the skinflint philosopher

Thrifting your way to a better life


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Bootiful Luton

And now I’ve just spotted this little gem for sale. If only the vehicle was roadworthy enough to ‘do’ Europe…..?

In case the link disappears from the selling site once it has been sold, a few images here of a converted Luton van.

Luton van conversion live in

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The best laid plans…

Well, to be fair, we never really had clear plans in the first place. We had a sort of ‘let’s-motorhome-across-Europe-and-then-chill-out-in-Bulgaria’ kind of grand scheme, but were so bamboozled with the logistics in getting us and our stuff off the island and across to *in hushed tones* ‘the mainland’ that we didn’t quite get round to hammering out the finer points. How we joshed to our friends before we left, that it’s good not to have a fixed plan as then we can play it by ear. Ahem, are we still joking quite so much about that now? More to come on that towards the end of this post…..

Primarily, we have hit the Westcountry during a heatwave. Our island chums are posting pictures of themselves on facebook and instagram in wellies and waterproofs (#islandsummer), while we are swanning about as if we are already on the French Riviera, guzzling stawberries by the bucket load, lazing on the decking and generally pootling in holiday mode already.


First major observation on leaving the island: other places are not always windy. You don’t always need a coat and a hat even in midsummer to keep the chill off. You can sit out on a picnic blanket without having to scout around first for large rocks to weigh it down. Needless to say, Tiddler has been running around in the garden and beach in her birthday suit and has turned a glorious nut brown of which I am very envious. Her hair ends are bleaching in the sun and curl up like the seaweed fronds she has been splashing amongst.
Second observation: I feel like I’m in a permanent game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ (Waldo for my across-the-pond readers). This place is heaving. Whether tourists avoiding Brexit-affected European holidays, or locals making the most of the balmy weather before it turns, or rather I think just normal mainland life, we have a full on in your face reminder of how beautifully quiet and peaceful our island was. There are people and dogs and cars and jams wherever we turn here, a stroppy heat-bothered mass of ‘other people’.
Thirdly, Digger really is in limbo. Having given up our island address, closed bank accounts and all, Digger now cannot open anything new. He cannot even register with a doctor. To do all of this he needs a proof of address in the UK. We have no utility bills as are temporarily staying with my parents. He cannot use his old utility bills and driving licence as the address on those, while British Isles, is not UK. He is here, but like a ghost. No-one official will accept he exists.  I am more fortunate, as held on to old accounts when I moved to the island, so the transition back is not too painful for me. Even opening an account for Tiddler here seems problematic at first as the bank query her birth certificate showing she is an Islander, and Island born, even if that still means she is automatically a British citizen. Digger by the way is also a British citizen, (he applied for and was awarded citizenship) but never having lived within the UK or GB he is still at square one for getting any paperwork sorted. Getting confused? Read here to help, or confuse you even more!

We spent the first days catching up with family (my parents, and my sister and her two children) and a few friends who remain local. Digger’s father, Dyado (Grandfather) is also here for a week- he has been visiting Digger’s elder brother in Canada and has stopped off to see us here briefly on his route back home to Bulgaria. Tiddler, having been on a fairly meagre diet of visiting relatives for the last three years, is like the proverbial kid in a sweetie shop- she doesn’t know which one to hug and chatter away to first, and instead bounces between everybody so that we all end up feeling dizzy. She burns herself out and falls asleep on the sofa, a sticky ice cream dribble on her chin. Despite the hospitality offered, we are aware that for Granny and Papa Westcountry our presence (and all our stuff now squeezed into sheds and cupboards) is fairly disruptive. They are getting older, and the changes are more pronounced when you have not seen them for a while.

Digger vows to get off on the road as soon as possible. We start viewing motorhomes, and Digger has long conversations under bonnets with the pre-loved owners while I wonder if having a log book all and only in German might be a bit confusing. I investigate the fold out/hideaway/ multi purpose functions, while Digger dismisses vehicles for having rusty crossmembers which I have no idea what it means but sounds like a not very good travelling companion.

In the middle of all of this, we decide to go and look at a few properties. Our hard earned, skinflintered savings of the last few years were due to be our spending money, our rainy day fund, our cushion, to enable us to not have to work for this year. However Digger’s increasing and unusual vehemence towards the banking and other administrations, mean he thinks we ought to get our money working for us instead. We consider rental opportunties, and whether we could sink our money into a buy-to-let. The rental income would be far higher than any interest rates paid on our savings, even if we had to pay an agent to managing the letting in our absence. Digger find a run down dilapidated cottage in need of a complete overhaul, and says ‘Let’s just go and have a look at this one for the fun of it shall we?’

And here is where we reach where I am tonight. Somehow, in less than a week, we have managed to let our original plans go a little bit gang aft agley. Possibly. Unless this is a better plan? Tomorrow we are likely to hear whether our offer on this cottage has been accepted. It will take roughly 80% of our savings, with a remaining 15% put by to attempt to do a quick flip, if that is the right term. With Digger not working, he thinks he can do a lot of the graft himself to bring it back into habitable use. We estimate if successful it could be rented out at around £500 per month. Which goes quite a long way if we are living in Bulgaria.  But does this mean we can get to Bulgaria this autumn? How quick can we survey, purchase, strip and rebuild? Can Granny and Papa Westcountry cope with us that long? Can we still afford a motorhome? What about the whole point of not working?

Hmmmm….. let’s see what the morrow brings, but please offer up any advice or thoughts you have in the comment section! (Please!)

 

(NB: if you don’t know the origins of the poem I have referenced in the title and elsewhere, please see here. 
Apologies that it is a just a wiki link but probably best to show the original and meaning side by side)


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Last days and alien space trees

I have not fallen completely into a wifi-free zone, just with the demands on our time over the last few weeks during the big ‘getting off the island’ shenanigans, and now the eccentricities of living with Granny and Papa Westcountry in their sprawling, full-to-the brim home while we are in an eclecticly bizarre sort of limbo, mean this is my first chance to sit down and type.

In the last week on the island, I think it is fair to say I drank a lot of coffee. Tiddler and I were fortunate to meet and say farewell to different friends from all different parts of our lives at coffee shops, parks, homes, beaches and woodlands. We did the grand tour, Tiddler waving like the Queen with curiously rigid fingers, fitting in everyone on our itinerary as best we could. We were given beautiful, thoughtful going away presents – a customised ‘travelling tin’ with minature champagne bottles and a citronella candle (to allow a future romantic moment on an European beach somewhere without having to sup bubbles through a midge net), a soft warm woolen blanket with the island’s famous tartan in soft toned blue and purple hues, a silky soft toy version of our island’s national and instantly recognisable wiley sheep, messages in cards that went far beyond a simple ‘good luck and we’ll miss you’. Further gifts and cards wait still fully underwraps with dates pencilled on the envelopes for Tiddler and I to open over the next fortnight when both our birthdays will fall within days of each other. Tiddler says thank you and goodbye and showers hugs and kisses on everyone before switching interest to something else, leaving I and Digger to see and feel more keenly the shadow of a tear in someone else’s eye, as well as our own.

In between all this we sold off the last of our furniture and Digger’s ladders, camped out on rolled up blankets on the floor and ate our meals on a picnic blanket in our former lounge. Tiddler queried her absent toys, but quickly found an old broom handle became an imaginary horse, the picnic blanket a pond, and the electric reading key- well I don’t know what that became as we couldn’t find it on departure and had to ask bashfully for our landlady to forward on our final meter reading. Possibly stuck in the garden somewhere I imagine as a sort of snail signpost.

We also managed to make a few last visits to some of our favourite haunts on the island. Tiddler enjoyed a run around an area of woodland that spilled out of a more formal garden, discovering mysterious and hidden places at every turn.

She spent sometime contemplating the beautiful views, even on the cusp of a summer storm.

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Digger and I also wanted to make a point to say farewell to the tree planters. To a degree we feel that we, (and also Tiddler in terms of enthusiasm with a plastic spade and time spent trailing round after normally grizzly bearded blokes who take her under their wing and let her boss them around with tree planting instructions), have left a little part of a living legacy of our time on the island through the ground we have cleared and the trees we have planted. It is also of course, how Digger and I met, and how the seed of this idea we are now trying to embark on all really began.
We felt it fitting therefore to do a little bit of stealth birdboxing on some of our current tree planting sites. Digger had previously made some rustic looking birdboxes using a section from a felled tree. They had only gathered spiderwebs and snails in our own garden (despite many avian visitors for seed) and they had now long begun to shed their bark. Digger wouldn’t bring them in the van. I didn’t want to throw away something he had made. So we found a more suitable home for it, and perhaps they may enable a little more life in the woodland other than just the trees themselves.

The following pictures show Tiddler’s master plan- find a suitable tree, instruct Digger how to get up it from a safe position on the ground, put up the birdbox, admire the view, and then give the tree a final hug.

We also had a last look and tidy up at one of our large planting sites (due for it’s official opening at the end of the month) a commerative site of 1267 trees to mark the island’s fallen soldiers, and home also to lots of other trees including ash trees from space!

 

It is a shame we will not be here to continue to see these grow, but hopefully we, or at least Tiddler will be able to return to a beautiful broadleaved woodland in the future, where right now she spots frogs and ducks and hitches rides in wheelbarrows.

The final thing to say about the last week is Digger’s comment, driving my overladen car on to the ferry. I’d refused to throw anything else away, steadfastly bagging up my last house plants and squeezing them in, wrapping duvets over my knees in the passenger seat. We had to keep the windows wound down to ensure there was enough oxygen. Digger expressively forbade me opening the boot or side door for fear of me somehow launching half our possessions and Tiddler across the tarmac in some sort of jack in the box ejector seat scenario.
I’d mentioned my keyring felt very light, with no house key, and no work keys to weigh it down.  Digger smiled. ‘I have no van key, no shed key, no metal shed key, no house key. Nothing. All we’ve got is your car key. I like it. I like having no keys’. He turns to face both Tiddler and I. ‘Now lets get on that ferry’.

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Moving day….

It’s all been a little bit hectic here the last week as you can imagine. Not only packing up and getting ready to go, but fond farewells to good friends, and last visits to favourite places on the island.
All the furniture has gone so we have been camping out in the bedrooms. Tiddler tells everyone she meets we are going on an adventure, and rolls up to sleep on her cushion makeshift bed as if she was a many seasoned backswoodsman.
Many, many things to post- but no time.  I’ll try and catch up once we get down to the Westcountry, which is our stop gap for a few weeks while we visit my parents before we head off on the road trip to Bulgaria. Cutting close to the line, today on our way to the ferry I’m calling in to hand back this laptop to my former place of work, so please bear with me if it takes a little while to get back up and running with posts. Bon voyage Thrifter, Digger and Tiddler!


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Wedding Belle

Despite all my apprehension, Tiddler was an absolute star on Saturday at our friends marriage ceremony and celebrations. She wore the dress. She wore the shoes. She carried the little wandy thing and the flowers. She allowed people who didn’t know she was clearly dressed up in a king’s costume, to describe her a flower girl without any ill effect. She danced with the bride and groom, and made friends with the other little children. She held hands with the bride and groom while they said their vows.  She ‘might’ have looked a bit stroppy in a few of the photos, but it was beautifully sunny and the atrium space where many of the photos were taken was indeed making most of us a little hot and bothered. We can’t be perfect all of the time, but she certainly made her very best attempt.

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This skinflinting post is not really about the wedding, but about one of the gifts we gave. The bride and groom chose not to have a set gift list, which means far more flexibility, but also far greater dilemmas over what would be suitable to give them to commemorate the day. We knew that hedgehogs are a sort of theme for our bride and groom, so we decided to create a thrifty, personal, and hopefully significant token from us to them.
This is how it pans out.

<text message> Digger, have you packed all the super glue off to my parent’s house or is there still some here?
<text reply> There should be some in that black tool box in the shed I think
<second text to me> What do you need superglue for? (I can ‘hear’ the suspicion in his text)
<text message> Just got a brilliant idea for a wedding present. Is it the red one?
<reply> no that’s araldite. It’s little tubes probably underneath. Remember what happened last time?  (uh-oh, here it comes)
<reply> I don’t want you sticking your fingers together like last time. Wait till I come home.

Now that makes me sound completely incapable. Which is most definitely not true. Just perhaps with superglue. He is right I do have a poor record on that front.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, and having rummaged around the craft junk box I had held on to for the last few days thinking it would keep Tiddler occupied, and then waited till Mr Superglue was home to supervise, we came up with the following.

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Note the superglue in the backdrop of this picture- safely away from me I hasten to add. I still felt it needed a last finish touch, just so we know which one is the bride.

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Cost to me on the day- the tube of glue. All the rest were scrap and bits we had around the house anyway.

Verdict from the bride and groom? Thumbs up.

 


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Tidy house, tidy mind?

Seven days left until we leave the island- myself, Digger, Tiddler and a loaded up car of our final possessions. The house is currently deceptively full of things, because we have no cupboards, chests of drawers or storage units to put things in any more, and so our personal effects are like a shifting mass of tumbleweed that Tiddler moves from one room to another as the whim takes her. In reality, there is not much left here at all. The house is pleasantly empty.
‘Tidy house; tidy mind’ I tell Digger. ‘Do you feel an sort of unburdening because we don’t have stuff any more?’
‘We have stuff in abundance’ he says ‘it’s just all at your parent’s house’.
‘True’ I muse, ‘but this little taste of minimalism may be a good thing. To get us thinking about what we “actually” need? To get used to living with less before actually jettisoning off everything?’.
‘Maybe “empty house; empty mind” is also true then?’ he chuckles. ‘let me look in your earhole and see if I can see out the other side’.

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Once Digger had recovered from the withering look I sent him, we talked about how even with the worry and fraught feelings of this move, in reality we felt so much more stress free than a few weeks before. The removal of ourselves from the working environments in recent weeks (though Digger is still eking out every hour this week to bring in the last pennies either of us my earn for a while- but this time working for someone else so the responsibility and organisation is no longer his) has made a remarkable difference. I felt I had been a bit like Atlas, labouring under a heavy load for so long, it was only once it was gone I realised what it felt like to be without it.

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On top of that, despite my initial worries, we have sold over the last few days most of the remaining bits of furniture we own. I may even have to ask the village church if they can lend me a few chairs so we can sit round the 1930’s oak table (the one thing that steadfastly will not sell) in order that we are not eating off the floor.
My little desk has gone to a lady who wants to use it for a sewing machine, and keep all her threads and buttons in the little secret compartments.
The tumble dryer has been picked up by two Sri Lankan brothers who have just moved to the island.
The swivel chair is being picked up by someone who gets out of hospital tomorrow, and thinks it will help her with her movements.
The storage units, a wicker basket and a christmas cactus I gave away for free to an ex-student of mine who has just moving into her own little flat and starts her first accounting job the day we leave the island.

All of our little items, that we either didn’t need or couldn’t take with us, are going on to be part of someone else’s story.
I kind of like that feeling.

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Sails, gales and sales

So turns out Digger had a very bumpy sea crossing yesterday, and then after arriving at my parent’s at ten minutes before 1am after driving all evening, couldn’t get my mother to hear her mobile which she had taken up to bed (and actually switched on for a change) in order to come down and let him in. Problem eventually resolved once she’d worked out how to answer it. My mother and technology is a bit water and oil-  she would likely be thrown off a ‘silver surfer’ course as bringing it a bad name.
All of which meant Digger was quite happy to have a lie in this morning and no rush with the unloading. It was raining heavily anyway. Then the rain continued. Then continued a bit more. He started twiddling his thumbs. He started to worry that he wouldn’t be able to get it unloaded in the torrential downpours, that were gushing down my parent’s steep driveway. He started calculating the silly-o’clock time he would have to get up tomorrow morning to unload before setting off on the journey back up to the ferry. Thankfully, matter all now resolved, weather cleared, boxes and behemoths unloaded and stored, and now down the pub for a well earned pint with my dad.

I have been busy too- Tiddler and I swam and then went to play with her best friend E. He had a whole houseful of toys to share after the very sparse conditions in our house at the moment on the toy front.
In between this gadding about, I managed to sell online today the following items that didn’t meet the grade to fit on the van yesterday (i.e. were not a power tool or an unidentified metal item), and the first set of pictures below have already been paid for and collected! Not their real monetary value mind you, but enough to buy the roof bars for Digger’s ladders.

 

Also in the pipeline are sales on these, which are due to be collected at the weekend.

 

No interest as yet in these below though 😦

So what is value? The financial value of an item is surely in the eye of the beholder, whether for a artwork masterpiece or a second hand furniture-selling Thrifter. Better a pound or two in my pocket right now is my logic, than me having to dump these at the tip and get nothing for them at all. Things I love, and have put up for a crazily low price for what it is, such as my desk and the leather chair, and the 1930’s oak dining table, simply have not garnered any comment. Other items of tat, such as the used kitchen red plastic dustbin, have sold for not much less than their price brand new.
Each to their own I suppose.