the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


Ooooh, Bee-Hive!

Latest from the Beekeeping programme and the beekeeping Brethren, is the kit. For the thrifty among us, it is all starting to add up.

Bee hive, plus stand, plus hive tool, smoker, jacket, hat, veil, gloves, bee brush, queen cage, supers, frames, queen excluders, spacers, runners, foundations….  and that is before you even get started on the honey processing gadgets. Is there any room for the bee space?

I feel enlivened though with learning something new. It is something we as adults often don’t do any more. We are happy with our established hobbies and interests, and don’t have the time or inclination to learn. In the day job, I spend all day imparting my knowledge to others, but it is old hat to me, and sometimes I feel  a little like a broken record. Tiddler is making leaps and bounds with language and skills, and though amazing to watch that process unfold, the learning is a challenge for her, not me. So I am daring myself to actually engage my brain again. For various health reasons this is good practise, but it also allows me a feeling of personal and psychological independence. Freedom of thought it a very fine thing.

Apparently, the honey bee’s brain is the size of a sesame seed. If it can manage to waggle dance a complex 3D navigation map, I owe it to at least keep my old grey matter ticking over. Next session: The Colony.




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71 more working days

I’ve worked it out. In theory, although we are not planning on finishing work and heading off to sunnier climes for the start of our awfully big adventure until August, because I work part-time, and because I have half terms and Easter, and because there are May Bank Holidays and because there is a training day, I now have only 71 working days left. Good to know.

Escape plan

Escape plan




I’m feeling a little creatively inspired tonight by Reynolds Made with this fab blog post ‘stuff I don’t buy anymore’ which definitely got me thinking along a similar vein. Thanks for sharing your ‘not any more purchases’ with us, RM, and here are a few thoughts from me.

Things I used to buy but don’t any more

Actual proper smell-the-new-paper-and-ink books. I had favourite authors who I would buy in sequence. I realised my particularly over obsessiveness with this when Josh Kirby passed away, and I got rather narked that his splendiferous cover illustrations were replaced with something rather more dark and brooding and therefore ruined the image of the rainbow of books on my shelf. I have whittled down my books over time, but I still cart boxes of them from A to B whenever I move house. Current boxes are still under the bed from our last move 11 months ago. Collecting dust mites as well as bookworms no doubt, and also the weight of ‘the person we want to be’ when visitors see our choice of reading matter on display.
I do read far less now, as never enough hours in the day with Tiddler, though I still belong to two book groups and try and read for those as a priority and then anything else that gets a chance to be squeezed in is a literary bonus.
Thrifty: Borrowed from the library, or a loan from other book group members.

Magazines, newspapers, journals.
Pretty obvious really. Been a long time since I was a teenager trying to keep up with trends and music,  I do enough reading ‘academically’ connected with my work, and news gets to me eventually. I quite like having some of it filtered down to me after a day or so.
Skinflintery: Social media/radio

I love these, but here on our rock the price is astronomical, and usually they are poor quality and I end up having to discard most of it. I know I should be squishing it up for guacamole, but no. I then tried buying frozen avocado, thinking that might solve the problem. Unless you want some sort of green slime for your munching pleasure, then double no.
Prudence: Digger’s xmas gift (see here)

Gluten free produce.
When I was in my 20’s I had a quirky experience in the back of a health food shop, where I was tested for allergies and intolerances by wiring me up to some sort of electric machine. Apologies, if you know far better than me what I am talking about, but I am still not 100% sure just exactly how me giving off some sort of voltage in response to being prodded with an ’empty’ glass bottle filled with essence of potato actually worked. Still, I paid good money for it so it must be true.
This led, long-story-short, to faddy food purchasing for a number of years, including going gluten-free. Now, I am fortunate enough for it to be an intolerance rather than an allergy, so I just avoid eating too much of anything that i know will set me off. I do pretty well till Digger brings home this heavenly scented cheese and pumpkin seed bread that makes me go weak at the knees. I am a glutton (gluten?) for punishment.
Frugalness: Avoidance

Last purchase was in Wales in the halcyon summer of 2013. That was a pair of fake black crocs, that cost £3.99, and were to replace my previous pair of fake black crocs that I trashed through heavy duty kayaking escapades and pointy rocks.
Current footwear total: 1 pair black work shoes flat, 1 pair black work/going out heeled boots, 1 pair crocs, 1 pair slippers, 1 pair rigger boots, 1 pair walking boots, 1 pair flip-flops, 1 pair daps. That’s me done: 8 pairs of shoes. Digger has more shoes than me, the big Jessie.
Minimalism: you only have one pair of feet, how many shoes can you wear at any one time?

TV and License.
Not had one for 8 years. On our first date Digger said he didn’t have one either. I took this as a sign.
Long term plan: I’ll get a free one when I hit 75. 

I think I must have funny shaped lips. Lipstick never looks right. Avoid at all costs, as it will only end up on my teeth anyway. Farewell to that one tube of vintage Rimmel Heatherberry circa 1996 found at the bottom of my drawer.
Practicalities: All the polls say people notice your eyes first anyway. 


Things I never thought I would spend on but have definitely been worth it.
-Private swimming pool membership (Tiddler has just this week learned to put her whole face under!)
-An M&S dressing gown. Worn every day and still going strong after an estimated 14 years. Made to last.
– Those Rigger boots. Originally bought as PPE to go on the adventure of a WRG camp, but couldn’t function without them now.

Please comment- what things do you think are worth every penny- even if you are frugal with everything else?


Pearls of wisdom from BBC2?

Heard on BBC2 radio this morning, “Its not about spending and then saving what is left, it is about saving and then spending what you have left”.

Thoughts on this please? Do you agree? How do you manage your finances? Do you think about a budget, or is there no need as you are automatically frugal?


Hmmm…not quite sure  why when I googled ‘free images money’- every single one was US currency. What does that indicate?



Doing small things with great love

A very good friend once asked what did Digger and I argue about. We looked at each other and tried to think. We shook our heads and pondered, while our friend looked on bemused. Finally we both agreed, the thing we had a first big argument about, and it still chunters along in the background to be brought up when we are feeling bitter and trying to score points, is the humdrum reality of ‘the washing up bowl’.

Now before you think we have some sort of Stepford wives situation going on where everything is permanently sweetness and light, please bear in mind that this original conversation was pre-Tiddler, and there is way more to grumble about these days as our sleep deprived brains get narky with each other.

However, back to the equivalent of Room 101 for us. The ‘situation’ about the washing up bowl. Digger likes washing up without a bowl. I like a bowl. Digger says using a bowl makes the water and hence the pots dirty. I say the water is only dirty because I can’t tip the slops down the plug hole first. Digger says washing up in a bowl leaves soap suds. I say he is wasting too much washing up liquid as he is effectively pouring it straight down the plug hole. Digger says it is easier to rinse. I say he is wasting water by letting the tap run to rinse, and besides, I don’t need to rinse as I haven’t used up an entire bottle of washing up liquid to wash up after one meal. Digger says ‘I can see a bit of carrot stuck on that saucepan’. I say, ‘Do you want a bit of carrot stuck somewhere unpleasant’.  Ad infinitum.

My philosophising this evening is concerning the idea of conflict dragging us down unnecessarily, being that proverbial ‘drain on the rations’.  The quote below is clearly something that seems common sense, but we are all sometimes perhaps guilty of allowing the albatross around our neck (see here for some excellent bedtime reading if you don’t know that literary reference) to weigh us, and therefore our relationships, down.


I am certainly loath to back down from a certain viewpoint, or a certain thing said, and in doing so I allow that conflict to fester.

Digger has in all practical terms won this argument through default as we no longer have a bowl in use, and Digger generally does the washing up himself anyway. When the skinflinter in me bemoans the cost of Fairy Liquid, I am trying to remember that Digger is following the adage below.


Sometimes I am too busy looking for grumbles and gripes, I overlook the everyday small things he does. I overlook the times he lets me win arguments in order to keep the peace.


I am trying hard to not always be right. I am not very good at this task yet, but I am working on it. I am glad he is a patient man.

Just please don’t get me started on the one about clingfilm.


Bee space

Having spent Wednesday evening in a salty smelling sea cadet hall sussing out exactly which of us motley bunch of aspiring beekeepers were going to be the drones, and who the workers, I am yet still to pinpoint the queen. As expected, I was on the younger end of the spectrum of the attendees, and there was enough characterisation fodder for a pretty good comedy sitcom in the making, and this was only the first session. I imagine I was up there with the others as a potential curio though. I try to engineer a little air of mystique for the occasion in order to not stand out.

This introductory evening was part biology/part physiognomy lesson (glands for wax! glands for scent! waggle dancing! non-retractable stings!) so a little bit like being back in a science GCSE for us beginners. The basic history of skeps and hives were discussed, and the role of migratory bees, particularly those Italian honey bees Apis mellifera ligustica, who were cross bred both deliberately and via accidental escapees and now are known as large honey producers but often aggressive with it. Oh woe, woe says the British bee fraternity when thinking of only the little pockets of native black bees that survived, with their apparently more peaceful natures that could be cajoled to give up their honey wearing nothing more protective than a pair of short, long socks and t-bar sandals (Think Prince George for clarity).


Our beekeeping leader was bursting with pride regaling us with tales of derring-do and political machinations that meant our self governed isle has banned bee imports for years and it is now illegal with a whopping fine to bring any bees or even second-hand bee equipment onshore. At this point it all started to sound a bit Donald Trump-esque for my liking, but with such genetic pool restrictions and parasite alien invaders kept at bay, our bees have seemingly escaped some of the decimation that has gone on elsewhere round the world. The stories of millions of Chinese bees lost through insecticide use, and the concept of sending the modern day equivalent of the terracotta army out into the fields and the farms to pollinate the crops by hand with a calligraphy brush seems impossible. Read here for more on this,  but I can’t help but hum the little tune to an old Grace while reading it, with a shaking-the-head-sadly emphasis on the last line:
“Bees of paradise
Do the work of Jesus Christ
Do the work that no man can”


I also like the concept of bee space. 7mm is the magic number. Based on observation in wild colonies, manufactured bee hives create a 7mm gap between the frames. This allows two bees to pass back to back while on different frames. A larger gap, and the bees see it as wasted space and fill it with more wax, reducing your honey output. A smaller gap, and they regard the two frames as one, and will join them together in a brace, again reducing the output. I think perhaps in life we all need an expert to clarify our own ‘bee space’ for us, or at least take the time to figure it out for ourselves. What size home, what number of possessions, what number of working hours, what time with our families? For all of these concepts, if we go away from the perfect bee space too much in either direction, it could all end in tears. We need to get the right dimensions ‘to be’.  I think the minimalist and life laundry teams have missed a trick here. I might market this. Possible working titles:
“Bee space for Dummies”
“How to win friends and influence your bee space”
“The bee space less travelled”
“The 7mm of highly effective people”

Any takers in the world of publicising?

Any other readers out there with experience of bees?

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All full of frolics and fiddle-de-dees

A few days in and I’ve been dosed up to the eyeballs with various fb shares, memes and blog posts itemising exactly how everybody (and their dog) plan to make 2017 the very best they possibly can. Home on the ranch, we are in a slight hiatus wth potty training, so beyond the immediate necessity of asking Tiddler every fifteen minutes whether a bodily function is required, (please note she is indeed living up to the alternative meaning of her nom de guerre, and it is a good job Santa brought her plenty of pairs of knickers, say no more) I haven’t had much time to get my head round ‘improving’ things for myself.

My beekeepers course starts tomorrow evening, so I think that counts as something new and possibly challenging, although the new term also starts tomorrow and I must confess I am looking forwards to that with a downward exponential curve of enthusiasm. Suffice to say, now we have made a decision to leave our jobs this summer in search of the good life (or at least the good gap year if it doesn’t pan out) it is difficult to drum up the same level of motivation for something you know you are going to leave behind. So of course our ‘steps to happiness’ or ’17 challenges for 2017′, or however else you want to parcel up and buzz phrase the notion of change for the better, has to take into account all of that going on behind the scenes.

Interestingly enough, though modern day resolutions are usually to either get rid of bad habits (smoking and similar ilk) or to take on beneficial habits, the original resolutions from the Babylonians prove they were skinflinters (or at the very least minimalists) at heart as their focus was to pay off debts and return borrowed goods to the rightful owners. Medieval knights resolved to stick to their moral and ethical code of chivalry, and perhaps even Lent and Yom Kippur have some links to these ideas too. Makes our western world resolution to join the gym which we then give up on before February seem a little bit petty.

So my take on the best way forwards for the new year has come inspired from Tiddler’s choice of bedtime reading.


Julia Donaldson’s ‘A squash and a squeeze’ documents (in rhyming couplets of course, for toddler satisfaction) the sorry tale of a little old lady complaining her house is too small, and on taking the advice of a wise old man (dressed rather like a 1930’s Jesuit for some reason), introduces the hen, then the goat, a pig and finally a cow into her doily-laden house, and as you can imagine, this farmyard menagerie play merry havoc till she implores the wise man to help her again. His advice this time is to take all the animals out, and lo and behold, she discovers her house that was ‘weeny for five, was gigantic for one’. So happy is she in this new state of enlightenment that she is ‘full of frolics and fiddle-de-dees, it isn’t a squash or a squeeze’.


Reading this on a grown-up level, my thoughts are:

  1. Be happy with what you have in the first place. This reminds me of that (probably terribly misquoted proverb) “I cried because I didn’t have any shoes, and then I met a girl who didn’t have any feet”.
  2. Small is beautiful.
  3. Less is more.
  4. Do we make our own lives a squash and a squeeze, and if so, why?
  5. Are our stresses of our own making?
  6. Bring on the frolics and fiddle-de-dees!