered by the local council if you are on benefits.

Eventually the redundancy money ran out and I had not been able to find a job despite applying for hundreds.

I had kept in contact with my creditors all through this time, advising them when my repayments would have to stop but to no avail.

As the payments had stopped, the interest started to accrue again.  And accrue fast.

All the headway I had made was being eaten up again by added interest.

I eventually found another job so once again I made a list of incomings and outgoings and went through the process again.

My debt is now down to just under £13k and apart from one company, who have always been unhelpful and continue to be so, I have found that they are not so scary to deal with.  If I do not increase my repayments I have calculated I will be out of debt in another 5 years.  If I do find myself with more available cash, I will be debt free more quickly.

And I am looking forward to that day.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Only Psychopaths Bungee Jump

Recently Channel4 had what they called 'Psychopath Night', it was a 90 minute programme in which they spoke to experts regarding the traits of a psychopath and counted down the top ten film psychopaths.  There was also an interview with a jailed criminal.

Psychopathy is characterised by amoral and antisocial behaviour, an inability to establish meaningful personal relationships, a callous disregard for others, extreme egocentricity, a lack of remorse or conscience, and a failure to learn from experience.  A lack of empathy and early life trauma, either at birth or shortly after are also cited.

The top ten movie psychopaths, according to the show, are;

1.     The Joker from The Dark Knight

2.      Dr Jed Hill from Malice (no, I've never heard of it either)
3.      Kevin from We Need To Talk About Kevin
4.      Alex from A Clockwork Orange
5.      Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley
6.      James Bond
7.      Gordon Gekko from Wall Street
8.      The Replicants from Bladerunner
9.      Hannibal Lector 
10.    Norman Bates, although the experts say he is less psychopath, more suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

Professions were also reviewed and the top five for psychopaths are
1.     Finance
2.     Law
3.     Media Executive
4.     Sales
5.     Surgeon.

A group of volunteers were tested, there was a written test followed by a one-to-one interview and then the two highest and lowest scorers were given one final test.  They were all led blindfolded to an area outside.  Their blindfolds were removed to reveal a bungee jump.

This is apparently an ultimate test of psychopathy.

Both the high scorers went ahead with the jump, whilst the two lowest scorers did not.

I have done a bungee jump.  I work in finance.  I have a lack of empathy.  I went through early life trauma.  I struggle to make friends.

Does this make me a psychopath?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sunday Night Mash Up

It was my birthday this week, I have reached the grand old age of 43, so it was cakes all round at work.

And can anyone explain why fire drills only take place when it is cold and rainy and you have a deadline?  Why do they never take place when it is warm and sunny and a post-month-end madness day?  Is there a law somewhere that specifies this?

We had a fire drill on Thursday and it was cold!  And muddy as well.  There is work going on right outside our fire escape so we had to paddle through it on the way out and then trekked it back into the office on the way back in.

I have been giving myself a bit of a talking to this week, there are things going on in my life which I need to resolve, I will be blogging about these as I go.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Pay Day Loan Companies, My View.

There has been a lot in the news lately about Pay Day Loan companies but, personally, I don't have a problem with them.

Whilst their interest rates are extremely high, they are all advertised, they are not hidden.  I have, in the past, used their previous incarnations which were places where you could cash a cheque which would not be banked until an agreed date, this of course all came at a fee.  I haven't used this service for several years now having sat myself down and worked out a budget - so much on bills, so much for savings, so much for spending etc.

Now the issue seems to be that children can see the adverts for these services and pester their parents into getting loans so that they can buy them the latest gadgets and clothes.  What is wrong with the parents saying no?  Or is that word not acceptable these days?

I know that when I was little, I could ask once and if I was told 'no', that was an end to it.  If I did have the devil in me and tried to pester, I would end up with a smacked bottom and an early night.

But in these days of benefits, easy money and instant gratification, I guess that people will continue to get into debt instead of saving for something because that takes time.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Tired Of Being Single? the ad said, yes I thought and bought the book.

And I read most of it open-mouthed in disbelief.

First of all, the subtitle is 'Become The Woman Every Man Wants'.  Why?  What is wrong with being me?

I am supposed to stop fearing being single.  I am 43 years old and have never had a relationship, I think I have passed being scared about being single.

And apparently I am embarrassed, ashamed and afraid of being single.  I am embarrassed by several things, but being single is not one of them.  I am (slightly) ashamed of being a Cliff Richard fan, but not of being single.  I am afraid of frogs, but not of being single.

I am supposed to date several men at once, the one that REALLY wants me will make the effort to let me know.  Seriously, if I could get ONE bloke who wasn't involved in a murder investigation or a Crimewatch Most Wanted List to go on a date with me would I have really have bought this book?

Why should I have to change myself to attract a man?  I have tried that in the past, and spent £000s doing it, all to no available. Why am I not good enough as I am?

Yes I am overweight, and yes I am not particularly attractive, but and it is a big but(t), I work full time, I hold a responsible job. 

I am currently studying to become a qualified accountant (whilst I am working full time), I can cook, I can clean, I can perform basic car maintenance, I don't tend to panic without good reason.  

I see myself as like Chummy (from Call The Midwife), ungainly, a bit shy but very capable, in fact, if I had been around in those days I probably would have been in demand.  

But, both fortunately and unfortunately, it is not the 40s/50s and as far as I can see, men are looking for something that I do not have and no amount of books will help that so I don't know where to go from now on.

All I know is that I do not want to spend another Christmas/New Year/Birthday as a single person.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sunday Night Mash Up

This week saw the start of 2014, so HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It was also back to work after my Christmas leave, but with the schools and colleges being closed, the bus journeys this week have been short!  Although Monday and Tuesday it was a Saturday service which meant an extra couple of miles on an already lengthy run.

The weather has been bad this week.  I am not a fan of Coventry, but frankly, having seen the conditions that elsewhere has suffered, I am quite pleased that I am in the centre of the country.  The worst we really have seen are a few slightly flooded roads, a few battered fences and some downed wheelie bins.

Friday night I felt like a bit of a gamble.  I have an online account with William Hill and have done for some years.  I am useless with the horses and football too, but I do like the slot machines (or one armed bandits as we used to call them). I managed to turn my original £50 stake into over £2000!  You could have knocked me down with a feather.

Unfortunately, never being one to be able to stop whilst I am ahead, I carried on playing and ended up withdrawing 'just' £1200, still, it all adds to the car fund.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I will be the grand old age of 43, I have no idea what presents, if any, I am going to get.

I still have over a month before I receive my ACCA exam results, it seems so long since I sat them.

Weightloss Challenge - The Sequel (This Time It Is Personal).

So Christmas is over and not just the goose got fat!

After being reasonably successful in the run up to Christmas, I think I have probably put on all the weight that I had lost, and I think it brought friends.

I am hoping to lose weight a bit more consistently this time, I had a big loss the first week (6lbs) but then patchy in the following weeks.  My goal this time is to lose 5% of my body weight, at my start weight of 17st 7lb (aaarrrggghhhhh), this means that I am aiming for a loss of 12.5lbs but I am not putting a time limit on it.

It is my birthday tomorrow and that means taking cakes into work, but after that I will be good.  I am currently planning my lunches, so fingers crossed.

I have added a weightloss ticker at the top of my blog, so it will be the first thing everyone sees! Hopefully this will help.

Friday, 3 January 2014

"What I got for Christmas 2013"

I have seen a lot of 'what I got for Christmas' posts, some people having to do them in 2 or 3 parts, so here is mine.

From Mum and Dad

A Cosy TV Blanket

2 Bedsheets
Box of Biscuits
Box of Marzipan Fruits

From the Dog

A bottle of Cherry Liqueur

From the rest of the family

A tea light holder

From Work

A big bottle of Babycham and a Brandy miniature
A matching skull necklace and bracelet
A half bottle of Brandy
A book of scary stories, bookmarks and a handmade black heart necklace

The marzipan fruit have already been demolished and the brandy and the biscuits have been started!